30 March 2009

Trying to find the right mask

For an semi-introvert like me, the only way to survive out in public is to put on a mask and play a role. Pretending that I am someone else puts a necessary barrier between me and the world. I've been doing this for so long that even my husband rarely gets a glimpse of my real face. However, after years of practice. I can still slip up and pick the wrong persona.

Lately, I find myself playing the "dancing Negro" in my Bible study group, which is full of white people. I've been the only black girl in many social situations for ages. I've never even had a black best friend. So I don't understand why, in this particular group, I feel the need to use more black slang and utter phrases like, "You know how you white folks do"? WTF?

I didn't even notice I was doing this until yesterday. M and I met the group for pizza. I forgot what time we were supposed to meet other than after church, so I showed up at 1p. Well, the rest of the group met at 12n. Instead of just saying I was confused about the time, I said,"I forgot that you white folks get out of church early. I was going on CP time." Everyone laughed, and one of the girls replied, "I have a black coworker who says that all the time." Again, WTF? I know she wasn't trying to offend me, but I immediately felt like the minstrel there for everyone's amusement.

Why am I acting like this? I don't even use black slang when I am with other black people. I've never used the phrase "CP time", not even with my husband. The masks I don are all aspects of me, but they are never based on race. I usually just bring someone like Dani the Music Lover to the forefront and leave all the other Danis at home. I don't know where Minstrel Show Dani came from, but she needs to go back.

Perhaps I'm acting like this because I am having trouble finding my way in. I'm older than everyone in the group by 10 years so I can't play the hip young thing. Telling jokes and flirting with the boys would be wrong on several levels :-). They're all stricter Christians than I am, so discussing media (TV, movies, music) is pretty much out. I like these people but I don't have much to say to them. So I guess that's why I trotted out the sassy old black woman act. Hopefully I can switch masks without them noticing too much. Of course, I have to find a new mask first.

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