Today is Halloween. Which means many of us are going to go to ridiculous lengths to be as quasi scary as possible today. Because we're all adults, and we're not scared of shit. (Well, we're not scared of shit except for this.)
But there was a time when belts and switches and rulers and Hot Wheels tracks had the power to put the fear of God in us; means for admittedly justifiable punishment for dumb-ass shit we did and/or said as young people.
Today, a few VSB contributors share stories about the last time some dumb-ass shit forced their parents to say "this is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you." (Which we all now know was a LIE!!!!!)
I was in 6th grade. It was Kennywood Day. For those who didn't grow up in the Pittsburgh area, "Kennywood Day" is the most important day of the year for school-aged kids. Kennywood is a Pittsburgh-area amusement park, and "Kennywood Day" is the designated day of the year where your entire school district went to Kennywood.
What you wore on Kennywood Day was just as important as actually going to Kennywood. The 12 year old me took my Kennywood outfit very seriously, begging my parents to buy a pair of Jordans, a Jordan shirt, Jordan shorts, and a Jordan hat…and they came through! (The Jordans were purchased months earlier, but still.)
As happy as I was, there was a minor problem. The Jordan shorts didn't have pockets, so it would be a struggle to carry the $30 my parents gave me to spend at the park. My plan was to just keep the money in my sock or my hat — which is exactly the type of thing a 12-year-old boy would think was a good plan. My dad, however, thought otherwise, and bought me a…pouch. A fucking pouch. A lame-ass, swagreducing-ass pouch for me to wear around my waist. A motherfucking pouch!!!!!
Of course, I was incredulous. I even tried walking out of the door with it — a dumb-ass idea since my dad was driving me to the park to meet my friends.
He saw me leaving without it, asked where it was, and told me to put it on.
I don't exactly remember what happened next. I think I said "I DONT CARE WHAT YOU SAY. I'M NOT WEARING IT!". I'm not sure. What I am sure of, though, is what happened right after I said whatever I said. I tasted the carpet in our house. Because my face was planted into the carpet. Because that's where my face ended up when my dad body slammed me.
I tried getting up and running away, and he turned into Warren Sapp, somehow simultaneously tackling me with the pouch and managing to wrap it around my waist.
"You WILL wear this pouch!" he said while I still tasted the powder from the recently vacuum carpet in my mouth.
And…I did wear the pouch.
Wouldn't you fucking know it, that must have been the year of the pouch, because I went to Kennywood and saw that like half the kids had them too. Maybe there was a big pouch sale at Walmart that week. I don't know.
Before I can reach into the annals of my brain for stories of corporal punishment, I need to get past the word pouch. I'm trying to decide if you used the word pouch because it sounds more or less ridiculous than fanny pack - which is what i'm 99% sure your dad bought and forced you to wear. For whatever reason, I want you to just admit you had a FANNY PACK.
But speaking of fanny packs and parental units, my dad is a huge fan of fanny packs. He wears them with regularity, especially when traveling. He often refers to it as a purse. Of all (5) of the beat downs I've caught in my life, I've never been on the other end of my dad's purse, which in some respects is really too bad.
I can't remember the last time my parents hit me simply because I've always been much bigger than both of them. Hitting me probably would have taken too much effort to achieve the desired effects. My parents didn't do alternative punishments like taking away television or video games. What they did do was haze the shit outta us. While on your knees, hold your arms straight out to your sides for a hour. Or my mom's favorite. While starting from a standing position, touch the ground in front of you with your left index finger while holding your right leg behind you. Hold this position for HOURS. Doing things like this really had me contemplating exactly what I did wrong and how I would never do it again.
For the record, these are the shorts and J's (and hat) I wore to Kennywood that day. Just imagine this outfit with a Jordan shirt and a motherfucking pouch. (I refuse to call it a fanny pack)
Round 'bouts my necks of the woods, we call fanny packs "hip packs". Way cooler and way less non-sensical than referring to that thing as a fanny pack or pouch. I woke up like dis.
Last time I caught an ass whippin' was either 7th or 8th grade. I truly cannot remember. I do, however, remember the circumstances. Much like most youthful indiscretions, this one was the fault of others. I grew up in Frankfurt, Germany. Public transportation was my oyster. But for those of us who didn't live on base, we also had school buses that would come to the most populated areas not on a military installation. Sometimes I caught the bus, sometimes I took the train. This day, my sisters and I caught the bus.
And we turned that bitch the fuck up. These buses weren't like your American peasant school buses. Naw. Sometimes we got luxury buses with reclining seats and whatever material it is that ain't quite fur but ain't guite pleather. Most times, however, we got buses that rivaled public transportation in any major city in America, complete with a layout perfect for hanging on bars and running up and down the aisles. We ALSO had bus drivers who gave absolutely no fucks about our public safety. No cameras? No fault.
Well on this day of somersaults down the aisles and crashing into the backs of seats and hanging upside down from the bars, it seems that somebody's parent followed the bus and saw the shenanigans. And shared the shenanigans. Thus came the thunder. I'll skip how we got to the lineup, but my father walked into the hiznayee and lined us up like he was finna whip us in a row. But like the real G I am, (no lasagna) I volunteered to go first. My father's weapon of choice was a a yardstick. Why did my parents have yardsticks, you ask? To beat us with, I answered.
Except this fine day, I didn't cry. Which infuriated my father. And scared the shit out of me. I was shook, similiar to a halfway crook. I was afraid to do or say anything (mind you, my sisters are screaming banshees at my pain…this got them out of their beatdown). In retrospect, I should have cried and pretended to be in pain. After that lack of emotional display, I just got grounded from there on out for weeks at a time. Which sucked WAY worse than catching a beat down. As the Gods would have it though, my youngest sister kept the spirit alive catching weekly ass whoopin's for any number of crimes against rules.
This was longer than intended. Either way that was the last time I caught one.
If we're sharing…
My great-grandmother, a faithful woman of St. Simon's Episcopal Church in South Philadelphia, used to watch me as a kid after school and throughout the summer because my parents worked and shit. As the song says, "South Philly motherfuckers kill at will," and Marion Virginia Smith was no exception. She had something that was affectionately called, "The Strap." It was a thin blue wire/cable of some sort - the kind of shit that hood jawns use for jump rope, and it was a teal blue. She kept it behind the clock on the mantle. It was elusive, but made its impression as soon as she pulled it from behind the clock. I don't know why she hid this thing — it used to be tucked next to the palms she got on Palm Sunday, which is just… sadistic, now that I think about it.
Anyway, I've never really been a trouble making kind of kid. See how much I could get away with? Sure. But just straight doing fuck shit I wasn't supposed to be doing? No. Why? Because my mother is crazy. That was enough for me. She showed me who she was and I believed her the first time. Yelling at me was usually enough to make me cry. But my cousin was a simpleton. And despite all evidence that suggested that our beloved great-grandmother would give us hell, he persisted. And when we were together at Granny's house, somehow EYE was always getting in trouble. Some of us are good at being sneaky. Some us make a lot of noise doing shit we're not supposed to be doing — and somehow this snitch-nigga always came up with a reason as to why it was my fault. And because I was the older and smarter of the two, I got yelled at. NOW, there's one time that this fool did something so stupid that I have vivid memories of her going to town on his little legs with the strap. And in vain, he tried to escape, so much so that he swung from her forearm like a little monkey trying to hoist his legs off the ground so she couldn't catch him… I laughed. And then I caught it, too :(
** scene **
As far as my parents…. Given that I am a Daddy's Girl to the very core of me and generally didn't do dumb shit, there are fewer stories with my parents. I was the type of kid that when I fucked up, I fucked up majorly. Enter the time that I stole from my classmate's house. There was a precedent here. As legend has it, I was 3 years old when I stole some shit out of Neiman Marcus and the alarm sensor went off. Apparently, I'd asked for something, had been told "no," pocketed it anyway, and walked out the store. Security follows. Parents mortified. I laugh, they realize I got shit in my pocket. "Why'd you take it, Maya? We told you that you couldn't have it." "Because I wanted it."
Fast forward to elementary school, my classmate had a birthday party. We played in her room, and she had all the cool makeup shit my mother would never buy for me. I put the shit in my pocket and dipped. I get home. Parents find out. Parents mortified. Beating ensures with belt. Father looks devastated at having to do it. Never happened again (the beating, or the stealing.)
Stealing from Neiman Marcus as a toddler is some bougie-ass shit.
Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.
Lmao I'm crying.
As a child of Africans I have many tales to regale y'all with but I'm currently in a project war room at work, so until I can write up my story and Debdeep won't look over my shoulder and ask "why are you kneeling in rice", I'm just gonna cackle at the rest of y'all's misfortunes.
I have so many epic whipping (or whuppin as we used to call it) stories that I don't even know which to tell. I was not a bad child, but a really smart one, and sometimes this smartness would convince me that I could outsmart my mother. I learned time and again at the expense of my behind and that evil tree full of switches in my front yard, that my elementary cunning was no match for a mother's intuition. I was a great liar, which is probably why I'm skilled at writing fiction now.
Anyhoo, the last time was not a whipping as I was a grown ass person, but it was quite epic and something my friend still teases me about to this day.
I was 18, just discovering flat irons (I wasn't allowed to perm my hair until I was 17) and lipstick. So in my mind, I was a grown woman, no question. I had my acceptance to college and I had pretty much checked out of the petty highschool life. Detroit was not the dystopia it has sadly come to resemble, and downtown was THEE weekend destination for anyone under the age of 30. Especially for those of us who didn't actually live in Detroit. Friday night in the spring and summer was a scene out of any 90s black movie. Shiny, just washed cars crusing down Jefferson Ave at 20mph, women in their cutest crop and shorts and men a plenty in outfits and shoes they'd spent all their Kmart cashier money on. This parade would all lead to Belle Isle, an island park where you could stop, get out, stand by your car or walk around and wait for boys to try their best new lines on you. We even had competitions of who could get the "most numbers" as a lady never gave out HER number to anyone. Lol
That night my mom told me to be home by 11:30. Because, as with any gathering of ignant souls, things tended to go left around 2am and she wanted me long home before anything happened. Feeling myself and deciding I was grown, I called her at 11 and said I'd probably be home at 1, as we (me and five friends all piled into a 1992 Escort) were "still hanging." She said "No." And hung up. I Kanye shrugged in a parents just don't understand moment and said oh well.
Fast forward three hours. My friends pull up in front of my house, which was eerily dark. NO lights were on, which I knew was intentional because the bathroom light was always left on at night. Heart pounding, I deftly slipped the key in and pushed the door open silently to a pitch black living room, and no sooner than I stepped a foot in do I hear what sounds like a boomerang whooshing towards me cutting through the silence. I bent backward in what can only be described as a matrix move, and saw a black stiletto fly past my face. "That was my fa-" I got out before yet another high heel hit me on my arm. It was like a scary movie, being attacked by moving objects and not being able to see the source.
That was easily the scariest night of my teenage life. A lot of screaming and slamming of doors ensued. I later learned my friends had stayed parked in front of my house to make sure I wasn't killed, but also to laugh.
I never broke curfew again.
Yeah, ducking a black stiletto in the dark in Detroit sounds like a Peak Blackness moment. I've never had anything that Black happen to me.
My mother was the whipper. She used to keep my sister and I in line with this ridiculous, thick, translucent orange plastic belt. It was the tackiest thing. I'm certain it was older than I was. I have friends whose parents used to literally square up and fight them, so I am damn thankful the worst I got was belt lashes.
We weren't hit often, but the worst one I received was in the fifth grade. I had just discovered profanity. As hard as it may be to believe, my youthful mastery of rudity and dramatic eye rolls earned me many a hearty slap as a young lad. ("Flinch at me again if you want to!" The fuck you mean? I can't even FLINCH?) Somehow, I convinced myself that greeting classmates with, "Hey, bitch!" and "Hey, motherfucker!" was something cool that needed to be done and that I needed to be the person to do it. The teacher and principal felt otherwise.
My punishment was delayed, because my elementary school had to create an after-school detention program to handle the situation. I was to sit in the guidance counselor's office as she did whatever guidance counselors do once everybody leaves. I had to copy stupid shit from the dictionary, for 30 minutes after school for one week.
This meant I would miss the bus that would otherwise bring me to the end of my driveway. This meant my mother, then a child care provider responsible for a whole rack of chirren, would have to pack all of those motherfuckers into the van and come pick me up from school.
"I'm gonna whip your ass everyday I have to come pick you up." And she did. With that hideous belt.
On top of having to fight off that tacky belt, my Dad, the Lecturer In Chief hit me with that Disappointed Black Parent Scowl/Head-Shake/Sigh. MAN. Those lectures. Fuck. My sister and I would joke, privately, "JUST HIT US. SHIT."