Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Time to Break and a Time to Chill. To Act Civilized or Act Really Ill

Here is a photo of a dead end. Nowhere to go but up, I guess.

Well, kids. I'm tired and I'm going to try hard to go to bed really, really early tonight. To that end, I'm stealing from the old blog. This was from March of 2006. It is a quaint little story about me finding out what my B-girl name meant. Oh, and for those of you who have only seen me on my blog, I have curly hair. I just straighten it when I go out. There. That will help this story make more sense. Enjoy:

I had been living in Iowa for about 6 years before I moved to California to join the Conservation Corps. In 1985, you still had to attend the training academy before you were placed at a site. The academy was a converted minimum security prison in Angels Camp, California. Most of the people who joined the Corps were from inner urban areas except for me and two refugees from Ethiopia. The Ethiopians were probably less foreign to the training academy world than I was.

At that time, Yo! MTV Raps was still three years away and there was very little exposure to Rap culture anywhere else. A couple of the girls on my track team in high school would bring music back from their relatives in Atlanta and in college there was a station on KRUI that played rap for an hour on Sunday nights. So, I had heard The Sugar Hill Gang, Grand Master Flash and George Clinton's "Atomic Dog". There were a couple of local white boys who would bring their boom boxes (or ghetto blasters as everyone called them then) to the ped mall and attempt to break dance, but very few people in Iowa knew much about eighties urban culture, including me.

At the academy I was one of the few women of any color - White, Black, Latina Asian or Native. So, some of the guys tried to flip me shit to see how I'd react. I laughed and flipped them shit back and we were cool. They even gave me a B-girl name. The called me Jheri curl. I asked them what a Jheri curl was and they laughed for days. One guy tried to explain it. "See those brothers over there wearing the shower caps? They all have Jheri curls they don't want to mess up out here. Just wait until the dance on the last night - they'll take them off and then you'll see."

"Okay, but until that time, can you just tell me if Jheri curl is a good B-girl name or a bad one?"

"It's good. For real." I took his word for it, but I was a little anxious to see what about me reminded everyone of a Jheri curl.

The night of the dance, we were all packing up and getting ready to go to our assignments. There were 5 of us going to Leggett to work on The Salmon Restoration Project. We all walked down to the dance together - we figured we'd better start getting used to each other. Once we hit the cafeteria, my friend who had previously tried to describe my B-girl name to me came over to say goodbye.

"Hey Jheri curl. Are you ready to see what you're named after?" Hell fuckin' yes, I was ready. He pointed over to the group of guys who I had never seen without their shower caps. Their hair had been loosed and was curly like mine, but oh so much wetter. "See," my friend said. "I told you it was good. Don't you think they look good?"

"Sure?" but I wasn't. I suppose my B-girl name was better than some I've heard. I wasn't the human beat box, or big legged girl, sex machine Nicki (who's real name was Doris) or the Ethiopians who were only ever called "the Ethiopians". To this day though, I'm not sure if I should have been offended or not.


Ananda girl said...

Great story! I'm not sure if you should be offended or not either. What a wonderful experience.

Remiman said...

Jheri curl has a nice ring to it.
Having frizzy curly hair while growing up , I can relate totally!
I wish I'd thought to wear a shower cap.


Remiman said...

Jheri curl,
I think there is something new in my blogroll that prevents me from commenting, and not just on your blog. I tried coming straight from goggle anf: voila!

NoRegrets said...

Who knows... go back in time and ask!

I love the photo and the caption. shot, sweet, simple, profound.

Mommy Lisa said...

I don't think you should be offended, but I am a white girl from Minnesota who lived in Norway in 1985!

laura b. said...

Awesome story. I'm going to say that Jheri Curl doesn't sound too bad, all things considered. I love nicknames and wish I had my very own B-girl name :-)

Churlita said...


Yeah. I wasn't really offended. It was more just funny than anything. Especially in hindsight when Jheri curls are just kind of joke.


I'm glad you're back. I kept forgetting to change the comment verification thing. I;m glad you figured it out on your own.


Thanks. It's an odd little space, isn't it?

Mommy Lisa,

Norway in 1985 sounds really cool.


We could just give you a B-girl name right now if you wanted. Cali Reader? or Library Laura? What works for you?

dmarks said...

"boom boxes (or ghetto blasters as everyone called them then)"

I remember that, and it took me a while to get used to the name "boombox" too.

Remember, they were giant and boxy then. Then, for a while they were all silver with angles and planes (like a Cylon head). Last time I look at them at stores, they looked like bug-heads.

laura b. said...

Oooohhhh, Cali Reader. That sounds badass, right? haha! Thanks, Churlita :-)