Thursday, March 15, 2007
THE WRATH OF MILDRED
So my mom just returned from doing missionary work in Honduras — a looooong story, so don’t ask — and the first thing she says to me is “I loved working with the children, but the adults I went there with were a bunch of ASSHOLES!!!” Upon hearing that, I settled into a comfortable spot on my sofa/futon and listened to my mom’s latest rant against humankind.
If you read this blog with any regularity, you have no doubt noticed my somewhat irascible nature. Well, guess what? I got it from my mom. She’s seventy-four now, and grew up in extremely adverse conditions in the pre-Civil Rights era south, only to end up in Westport, Connecticut, a bastion of classist and racist horseshit that constantly puts her colorful verbal skills to the test, unleashing seven decades of Black female vitriol and bitterness upon all idiots imprudent enough to piss her off. You see, while it’s not as bad as it was when I was growing up there, Westport has an undercurrent of condescension and superiority toward non-whites, and if you happen to fall into that unwanted category the only way to deal with it is to just sit there and take it, or do like my mom does and put much verbal foot to ignorant ass.
For example, when that tamponathon Oprah Winfrey book club happened, my mom would walk into the local Barnes & Noble book retailer and a “helpful” salesperson would tell her, “Here, honey. The Oprah section is right over here.” Cue “The Imperial March,” and head for cover, kiddies. And that kind of shit has continued unabated for the thirty-five years she’s been a Westport resident.
So mom told me the leader of her fellow missionaries asked what she liked to be called; this question confused her, and she answered “I like to be called by my name. Mildred.” “No, no,” said the missionary, “What do you like to be called, like Black, African-American, or Negro? You know, so we can use it as a marker in case we need to describe you?” As I heard that I pictured my mother’s eyes narrowing and all ambient sound dying down as she restrained herself from ripping the missionary’s head off and taking a high-fiber shit down her hemorrhaging neck hole. “First of all,” she said through gritted teeth, “I was born in America to American parents, so I am an American who happens to be Black. But if you must have a label for me, I guess I’d accept Black. And exactly why the fuck would you need to know what I think since I’m the only Black person in this group?” The missionary could not provide an answer.
After having the sense enough to give my mom a wide berth, the woman eventually returned and tried to strike up a conversation with the following as her setup: “I think it’s so inspirational how you moved to Westport and overcame your obstacles to get your degrees!” At that, mom looked at this woman like she’d just sprouted an extra head and stated, “What the hell are talking about? I was a teacher long before I met my husband, and I earned my first degree before ever setting foot in Connecticut! Who the fuck said anything about obstacles?” You guessed it, strike two.
But the icing on the cake goes to this charming exchange: “Isn’t it terrific that you can travel as far as Honduras and still be able to find books by Maya Angelou?” At that my mother’s head burst into flame like she was motherfucking Ghost Rider, and she exploded at the missionary with, “What kind of idiot are you? Maya Angelou is a Nobel Prize-winning, internationally famous author, you moron! Why the fuck wouldn’t her books be available here? AAAUUUUUGHH!!!”
When she had calmed down after recounting these tales, my mother softly uttered, “God DAMN it, people are such assholes…”
And people ask me where I get it.