Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Girl, After Jamaica Kincaid

Girl

After Jamaica Kincaid

By  Charnell Peters

Always wait until the grease gets hot and test it with a pinch of flour; put your hand down close to the pan and don’t be scared of getting popped; it doesn’t matter what the label says, I mix these cleaners all the time and it works on everything; please do not mix those cleaners; don’t scratch your cornrows, because they have to last; if you ruin them, you better do something with that head or no boys are going to like you; use a folded rubber band to hook your jeans when you’re too fat to button them; save all your clothes because you might be skinny someday; don’t have high hopes for being skinny one day; your ankles are so ashy you could start a fire; put some lotion on and the thick kind too; you better eat all that on your plate; you better wash the bathtub when you get out; you better keep out of his way; help me fold these clothes and fold them right too; don’t just ball them up and call it good; sweep up the kitchen floor; Again?; and if you want to give me lip you can go ahead and mop it; the directions say two cups but I always put three; everyone knows good Kool-aide has three cups of sugar in it; and fill the first fifth or so with hot water so it dissolves real good; go get some groceries and make sure to use the food stamps; check all the eggs before you buy them and buy the cheapest bread and bologna; you better wear that skirt I bought you; you better get sick while we still have insurance; you better not leave a single dirty pot; you better stay out of his way; always stoop over a toilet; never pay more than the posted price; let people know you know they’re following you in a store; this is how you clean up a house for guests; this is how you clean up a house for family; this is how you wash somebody’s back when they can’t wash themselves; this is how you act like you’re not in charge but you’re really in charge; this is how you act when everyone knows you’re in charge; How do I know everyone knows I’m in charge?; put your tights on like this; put your smile on like this; put your legs together like this; or do you not want boys to like you?; you’ve got to drive up the hill, put the van in neutral, and roll back down into the driveway; it doesn’t go in reverse anymore; this is how you go through a stop sign when the brakes aren’t working; this is how you lend and borrow money; this is how you tithe when you don’t have money; always keep the peace; never start an argument; But what if it needs to be started?; you mean to tell me after all this you’re going to be the type of girl to start an argument?; do you not want boys to like you?

2 comments:

Unknown said...

I know I'm months behind on this, but it deserves a comment. These phrases, lessons, and warnings paint a very specific (yet familiar to many) childhood. Sometimes I have the bad habit of skimming the work I read online, but I followed this line by line. I'd love to know about Charnell Peters and her other writing. - Abi

Charnell said...

Hi Abi, Glad you found my piece on here! Thanks for the kind words. I too was struck by the specificity yet accessibility of Kincaid's piece when I first read it. Thanks for stopping by. -Charnell