SOL #15 Other words for “creepy”

“creepy”

A friend of mine on Twitter raised this question:

““Creepy,” when used to describe invasive practices, is insufficient and problematic, but “performance of information asymmetry” doesn’t quite have that ring. What’s a great replacement?”

He received lots of responses including: extractive, exploitative, invasive, insidious. Actually, it’s a great vocabulary exercise. My favorite response however, offered an image that is beyond sticky:

“Creepy is good but it’s the affect/sentiment/feeling of the subject or observer. Creepy signals the behavior is out of context. Clown emerging from car at the circus vs Clown emerging from closet in your bedroom.”

Can you see it? Oh my goodness, I can! Clowns tumbling out of a tiny car – hahahahahaha! Clowns rolling out of my wardrobe into my bedroom …. *insert scream emoji*.

I responded to the clown tweet suggesting that this comparison deserves a meme. It’s brilliant.

I love the way language can work – send us on a journey around the conventional and land us firmly in the spooky.  I’ll be on the lookout for creepy clowns all day.  This is also how Twitter feeds me. We can talk about how and when and if that’s a good thing.

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SOL #14 Frozen Pizza

Walking down the hill tired but cheerful, I announce my idea.

“Listen, it’s just us tonight. I thought I could stop by Billa [nearest grocery store] and…”

“Noooo…”

“Just wait a minute and listen before you shoot down my idea! How about if I run in, pick up a couple of frozen pizzas and we’re good?”

“Couldn’t we order in?”

“Here’s the difference: 3.99 per pizza or 10 Euros per pizza.”

“Oh, ok.”

Home. Pizzas in the oven. No fuss, no extra labor. I have a beer I might open a little later.

There is a tangible relief for allowing ourselves the nearly naughty convenience of a likely machine-prepared slate of dough with a scant cheese and tomato sauce topping. But the pizzas are ready now and smell the way you’d want a pizza to smell. I have no guilt. We will feast on the nutritionally questionable and save our regrets for a later date.

Now we are sated and our dinner conversation proved wide ranging. We talked about what it might be like to live without the imperative of clock time, wondered what it would mean to not enjoy the sense of taste. We talked about the events of the school day – shout-outs and dodge ball, reading club and a birthday invitation. It was a dinner I would wish for any family. There we have it – frozen pizza as the great bonding occasion: mother-son time of the highest quality.

Today is a good day to be in the world.

SOL #13 A memory from 9th grade composition

“On the gruff exterior, …” began the short description. It was an assignment for 9th grade composition. I was 14. I remember I had chosen the shop teacher whom I didn’t know personally as my subject. He was an older white man with silvery short hair that had a neat part on the right side. I would see him move around school with a hush and a hum. He was efficient somehow and quiet like a shadow. I wondered if anyone really knew him. Although to write my description I must have known something about him because in the text he turned out to be surprisingly calm and warm. Perhaps as he worked with his hands or demonstrated how to use a tool. I cannot remember.

Now nearly 40 years later, I cannot recall the man’s name and how we were connected, only the words I used to begin to paint his picture. Gruff exterior. It was so fitting and was part of the reason that I was asked to join an advanced English class in the next semester. I suppose this was one of those moments when my affinity for words surprised some people. I, the Black girl who was so … articulate, who used words like gruff and exterior to describe a person. My committed white teachers didn’t see that coming.

In fact, it was not the first time I stood out for my writing acumen. As an 8th grader I won a 1979 savings bond for an award winning essay “America – What It Means To Me”. The contest was sponsored by the Ladies Auxillary of Polish American Veterans Legion. Nowadays we would say I nailed it. I served up just the right portion of patriotism and exceptionalism, found the right words to say we’re the best without ever saying “We’re the best.” I don’t think I was being manipulative. I’m pretty sure I believed everything I wrote. When the award was presented to me at an end-of-the-year ceremony, the Polish American lady who called my name nearly fainted when this skinny Black girl rose to claim the prize. (My mother told me this afterwards. I didn’t register the reaction myself.)

Ah, these memories, at once funny and worthy of a good sigh, they run circles around my head. I have always known the joy of words, always found power in tossing them up and catching them in different orders. That this has been a source of dismay for others has a history, one wider and deeper than my personal one. No matter, the pleasures of literacy fill me up and hold me tight, keep me calm and warm, while my exterior need not grow gruff.

SOL #12 Reading Brown Girl Dreaming

I had a really rough night, got up at 6 and notified a sub. I’m taking a mental health day. A wise choice, a necessary choice and grounds for a different slice one day. I’ve spent most of the day in bed, resting and reading. The book on top of my nightstand pile is Brown Girl Dreaming, a memoir in verse by Jacqueline Woodson.

I’ve read the book before and remember being charmed by the fact that she was born in Ohio (like me), grew up in the 70’s listening to soul music (like me), and had a way with words her whole life long (*wishing* like me). But reading the book, this time, more than one half of it, uninterrupted, while at rest – I had a completely different experience. I drank in her memories as if they were my own. Imagined the handsome uncle, the doting grandfather, the purpose-driven mother as if I had known them myself. I felt like that Brown Girl Dreaming.

At the end of the book there’s a selection of family snapshots from both sides. And these look like photographs I would find of my own family: Grandmother, Willie Mae, Uncle Gene, Aunt Mamie and Uncle Sam, Uncles Thad and Townsand, Mom and Dad, Carlton and Carol. Jackie Woodson’s folks look like my people – brown skinned and shiny, laughing with heads cocked to one side. To feel that kinship on a day that began as if the world was a little too heavy – an enormous gift.

I savor the reading. Woodson’s careful descriptions of the people who shaped her world breathe life back into my own hopes of capturing some of my memories on the page. I savor seeing and being seen.

There are few joys as great as reading the right book at exactly the right time.

SOL #11 Lifting Effects

Last November I began lifting weights. I’ve done weights in the past and used other resistance methods to improve my power as a sprinter and middle distance runner. But that was then, this is now. I’m officially middle-aged. Staying fit belongs to my job description (I’m a PE teacher) and while my motivation to hit the gym has waned significantly over the last couple of years, I do what I can. And I discovered I can lift weights.

But this time around I’m taking on the long bar which by itself amounts to 20 Kg I’m told. I’ve started adding small weights on the ends and the improvements over a few months’ time is encouraging. The woman who got me started on this path is Director of an international school. At a weekend workshop for women aspiring to lead schools, weightlifting was part of her instruction. She explained how it had helped her build her self-efficacy. She felt strong because she knew that she was and is strong. She introduced us to her three main exercises and let us have a go. It sounds quirky but it stuck. I’m doing it.

Since I began lifting weights in November I have also arranged to co-present with my own Director at an international leadership conference, I have been offered an opportunity to write a blog post and be compensated for my work, I have decided to apply for a literary fellowship for women of color and asked my kinda famous author mentor to write my recommendation and she said YES! I’m lifting weights and I feel stronger and braver, (not younger), and maybe a little wiser. It’s a fascinating process and manageable at the same time. The threat of injury is limited and I can always use a measure of extra strength when I least expect it.

 

 

SOL #10 A Challenge to fellow Slicers to share a story about race

So I’m into a slicing groove now. Got a reasonable rhythm. I know how to not overcommit. I keep my posts short and manageable. Don’t worry much about the yardsticks of creativity or originality. It’s day 10 after all and things are humming along, right?

Here’s some truth. When it comes time to comment and I need to pick at least 3, I am overwhelmed on a couple of different levels. First it’s the sheer number. Depending on the time I check in there could be anywhere from 12 to 149. As I scroll up and down I look for titles that call to me. I try to find at least one person whose slices I haven’t read yet at all and leave a comment. Perhaps like the teacher I am, I regret that I won’t get to comment on more. I feel a little guilty that I’m not taking on 6 or 10 or more. But time is limited and I need to be realistic about what’s doable, so I stick to 3 -5. Done.

The other thing, is that as I scroll through the many profile pics, I am struck with how white and female this collective is. There are very few people of color that I can readily identify based on those micro pics and I also know that this is largely representative of the field of Language Arts teachers in North America. And while I appreciate the work of several educators in this community and elsewhere incorporating anti-racism and anti-bias work into their curricula and book selections, I cannot ignore that feeling I get of being one of so very few.

And there’s the hesitation to say anything at all. To not want to put a damper on all the good vibes we’ve already created in 10 days or for some, over several years. Why rain on anyone’s parade? So what if the group is almost all white women? Who’s to say that that’s not one of the strengths of this particular community? And from someone who fits in so seamlessly, who am I to make waves, throw stones or rock the boat? (mixing my metaphors like cocktails, this morning.)

Alas, there’s the rub. Who else notices this fact? Who else is wondering about why this is the case and how it might matter for what we do and think outside of this community? What if this community reflects the contexts that most members experience in their day to day lives? What if most of the white people in this group only know and talk to other white people?

What I want folks to understand is that this state of affairs has very real and concrete consequences for how we understand and interpret events and experiences. Talking about race is uncomfortable for a lot of folks. It hatches all kinds of difficult feelings including guilt, shame, anger, defensiveness, helplessness. So many of us avoid it like the plague if we can. So on day 10 of the slice of life challenge, I want to offer a challenge to all of my fellow slicers:

During this month, if you are willing, please talk a bit about race and how it affects your life. An episode, memory, an insight, a book you read, a class you took, a conversation you had – whatever you are willing to share. Tag me on Twitter @edifiedlistener or send me an e-mail: sherspelic@gmail.com.

We have the benefit of community here. Please let’s use it to grow ourselves in multiple ways. Talking about race is necessary and critical. We have an opportunity. I wonder how we will use it. Thanks for hearing me out. I appreciate your being here.

SOL #9 The Basketball Coach

Basketball is not my forte. I coach

and my talents are best spent on the less experienced.

It’s not at all that I have superior skills to boast. I have

no great jump shot or Euro step lay up for my charges

to emulate.

I do understand fundamental tactics and how to make these

knowable.

Still, the kids have to play and make lots of mistakes, then play more

play on, play harder, keep playing.

Then a light goes on. They make two great passes

in a row.

They score after 3 rebounded shots.

The get a steal and a fast break

and make the lay up

And the crowd goes wild!!

When I’m on the bench my job

is to stay positive, keep pointing out the good stuff,

showing my faith in their ability

to be better next time

over and over again.