“Bro, there is such a thing as too much information.”

Raf and I are two years apart, less four months. Since his birth, our mother forced us to cultivate a friendship instead of a sibling rivalry. While this is a positive thing most of the time, there are times when Raf crosses the boundary and shares too much. (He inherited that tendency from our mother.)

Text

I was preparing invoices at work, when an iMessage notification popped up on my phone. Raf randomly sends funny memes while I’m at work, so I didn’t think twice about opening it. I should’ve known better.

“I just got a burger and handmade salt and vinegar chips from O’Brian’s. It smells like white girl pussy. Lol!”

“OMGGG.”

“At least it tastes better. Lol.”

“Whyyyyy?! I don’t need to know this!!!”

“Just sayin’.”

“Bro, there is such a thing as too much information.”

Photo

“Hey sis, check this out!”

I narrowed my eyes in suspicion. “What is it?”

“A picture of a cute puppy.”

I exhaled in relief. “Okay, show me.”

Raf handed me his phone.

MY EYES!” I tossed the phone back at him in disgust. “Who is that and why is she sending you naked photos?!”

“This girl I met at a party last weekend –”

“You need to talk to Kevin and those guys about shit like this.”

“– who I went home with –”

“Can’t hear you.” I started walking away.

“– and we totally hooked up which was — ”

Hastily, I crammed my earbuds into my ears and drowned out the rest of the story with Outkast’s “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” album.

Conversation

“Bro, why did Mom call to tell me that she found your ho’s panties in your room. And that y’all were sleeping in your room together.”

“Sis, first, Roxie is not a ho –”

“No, you’re both hos. Seriously, bro — shacking in Mom & Dad’s house?!”

“We weren’t even doing anything! At the time…”

“I don’t know why you and Mom feel the need to tell me these things.”

“Really, sis — Roxie and I were cuddling and accidentally fell asleep. I mean, we did have sex earlier –”

“NOPE.”

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Pretend you belong

Drink whiskey until a haze
glides over your body.
Spin as house music stomps on
whisper-shouts exchanged.
Numb the loneliness
that suffocates in a sea of people.
Pretend you belong in
this perfectly artificial town.
Ignore the way its inhabitants
expertly engineer interest.
Get discarded when you’re deemed useless
in an endless quest to make it.

“Why would girls wear filmy sundresses and cowboy boots on the train?”

Whenever Mike rides Marta to (and from) work, he asks me questions about the fashion trends he sees.

“I rode the train back home last night and saw somethin’ strange.”

“Was it the lady who holds the standing rail between her buttcheeks instead of her hands?”

“No! Nothin’ that exciting.” Mike laughed. “I was just wonderin’ — why would girls wear filmy sundresses and cowboy boots on the train?”

“What age group were the girls?”

“High schoolers. Their moms were wearin’ the same type of outfits! What event has that dress code?”

“Were they white girls?”

“Yeah, most of ’em were blondes.”

“There was a Taylor Swift concert at the Philips Arena last night, so that’s probably where they went.”

“That’d make sense! They got off at the Civic Center stop.” Mike frowned, “My spouse would be appalled to see their impractical use of boots.”

“True, your wife wears boots because actually works on farms with horses.” I added, “She’d also think Taylor Swift was pop, not country.”

“I heard that song about some guy bein’ trouble walkin’ in.”

“What’d you think?”

“She’s definitely not country. Plus that song’s got that womp-womp-womp dubstep echo shit y’all like.”

“Valid points.”

“Whatever happened to Dolly? Or Reba? Even she was more country than that!”

“Dolly still performs, though the excessive Botox seems to limit her range. Reba is an actress now.”

“I’ve lost all hope for the future of country music if it’s come to this.”

“Maybe Taylor Swift will go back to her roots after this album.”

“The girl’s from suburban Pennsylvania — her roots are less country than yours!”

“I lived in Birmingham for eight years.”

“Exactly my point.”

“You haven’t heard my awesome rendition of ‘Friends in Low Places.'”

“Karaoke night for the next company outing! Gotta let everyone in on your secret penchant for Garth Brooks.”

“I just like that one song.”

“That’s what they all say.”

“Okay, there’s also the one with my name in it that’s decent –”

“You have his whole anthology, don’tcha?”

“…”

“I knew it!”

“You can’t tell anyone!”

“Nah, you’re losin’ your street cred today, ma’am!”

My boss likes to give unsolicited life advice.

When I started working at the firm two years ago, I made an unfortunate discovery — my boss likes to give unsolicited life advice.

My boss is clueless in a Mitt Romney kind of way. He grew up and stayed in Buckhead, one of the most bourgeoisie neighborhoods in Atlanta; his brothers and parents’ houses are also on the same street. He’s never lived in an apartment.

Since my boss got his driver’s license, all of his cars have been new BMWs — that’s forty years of driving nothing but BMWs, y’all. Aside from a few of us people of color at work, he’s insulated from diversity. I’m the first Filipino person he’s ever met.

I had been working at the firm for several months. On a Friday afternoon in September, my boss called me into his office.

“Sam! Have a seat.”

I sat in the chair in front of his desk and fidgeted nervously.

“You’re not in trouble — don’t worry!”

“That’s a relief, sir.”

“Whadda y’all young people do for fun these days? Like, this weekend?”

“My boyfriend and I are going to the Music Midtown concert tomorrow.”

“Didn’t know they were bringin’ that festival back! I went in the ’90s when I was single. Who all’s playin’?”

“A lot of indie bands — I’m looking forward to seeing Walk the Moon, The Joy Formidable, and Young the Giant. Coldplay is headlining, though.”

“Never heard of any of ’em, ‘cept Coldplay.”

I suppressed a laugh. “What are you and your family doing this weekend?”

He sighed in exasperation. “Prolly somethin’ lame like takin’ the kids to the park or some shit.”

“That should be fun!”

“Nah, it’s borin’ as hell! Lemme let give ya the biggest piece of advice that anybody’s gonna give ya.”

I gestured for him to continue.

“Put off gettin’ married ‘n’ havin’ kids as long as possible.”

“I’m twenty-three, so I’m not in a hurry.”

“Good. ‘Cuz everybody says the day yer kid’s born is the best day of yer life — they’re lyin’.”

“…”

“Not to say kids aren’t great — ‘cuz they can be. But they wear ya out and are a money pit.”

“…”

“Forget about doin’ what ya wanna do — yer life’s gonna revolve ’round them ‘n’ their schedules.”

“…”

Enjoy yer freedom. Y’all hafta live it up for the rest of us who’re stuck with our balls ‘n’ chains.”

I glanced around, waiting to be dismissed.

My boss nodded, grinning. “Glad we had this talk, Sam.”

“Me…too…”

“These guys sing so fast, I can’t understand them.”

My boss is hard of hearing. Against his doctor’s orders, he only wears his hearing aids at court or on a conference call. This leads to frustrating conversations where you have to repeat yourself frequently. But there are three instances when this has worked in my favor.

One
“Hey Sam, can you take a look at this for me?”

“Definitely!” I flipped through the pages. “When do you need this by?”

“Before lunch would be great.”

“I’ll finish this email and edit this next.”

My boss paused at the doorway, straining to listen to the music playing quietly.

Poppin’ that pussy’s a dance for the ladies
Straight from the south, into the 90’s
Freaky bitches are the ones I like
In g-strings in the middle of the night

“These guys sing so fast, I can’t understand them. Plus, the beat’s so loud — it drowns out the words.”

I laughed awkwardly. “This song is by 2 Live Crew.”

“I’ll look ’em up.”

Two
Like many of my older coworkers, my boss is a fiscal conservative who reminisces about President Ronald Reagan’s “glory days.” He knows that I was heavily involved in Young Democrats in college, so we don’t talk about politics much. One afternoon, I was listening to Killer Mike and cranking out a particularly tedious set of reports, when he popped into my office.

“How’re those reports comin’ along?”

“I’ll have them done in an hour.”

“Great, thanks!”

I’m dropping off the grid before they pump the lead
I leave you with four words, I’m glad Reagan dead
Ronald Wilson Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan

He beamed. “This fella’s singin’ about President Reagan!”

I winced. “Um…yes.”

“What’s his name?”

“Killer Mike. He’s from Atlanta.”

“It’s real cool that he’s got a song payin’ tribute to The Gipper!”

Three
Sometimes, I’ll stream music from certain artists’ stations on Rdio. (Rdio is a music subscription service that predated Spotify.) That afternoon, I was listening to the Lil Kim station and working on billing.

“I sent you an email about a pre-bill — could you re-run that for me real quick?”

“Sure. Do you want a hard copy or PDF sent to your email?”

“Hard copy’s good.”

My neck
My back
Lick my pussy
And my crack

“Listenin’ to lady singers today?”

I discreetly turned the volume down. “Yeah, this is Khia.”

“I should start wearin’ my hearin’ aids around the office, so I can hear this hip music you young folks listen to!”

“This is the first time I’ve heard of twerking.”

“Miley’s dad must be real proud of her.” Mike laughed as he walked into his office, the one opposite mine.

“Mike, you watched the VMAs last night?!”

Mike is another one of my older white coworkers. Unlike Old Jim, he’s not clueless — he was a hippie during the Woodstock era and asks me about musicians featured on NPR’s All Songs Considered. We share stories about the best shows we’ve seen; his was Pink Floyd at Berkeley, but I haven’t been to enough to pick a favorite yet. The last thing he would ever watch is MTV, much less the VMAs.

“Nah, CNN was showing a clip on the TV when I grabbed coffee at the café.”

“Ugh, Miley is a train wreck!”

“I was wondering what kinda sick porno they were showing — I just about fell down the stairs!”

“She always says she’s twerking, but that’s not what her dancing is.”

“This is the first time I’ve heard of twerking. Is it a dance style like the Harlem Shake?”

“Yeah, the styles aren’t similar, but it is a dance style like the real Harlem Shake.”

“I take it those costumed weirdos randomly flailing in the YouTube videos weren’t doing the real one.”

“Exactly.” I paused. “If you want to see real twerking, then we should watch one of Big Freedia’s videos.”

Mike gestured to his computer. I found Big Freedia’s video for “Y’all Get Back Now” on YouTube and hit play. Mike watched curiously.

“Big Freedia is a rather big woman — buff, I mean.”

“She’s a drag queen. Her show at Terminal West was epic.”

“These folks dancing behind her –”

“Her twerk team.”

“Women and men — their moves are amazing!”

“Whatever Miley was doing doesn’t resemble this at all.”

“Why does a skinny white girl make a fool of herself trying to imitate the twerk team members?!”

“I ask myself that every time I read stories about Juicy J or other rappers putting her onstage.”

“She’s gotta know they’re laughing at her, not with her.” Mike chuckled, “Thanks for the education, Sam. We should show Big Freedia’s video to Old Jim after lunch. He’d appreciate this, for sure.”

“I don’t know what good it’ll do. He still thinks dubstep is a dance, not a genre of music.”

“Who’s that broad Molly?”

I try not to write about where I work very often, for fear of my boss finding my blog. As mentioned in my poem yesterday, my office is in Buckhead and as I wrote in my rant about the verdict for the Trayvon Martin case, many of my coworkers are conservative white men (the majority of whom are middle-aged or older).

Most days, my coworkers’ offhandedly sexist or slightly racist comments frustrate me. However, there have been several hilarious occasions that have made up for it. (I’ll be sharing one today and others in future posts.)

Silence is the ultimate productivity killer for me, so I need to have music on while I’m working. When I’m chugging through tedious reports, I either listen to hip-hop or obnoxious dance music. About a month ago, I was listening to Trinidad James’s album when Old Jim walked into my office.

Old Jim is a brusque yet friendly man who’s close to retirement age. (The other Jim in our office is Big Jim, since he’s a huge man who acts like The Hulk during tax season). Old Jim usually asks me about pop culture so he can have some common ground with his kids.

Trinidad James was rapping in the background.

Pop a molly I’m sweatin’ (woo!)
Pop a molly I’m sweatin’ (woo!)

“Who’s that broad Molly? All the rappers talk about her. She must be pretty popular.”

“Molly isn’t a lady; it’s a drug.”

Old Jim pondered this for a moment.

“So can you smoke it like dope?”

I was too busy dying inside to reply.