I think my parents always expected me to bring a nice white, Christian girl home one day and announce, This is the woman that I’m going to make my wife… or at least that’s what they hoped for. In reality, I’ve brought home just about every variation of that equation except for that one. Casey and i never left a lot of room open for prejudice in our house because we were apparently really bad at following direction. And in started early for both of us. Casey’s first major crush was on Amber Logan, a girl in our eighth grade class, and while Amber was extremely nice and extremely Christian, she wasn’t by any stretch white, and once they had lost Casey, my parents began to reevaluate the characteristics they would hope for in our future mates. To come from the extended-Kirkland-clan (who made racist jokes into sport over Christmas dinner), my parents taught Casey and I how to love a little more freely than even they expected. We didn’t see color or religion or any of that stuff, and there’s no way that Kathy and Wendell could have prepared for that.
But being the trailblazer that I am, I opened up the door for Casey when I fell madly in love late into seventh grade. It was a process because you don’t just jump from an incidentally all-white elementary school (with the exception of John Kearney and his biracial brother) into a melting pot such as South-Doyle Middle School. But once I had acclimated as a sixth grader and moved into seventh grade, I realized that the myths were untrue: black people are actually not only safe, but friendly. As a seventh grader, I was allowed to apply for and join Cherokee Television (CTV), which was the morning broadcast put on by middle schoolers to inform the school what was going on. If you were accepted into the small ranks, you were essentially a school-wide celebrity. Originally, I was placed in charge of the soundboard, but because of my inability to keep from pressing random buttons, I was quickly moved to an on-screen position. At the tender age of 12, I was placed as co-host of Homeroom Feud with Sydney Cross, my first black friend. We were quite a duo and groundbreaking in terms of CTV history. Never had South-Doyle had a multiracial duo hosting Homeroom Feud.
|“And they’re like, it’s better than yours.”|
It took weeks to get over the fact that I wasn’t selected as the primary host of CTV, or “the Katie Couric,” as I would come to call it. But I made the best out of my position… that is until Sydney and I started having communication issues. I was always a precocious child, but in the purest ways possible. I could have a conversation with an adult like it was my job, but when it came to people my own age, sometimes I fell behind. Up until this point in my life, I had only listened to country music, so when Sydney walked in singing My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard, I was a little taken aback. I asked Sydney who this song was by and what a milkshake was, but she denied me an answer. I was very obviously out of the loop, and it was upsetting to know that this milkshake double entendre was like a special club that I couldn’t be apart of.
I went around asking people Will you tell me what a milkshake is? I asked my regular information sources: teachers, cafeteria workers, anyone with the slightest bit of authority. No one seemed to understand this “milkshake” either. I went home and asked my parents, but they didn’t understand what was going on. So, in desperation, I turned to Google. I had prepared a list of preliminary questions, just in case I found out the answer:
–What is a milkshake?
–Do I have a milkshake?
–Is this the kind of milkshake you can drink?
–Why does this milkshake bring all the boys to the yard?
–How do you compare milkshakes?
Sadly, I don’t think my query was specific enough, so for months, I was left stranded with the cliffhanger: what is a milkshake? I had decided that without Sydney’s help, I was essentially out of luck. That was (and I didn’t realize how mildly racist this was until now) until I met my second black friend, Kierra. She was everything that I had hoped my second black friend would be, and she was much less crass than Sydney. From the time that I started CTV to the end of eighth grade, I had been through three co-hosts, but no surefire fit. I was just a Kathy Lee looking for my Hoda, and there she was. Naturally, the first thing I did was ask Kierra what a milkshake was, and she quickly obliged and educated me on Kelis’ ways. It wasn’t long after that I started having the deep, raw emotional love that only seventh graders can feel, and then it happened: I had fallen in love with a black girl. I had no idea how I would ever tell my parents, but I knew that I had to. Kierra, for all intensive purposes, was supposed to be the love of my life. No matter the race, when you find a woman who willingly tells you what a milkshake is and compliments you perfectly as co-host of a low budget middle school television program, you love that woman with all of your heart.
I promised myself that I wouldn’t kill my parents’ dreams of snow white Aryan babies until I had to, but when I told Kierra that I liked her, she told me that she didn’t “like me-like me.” Little did she know, she set off a chain reaction in which I would spend the majority of middle and high school without any physical or emotional contact with anyone, followed by my college years when I would scandalously make out with just about anyone… regardless of race, religion, etc. The pain has died down since, but it just recently hit me: Kierra, my second black friend in the world, used her milkshake to bring 12 year old Justin to the yard, and then denied me. The personal alienation that followed, the scandalous/somewhat loose college years, my inability to commit to people: it all dials back to one thing… the milkshake.
But in time, all wounds eventually heal and time has a way of changing things. Kelis would go on to release much more provocative music before finally fading out into oblivion; I like to believe that her and Macy Gray share an apartment somewhere in inner-city New York. Kierra is off at college finishing up her undergrad; I like to think she’s made friends that aren’t nearly as ignorantly racist as I was as a twelve year old. Me on the other hand, I wander the streets of DC without any regard to any defining quality of a person. I just want someone to love–someone who will use their milkshake to bring me to the yard, teach me, but not have to charge.
And in the long run, I don’t think my parents even care if I bring home a nice, white, Christian girl home anymore because I did that once, and that was the one girlfriend that I’ve had that both Kathy and Wendell didn’t really like at all. In reality I think Wendell, who at one point could have arguably been classified as racist himself, dislikes white people more than he does any other race. Our Thanksgivings are void of color requirement (and religion and sexuality, for that matter) at this point. Raising Casey and me opened their eyes to a new world, and they’ve learned that there are much more important things in the world than a small defining quality.