I’ll be the first to admit, I grew up pretty ‘hood. Never lived in the PJs, but I definitely wasn’t vacationing in the Hamptons either. Things like sugar-water, quarter waters, looseys, mattress trampolines, and food stamps were pretty standard phrases in my vocabulary. I always told myself that I would get out of the ‘hood the first chance I got, and I did, through hard work, perseverance, determination, all that good stuff. The thing is, even though you can escape the struggle, there will always be that part of you that holds parts of that struggle dear to your heart, and you can’t let it all go. I started thinking of the things I still do, and I realized that there are five key things that I experienced in my upbringing that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to shake.
1. I always save the plastic containers from my takeout.
I know, I know, I make enough money now to buy actual Tupperware products, but nothing beats getting something for free. It’s almost like I won a prize. You mean I only paid $5.99 for Thai, and I still got this free container?! And most “non-‘hood” people don’t really understand the value in these items. I brought in some soup I made for lunch at work, in one of those containers, and I spent the greater part of my lunch convincing people that I did make the soup, regardless of what I transported it in. The idea that I had the container just about boggled their minds. They still don’t believe me.
2. I still drive to my old neighborhood to pick up hard-to-find items from the corner bodega.
C’mon, where else are you going to find a bag of canapes for $1, 6 for $1 green plantain, sour puss candy, and Now and Laters? Not to mention those yummy sandwiches they make with just cheese and French bread. And in CT, the liquor store is closed on Sundays, but you can always count on the bodega to get you your six-pack fix.
3. I have to remind myself to turn down my music before I pull into my company’s campus.
Nothing gets me going in the morning like a hip-hop song with crazy bass. And in order to enjoy it, I have no choice but to turn it up as loud as I possibly can. I usually resort to my “Go Hard” playlist-a mix of my favs from ’96 to now. I mean, if you haven’t enjoyed the way Fab’s “Can’t Deny It” sounds in the whip, then you really just haven’t lived. I also have to remind myself to wipe the mean mug off my face that automatically occurs when I rap along with the songs. And trust and believe, I know Every.Single.Lyric. This always reminds me of when a few of us got our own cars and would parade around the neighborhood in them, bangin that new Jay-Z. Some things never change.
4. I secretly go ape-shit every time a new pair of Jays comes out.
I was a huge tomboy growing up, and a sneaker fanatic. This means my closet was full of boxes of Jays, ’95 Air Maxes, and white on whites (well, maybe not THAT full, since obviously, I couldn’t afford too many). I won’t buy any of them anymore, because I’d feel kind of silly, being a grown woman and all, rocking a pair of Jays, but the appeal is still there.
5. I just can’t let go of hip-hop music.
I love Adele and Ledisi as much as the next girl, but I just can’t let go of my hip-hop music. Growing up, we would joke around like, yeah, we’re gonna be hitting up MSG for Jay-z concerts when he’s like 40+, as if the sheer thought of it were outlandish. Well, guess what? He is, and we still are. Some days I try to abstain, telling myself, it’ll be a Mariah Carey day. But if I hit that shuffle button, and Cam’s “Violence” off that S.D.E. starts to play, all bets are off. Before you know it, it’s all hip-hop, all day. And at that point, there’s no reverting back.
Point is, you can try as hard as you can, but you’ll never be able to completely erase the experiences and habits that made you who you are today. And to be honest, I wouldn’t want to.