Growing Up Beige: Black People Scare Squirrels

My mom loves telling this story about when I was a little girl walking with her through Fairmount Park.

We’re walking through the park, I was about 4 years old. A squirrel runs by as we get near.

“Mommy, you scared that squirrel.”

“Yeah, squirrels are scared of people. They’ll run when we get too close.”

“Yeah okay, but you scared the squirrel.”

“Me? You didn’t scare it too?”

“No.”

“Well why did scare the squirrel?”

“Because you’re brown.”

Yeah guys, from the mouth of a four year old, black people scare squirrels. Wait, it gets worse!

“So I scared the squirrel because I’m brown?”

“Yeah.”

“You didn’t scare the squirrel?”

“No?”

“But you’re brown too…”

My mom says I looked confused.

“No, I’m beige.”

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^Brown^

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^Beige^

So where do squirrels draw the line in their discrimination? My mom investigated further.

“So who else is brown? Does your Gran Gran scare squirrels?”

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“No.”

“How about your uncle Elliott?”

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“Yes.”

And from those separate ends of the spectrum, my mom asked about people closer and closer to my complexion, and she discovered that squirrels then started discriminating based on hair texture. Relatives with straightened hair were beige, those with curly or kinky hair were brown. This was me at four years old.

I used to share that story as a joke. It was funny and crazy how prejudice I was as a kid, and completely untaught to be so. Shocking, but comical. Kids say the darndest things, right? I told the story to a couple people sitting at the bar at my cafe one day. Peers, fellow 20-somethings. White. Typical coffeeshop types. I got a reaction I had never experienced before. It made them sad. They shook their heads in disbelief.

“To think that there are children growing up to see their own race as bad, scary even, just in their innocent understanding of their world…heartbreaking. This is where we are, sad,” one of them said to me.

They understood the underlying sinister cause of a child to have such a worldview. I guess it was one thing to understand the forces at play in your society, to understand the concept of racism and institutionalized racism. But to actually apply that to personal accounts isn’t something they’re often privy to. It had never occurred to me either until that moment, honestly.

I haven’t grown up to be much different in my understanding of the world since four years of age. If anything, I’ve gotten worse. A simple internalization of the imbalance of my world turned into confirmations through negative experiences that maybe this imbalance is justified, and I’m happy to not associate with the receivers of the short end. I’m beige, and squirrels don’t fear me. I can walk through the park peacefully.

I’m going to share more memories and stories of growing up beige, because I didn’t think it was something anyone would find relatable, but maybe it is. I’ve felt bad not following through on my promise of a piece about Michael Brown when I posted Java and Jokes on Hold two whole years ago. I didn’t forget. When I sat and tried to write, I just didn’t know how to talk about it. I didn’t know how to feel. I didn’t feel like my feeling upset was legitimate, because I’ve never associated with the black community. Would my beige words matter? Would they seem sincere? Why did I suddenly care, really? From what perspective do I write this? Am I angry or upset enough? Wait, this kind of stuff happens all the time? I didn’t know. I might as well be a white person trying to care, because I never felt so outside. Rather, I’ve never felt uncomfortable being outside. I was entering a point in my life that I never imagined reaching, 

The point where being beige became unsustainable. 

And I don’t know which way is forward. But I have to figure it out, and I invite you on the adventure too.

 

Quarter Life Crisis: How Many Stormys

…does it take to change a light bulb?

No seriously.

The lights in the main room of my apartment went out last week.

Here we go, I thought, forced to face yet another new trial in this world we call “adulting.”

Geez, I tell ya. Every time you start thinking you’re doing a pretty good job at this stuff, the lights go out on all of your pride. In this case, quite literally.

Disclaimer: The title of this post is not a matter of questioning my ability to replace a light bulb. I mean c’mon guys, I didn’t grow up that privileged and oblivious. I’ve changed many a light bulb in my day, EXCUSE YOU.

But see,

the light bulb changing process, as I’ve known it, has always gone as follows:

1.) Light bulb goes out

2.) Storm goes to the storage closet/garage/junk drawer/fallout shelter/apocalypse bunker/what have you, and pulls out new light bulb

3.) Storm replaces light bulb

4.) Storm revels in her accomplished task (it’s the little things, guys), and basks in the new light

But this time is different.

This time, I can’t figure out Step 2.

I went to the storage closet/garage/junk drawer/fallout shelter/apocalypse bunker/what have you, to discover that not only do I not even have a storage closet/garage/junk drawer/fallout shelter/apocalypse bunker/what have you in my shoebox of a studio, but I also don’t have any light bulbs!

It was in that moment that it occurred to me.

Light bulbs are a thing…that you buy. They don’t just come with the concept of having your own living space.

And woah, woah WAIT…

nothing does…

Oh. My. God. What’s next? What have I gotten myself into? How does anyone do this? I—I never read the manual! It didn’t come with the deal either.

…Just like the light bulbs.

…Just like everything else.

And I repeat, Oh my God. I eventually stopped hyperventilating and peeled myself off the floor and prepared myself to be a competent human being and get more light bulbs. But hold on. Where do light bulbs come from?

Ideas?

Light bulb stork?

Light bulbs R Us?

Lightbulbs.org?

Light bulb dealer under the sketchy overpass?

I took to the Internet. You can apparently get them…almost everywhere. Who knew?! Don’t actually answer that. But anyways, Google sent me to Lowe’s. I unscrewed one of my light bulbs for reference, and headed there.

By the time I arrived at the store, I had sent myself through at least three different levels of mental anguish about the whole ordeal. A strange mix of embarrassment and pride led me to look for the light bulbs, refusing to ask for any assistance.

Like a moth to a flame, I walked towards the middle of the warehouse to the lighting department. You know, where all the lamps and ceiling fans and lawn lights, and just…just all the lights are. And they’re all on. And of course I’d find light bulbs in a giant area of lit ones, right?

I couldn’t find a single light bulb for sale.

In the light section. The section of the store where everything related to making your home not dark is located. I walk one aisle over. Doorbells. I go to the other aisle over. Nuts and bolts. I go back to the lighting department, because it only makes sense, and I must have overlooked it.

So much light.

So many fans.

It’s bright.

It’s cool.

It’s lacking in light bulbs.

And I’m lacking in patience.

I asked for help. The light bulbs were in aisle 1. Only as far away as possible from the light section without putting them outside with the potted plants. But who am I to try and apply common sense to the organization of a hardware store?

Finally, light bulbs.

There are numbers. Numbers with Ws next to them.

weather? water? why?…wumbo?

Let’s just say it stands for whatever, because my head is starting to hurt.

Okay, well how many whatever’s do I need? Does it matter? Would it be there if it didn’t matter? How am I suppposed to know how many whatever’s I need?

I pull out the old light bulb that I remembered that I brought with me for such a time as this. I analyze the small print at the base of the bulb.

Trisonic. Numbers with a K at the end. Numbers with a V at the end. Assorted warnings that I skimmed. Where’s the W? There’s no W. And the boxes of light bulbs have no Ks or Vs… Well this was a load of help.

I figure I’ll just buy a box, and if it blows up my house, I’ll return it for the correct amount of whatever’s. You would think that was the end of my debacle. But no. I get through the whatever’s and then I’m faced with all of these colors.

Soft white. Off white. Bright white. Bright bright white. Not so bright white. Egg white. Cocaine white. White power. And then the yellows. Please don’t make me re-live the yellows.

Since when does light have a color anyway? I thought it was all the colors and none of the colors? At the same time, kinda? I don’t know, I was an English major in school, science is lost on me. And so is this purchase.

I just had a seat on the floor for a moment. Confused. Overwhelmed. Thinking to myself, I’m…going to die here…trying to buy light bulbs.

No.

I can’t go out like that.

I just bought a damn box. It said ‘Daylight.’ And I figured maybe the 60w bulbs, because my apartment is old so maybe I don’t want all of the whatevers, but I deserve more than the bare minimum of whatevers…whatever the whatevers are.

I successfully replaced all seven light bulbs in my apartment, and a week has gone by without me short circuiting the building so I guess I did it right? Right amount of whatevers. The daylight light is kind of nice for selfies. I’d consider this a win. Yes. I did the adulting and won. Until my next crisis, guys.