Corona Chronicles: You’re Stupid!

My grandmother’s go-to question when she believes you’re doing something she doesn’t agree with or something she doesn’t understand is, “Are you stupid?” I’ve heard this question a million times in my life. It’s the reason I haven’t played checkers with her (or anyone else) since I was a teenager. When I used to put my little red piece in danger of being jumped, or worse, double jumped, I’d face the dreaded question, are you stupid? Or, if she didn’t want to be implicit, like when I helped my illiterate cousin write a letter that was later used in court, she announced, that was stupid, with extra emphasis on the first syllable, so that it  sounded like SSSTOOOpid.

Although I knew otherwise, I always felt like the dumbest person in the world when she said it, as if she had top-secret information for not doing “stupid” things in life. As if she, alone, held the keys to making intelligent, sound decisions. As if she’d never done anything someone else could call, stupid.

And so, I’m hypersensitive to the phrase.

But I’ve never heard it used so much and so flippantly as I have in the past two months. I wish I would’ve started a counter for how many times I’ve seen or heard, They’re so stupid! You know who they are? I’ll tell you what I think, similar to Grannie, it’s anyone who isn’t doing what the accuser thinks someone else should be doing.

First, it was Spring Breakers in Florida and Mardi Gras partiers in New Orleans. A bunch of teenagers and college students were called stupid for doing what some teenagers and college students do: be self-centered and party. What would you have done during a pandemic if you were 18, 19, or 21? Maybe you were more responsible than these young people; maybe you would’ve taken yourself right home and self-quarantined.

img_3580The phrase then filtered to people’s parents who were 60 years or older. For some reason, my friends and family couldn’t understand why their parents wouldn’t listen to them and just stay home. There was even this clever meme circulating about caging said “stupid” parents. I reminded a friend that I’m sure his mama was thinking the same thing about him in the early 90s. She probably wished she could’ve caged him so that he wouldn’t harm society or himself.

Next, it trickled down to anyone who wouldn’t stay home, even though CDC guidelines stated people could “walk, hike, or cycle.” I think it prompted the #StayTheFuckHome mantra. Listen, cuss words are a part of my vocabulary, but I’d venture to say that no one wants to be the target of a global cuss out; however, that’s what we’re doing now.

Eventually, they’re stupid included people who didn’t wear masks, even though the CDC and the surgeon general said it was recommended. I noticed two things when I went to the grocery store: when I didn’t yet have a mask to wear, mask wearers peered over their material as if I was a crazy person; when I wore my mask, then non-mask wearers looked at me like I was a crazy person, leading me to a conclusion. No matter what, people have a judgment when you don’t do what they think you should do.

I don’t even want to get into the church Easter goers. The masses hadn’t developed a word suitable enough to describe just how stupid they thought these parishioners were. So, I’ll return to Florida.

img_3675At the time I’m writing this, Jacksonville Beach has re-opened access, with restrictions: there is no sitting and you can only venture out during specific hours. Just like that, an old photo of Palm Beach, 285 miles away in South Florida, along with a Jacksonville headline was posted. And a new crop of judgments has re-surfaced. Yep. You guessed it. They’re stupid. This time “they” includes Jax Beach residents, the mayor, and anyone who chooses to walk on the beach, even though the photo depicted a false image.

Just to be clear, I’ve been following the CDC guidelines and the rules of my state. I wear masks. I wash my hands and use hand sanitizer. If you follow me on Instagram, then you know how much I love the beach; however, I won’t be walking alongside the Atlantic ocean anytime soon.

And you know what else I won’t be doing? I won’t be calling others stupid if they make a different choice.

~kg

4/17/20

Why I Refuse to Judge Any Mother

My first public blog post…

A few years ago, I attended one of my former high school student’s baccalaureate graduations. Also in attendance was her mom, a single mother of three young adults. She had literally arrived just in time for this commencement, which was 706 miles away from home. She donned a black, sequenced matching shirt and pants. Her luggage was in tow. This scene was typical; she wore her challenges. As Langston Hughes might say, life for her ain’t been no crystal stair.

But still. No matter the situation, this lady was always there for her daughter and her other two adult children. She might be the loudest one in the crowd, but that was because she was supportive. She might have snuck some popcorn into so-called prestigious events, but that’s cause everybody knows that concessions at large events cost too much.

I watched her quite a bit that weekend. She snapped 27 pictures on her disposable camera. Tossed the throwaway in her bag and snatched a new one. She did this four more times. I watched her “save” the graduation chicken because essentially, nobody else there really knew how to grill it. And I noticed how she loved her children, the best way she knew how, given her experiences. By Sunday, Mother’s Day 2013, something dawned on me; this mother is no different than I am, a mother of two daughters, or any mother for that matter. So I posted this: The longer I am a mother, the more I understand that each mother just does the best she can, given her circumstances.

1462536161555Then, something else happened. I thought about my own experiences as a daughter. Many times I felt embarrassed because my mother carried a terminal illness that would lead to death, kidney disease. A lot of times, I wished my mom were someone else. So much so that she had offered to take me to see Michael Jackson’s Victory Tour, but I declined. As much as I loved MJ, I didn’t want to be asked if this was my grandmother, again. It wasn’t until years after my mother’s death that I realized how much of a gem she really was.

In between dialysis treatments, she led a fearless life. She was deeply involved with NAPHT (National Association of Patients on Hemodialysis and Transplantation), volunteered as a Sunday school teacher, worked part-time, supported anyone she called family and friend, and all the while actively chose to raise me, this daughter she had adopted. My mother had ensured that I attend the best public magnet K-12 Chicago schools, which provided me with rich childhood experiences. In fact, I attribute my spirit of service, advocacy and motivation in part to observing my own mother do the very same things. So while there were moments of adolescent shame due to my mother’s physical appearance, there’s now an adult appreciation because I recognize and honor her for doing the best that she could, given her circumstances.

Now, I’m the mother of two fairly quiet teenage daughters, who would rather I remain silent than speak out about small infractions. These daughters turn a side-eye with every picture I capture and every post that “tells their business.” My oldest claims that she won’t tell me anything because I’ll tell everyone (guess this blog partially proves that). My youngest daughter would rather become invisible than to watch me dance in public. I’m often met with a lot of, “Are you wearing those shoes with that?” when leaving the house. But I hope that one day they’ll understand that it matters less if my shoes match my shirt. I hope that they’ll understand the reason their mother took a 320-mile commute every now and then for a career she felt called to do. I hope that they’ll remember family trips, game nights, healthy food, and movie dates. And when they’re feeling as if I could have done more, I hope they’ll remember that I too, did the best that I could, given my own circumstances.

Happy Mother’s Day!