Chris ordered a lobster entrée and I ordered grilled salmon. He told me the latest about his union’s efforts to overturn what they considered reverse-discrimination-based promotional exams within the fire department and about his preparation for the upcoming captain exam. He’s got a year before he’s eligible for retirement, but if he makes captain, he might stay just to help the few Black officials on the force move the organization away from its racist past.
After laughing and talking over dinner, we rode the hour-long drive out to his house. We talked about music, its transformative value and its ability to bring people together. I grabbed his iPod while he was driving and thumbed through his catalogue to another one of my favorites – Frank Sinatra’s “Love Being Here With You.”
“I bet you thought that was a Queen Latifah original,” I said. “You got her latest CD?”
We played both versions of the song.
“Frank Sinatra’s not even in the same league with the Queen,” he said.
“It was his song,” I countered.
“Just listen,” he said. “Not with your ears though. Listen to what she does with it.” He played Queen Latifah’s version again.
“Yes, hers is jazzier,” I said.
“Hers has soul,” he said.
“Yeah, hers is soulful, jazzy, upbeat. Frank’s is smooth, mellow,” I concurred. “Some people want smooth and mellow. All day today Madame Senator had classical music playing in her office. It seemed to mellow her out.”
“Mellow her out?” he said. “She probably needs to be in over-drive dealing with those rednecks in Congress. Any woman in an organization of mostly men, White men, especially White men with egos, has to be sharp or she’ll get squashed.”
We continued comparing remakes of some of the classics we enjoyed. We compared Frank Sinatra’s version of “Too Good to Be True” to Lauryn Hill’s version. Chris shook his head and repeated, “no comparison.”
I insisted on getting home by ten so I could get up fresh and get to the office by seven the next morning. I can do extra if that’s what it takes. I can get in early to get a jumpstart and work late to keep an edge. When we got back to my place, it was all I could do to sit there patiently as Chris came around to my side to open the door like a gentleman. We joke about my ambivalence toward chivalry. I told him that as a single woman, an independent, proud, self-sufficient single woman I had gotten used to opening my own doors, lifting my own heavy loads and all. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to give that up. Some men I had dated were old-fashioned and observed the etiquette of our grandparents; some men had given up on it not knowing when a woman would take offense to it or not. Chris and I agreed that when we’re together I’ll be the little lady. It had become a running joke between us. I would stand at the door impatiently wiggling like he couldn’t open the door fast enough. Or if I was in the truck and had to wait for him to come around and let me out, I’d sit there dramatically flipping my hands and fidgeting in a display of impatience. To mock my mockery of impatience, he made faces at the window and locked the door with his remote lock every time I reached to open it.
“You know Black folks stopped shucking and jiving and wearing the mask, but women still gotta be two different personalities, right?” I said when he finally let me out.
“Take charge or get trampled at work. Come home and be the little lady.”
“You want some violins?” he said.
“Ya’ll wanna have it both ways. Be the boss, but leave us footing the cost.”
“Oh now you got Jesse Jackson rhymes,” I said. “You one of them real smartie-arites aintcha?”
“I got your smartie-artie,” he said, pinching the back of my leg as I walked up the stairs in front of him.
Chris and I watched the news and debated about a controversy brewing over Michelle Obama. In a speech she gave, she mentioned that for the first time in her life she’s proud to be an American. I argued that she was right on point and I was glad she had the courage to say what so many of us felt. He countered that there’s a time and place for everything. She can say what she wants after we win the White House.
- When we travel to a foreign country, we expect to speak a language different than what we’re used to. When are some other times and places, where you have to pull up a different language, draw on a different aspect of your personality than usual?
- Are you comfortable with hsifting gears? Why or why not?
- What are your beliefs about shifting gears?