I flew to New York City last Thursday for The Root 100 gala and left yesterday evening after a marketing meeting at Harper Collins for my book. In the time between, I 1) hosted a happy hour with Panama at my hotel, 2) went to karaoke after said happy hour and sang very on-brand renditions of Radiohead’s “Creep” and The Weeknd’s “The Hills” (and learned that Natalie Degraffinried doesn’t actually have the worst voice), and 3) ate delicious foods. And by “delicious foods” I mean “my first ever edible.” I also visited Brooklyn for the first time, to support Glory Edim’s Well Read Black Girl Festival Saturday afternoon.
It was a productive and successful trip, and I should be happy about it. But today the memory of it brings me a deep sadness as I remember how I was ankle shamed and ash shamed by The Root.
My plan was simple. Monday afternoon, after finishing up some work while at my hotel, I’d walk a mile to the GMG offices and visit my “friends” and colleagues at The Root, since I don’t get many opportunities to see them in person. Maybe even we’d go to a happy hour or have a tea together because this is the sort of thing you plan to do when you’re meeting people who you assume actually like you.
When I first got there, things were great. “Hey Damon!” they all said. “It’s so great to see you, friend!” they all also said. And everyone smiled and joked and hugged.
“These are my peoples,” I thought to myself as I basked in the love. “Namaste,” I also thought to myself, since I’m never quite sure if I’m using that word correctly.
And then, relaxed, I sat down—an act which made the hem of my jeans lift an inch or two off my foot, revealing a bare ankle. Now, I wasn’t completely sockless. I was wearing invisible socks, which were necessary for the sockless look I was attempting to pull off with the tapered jeans and the running sneaker. I thought I looked cool. I thought I was moderately fetching. I thought I looked like someone you wouldn’t want to shame. My “friends” disagreed.
“Ayyiyo why your ankle look like you were playing footsies with Teddy Perkins?” said Anne Branigin.
“Damon, did a zombie chew on your jeans, you Walking Dead-ass-looking-ass nigga?” said Felice Leon.
“Your skin is a fire hazard,” said Ashley Velez, as Jessica Moulite prepared to throw a fire extinguisher at me.
Corey Townsend told me I shamed my ancestors. When I asked which ancestor, he said “every ancestor.” Even PJ Rickards got in on the roast, as he shook his head in disgust and started throwing oxtails at me.
And then, right as I prepared to leave—teary-eyed and bloated with shame—they strapped me down to the chair with my own shoelaces and forced me to take a picture while holding some socks.
New York City is a cruel, cruel place.