Friday, November 30, 2007

Lotioning Up Black Boys

A few weeks ago, a couple friend of mine shared a story and gave me permission to share it with you. Names are changed but the details are accurate.

Their nine-year old son, (we'll call him "Jamal") a very bright little boy, went to a sleepover at his best friend's house. My couple friend knew the single mother of their son's friend and had swapped sleepovers with her several times. At the sleepover, Jamal was the only boy coming from a two-parent home and each boy had packed clothing for the night with the necessary Game Boys and Play Station cartridges --- absolute necessities for an enjoyable weekend for the pre-adolescent boys.

When Jamal came home to his parents the next morning, he asked his Dad why didn't he "lotion up". His father asked him what he meant. Jamal said that after he and his friends had taken showers in the morning, all of them were slathering various body lotions all over the body from head to toe. He simply put his on the "ash spots" that Black people have --- elbows, knees, ankles and a few drops on the back of his hands. The boys said he didn't know how to "lotion up", and that all of their Moms had taught them this a long time ago. Jamal had seen his mother go through this morning ritual that Blackwomen have, but had modeled his behavior after his father who dabbed a little bit of grease on the ash spots the way most Blackmen do. A simple thing though, took on significance since Jamal's friends had made him the butt of jokes for the rest of the weekend.

Jamal wasn't traumatized by the event in the least, but his parents were a little shaken that a "feminine" behavior --- "lotioning up" --- had been used to poke fun at their son who had simply followed his Dad's footsteps --- or should I say rubbing --- which he had seen a thousand times.

I mused on this event and saw yet another indication of how the assault on Black males has even entered the area of personal hygiene. The lotioned up Black boys at Jamal's friend's house weren't "guilty" of anything sinister and neither were their mothers. All however, were victims of the increasing number of absent fathers who simply don't show their sons the little things that fall under the category of what is "masculine".

Mwalimu Baruti has written extensively about the "effeminization" of Black men, and I agree with him. It is nothing new to cite data about the "disappearing Black father" in the lives of Black boys; it's one of the most written about topics within the Amerikkkan Afrikan community. The consequences of this disappearance is a plethora of behaviors --- boys wanting pedicures, talking about about lotions among themselves and swabbing the latest clear Max Factor polish on their little fingernails. Oh, I know, some of the women who read this might say this is sexist nonsense and there's nothing wrong with a boy learning to be "well-groomed" at an early age. I would ask my Sisters, however are these the same boys who will become tomorrow's metrosexual --- similar to the self-obsessed and narcissistic "Greer Childs" character in Spike Lee's film, She's Gotta Have It, and would you want him for either yourself or your daughter?

I don't know, maybe I'd better expand my slathering beyond the elbows, ankles, knuckles and knees...