It came as a surprise to everyone when I graduated from one of the top private schools in the country and, instead of attending college like most of my classmates did, joined the military.
I was an immigrant — my family came to America from Jamaica when I was 10 — and female children of immigrants are often taught by their parents that your life path is limited to three options:
1. Have a business that makes a lot of money
2. Go to college for a job that makes a lot of money
3. Marry someone who makes a lot of money
Simple right? The army fit none of those criteria. But I disliked everything about schools. I hated the pretentious kids at my school, I hated the cardboard cutout curriculum, and I especially hated the canned food they reheated and sold for five to ten dollars per day.
My decision was especially was off putting to my family because of the type of people and situations they thought I would be around. I wasn’t the most sheltered person, but I was a bit more privileged than the typical 18-year-old who chooses to join the army. Going from nuns and affluent stay at home moms to drill sergeants not-all-that-much-different than the drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket was a bit of a culture shock. But I handled it
I am now going on my 6th year in the military. When I left my first duty station in Alaska, I changed from active duty to reserves. After my active duty discharge, I started wearing headwraps. Whether it was the bright and beautiful colors of the different cloths, or the fact that my ears were never again cold, I loved them. I wear them everywhere. (Also, I have to say that the headwrap changes the way men approach me on the street. Instead of "hey redbone" or "hey bitch" its "hey beautiful nubian sista." Which I know is super, duper problematic, but that's another topic for another day.)
The only time I can't and don't wear them is with military uniforms. Not that I would want to in my new unit, which is located in backwoods West Virginia. I’m not going to say they fit every single stereotype up there but holy hell they sure do come pretty close. And something happened to me recently that exemplifies that. And the fallacy of us existing in a "post-racial' America.
I was there for a weekend for drill. Once a month, we show up in uniform for a weekend and do a month’s work of work in two days. It was after hours so I was off duty and going to eat dinner at one of the local eateries. I was sitting down minding my business — literally not doing anything but staring at my phone rereading Fifty Shades of Grey because I’m a lonely woman — when I hear several grossly uncomfortable comments that made my skin literally crawl and urged my legs to move me to the exit.
"Why the fuck would she come around here knowing there are soldiers that frequent this area?"
"Check if she has a bag"
"I wonder if she would cry if I ripped it off her head?"
"Her father probably raped her, that's why she's shy"
I am by no means a passive, let people roll over me, let it slide, turn the cheek type of person. But ignorance is always palpable and around every corner in this area so I let it slide. I let it slide… until…. this slender “I would date a sixteen year old if she looked right” man and his “I am the sixteen year old that looks right” girl approach my table visibly intoxicated. They actually thought it was a good idea to speak. They either thought about this scenario a little too much or not enough because they strolled up to my table too jolly for my liking.
The skeleton man, with his potentially underage partner in slime in tow, came to me and spoke. What he said was laden with swear words, slurs, words that I can only guess about, and spittle. Lots and lots of spittle. Here’s my kosher and SFW translation:
"It's really disrespectful of you to wear that (points at my head wrap) around here. The troops are honorable and they don't need constant reminders of why all their friends are dying. You need to take that off."
Now, the military has taught me several things that I value. Because of those harsh lessons, I carry a knife. More precisely, I carry a tactical knife. A benchmade 556 Griptillian. It's sharp. It's always concealed on my hip. By the time I heard their giggles and saw them swaying towards me, I had already grabbed Bessie (my knife) and had her in an ice pick grip with the edge out and the tip aggressively carving into the wood of table. It took them too long to notice, but I noticed when they had just begun to notice. The misguided young lady flexed her arm to reach towards me — not sure what the she was intending to do without getting her fingers sliced off — but I pulled the knife out of the table and flipped it around in my palm and pointed it at her. She was not as stupid as I thought because she stopped her advance.
What came next is the best and most accidentally craziest — and probably sexiest (to the right person) — thing I’ve ever said. To this day, I can still hear how low and scary it sounded to my own ears.
"If you, or your cousin-husband ever reach to grab my head wrap again, I'll castrate him up to his neck and filet the skin off your thighs.
They blinked. I didn't blink. They blinked again. I must have been a good liar. I can't even cut a steak without crying about the dead cows and their families that wonder why they never came home that day.
I watched their retreat. Either deciding I was an actual threat or I wasn’t worth the trouble, they went outside to smoke. I tried to calm my shaking hands down. I paid my bill to an oblivious waitress who either didn’t care what was happening or just honestly didn’t see anything. (I’m going to keep my faith in humanity and say she didn’t see.)
As I'm leaving, I see them in the parking lot. I keep my head leveled to watch and make sure they don’t try anything dumb. But, alas, drunk people are dumb. They didn’t physically assault me. But verbally, they were adamant with their prejudice. I heard several things, including "troops" and "Muslim bitch." I needed to put them out of their misery. I needed the satisfaction that came with my next move.
From the safety of the driver’s side of my car, I pulled my military ID out of my pocket and flashed it at Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.
"BITCH I AM THE TROOPS"
Samantha moonlights as a feminist pterodactyl whose only pickup line is 'you like bread, or nah?'