I have a long, lengthy laundry list of irks and pet peeves, and anybody who stands even on the outskirts of my circle of close friends and associates knows they pop up out of nowhere like a pimple on prom night. I hate when folks double park in front of empty spaces on the street. I hate when somebody knows they’re dead wrong about a fact, detail or date but just won’t admit it so we can move on with the conversation. Geez, we can’t all be geniuses all of the doggone time. I hate when I tell someone that their baby is cute and they don’t say thank you (because honey, can I be honest? Sometimes I’m just saying that out of pure courtesy because I know they labored long and hard to bring that life into the world. Maybe I should just say “good work” and keep it moving.) But at the top of this ever-growing list is—and remains—my vehement despise for fake, phony, frontin’ a** people. Perpetrators. Mannequins. Suckas.
Nowhere, I mean nowhere, does this alter ego-developing behavior display more often than on a college campus. I don’t know if it’s the mix of hair trigger hormones and being away from any adult who might smack you upside the back of the head and scold you with “stop that lyin’,” but every school is crawling with ‘em. Dudes who couldn’t manage to pull chicks with all of their natural teeth or limbs back home suddenly reinvented themselves into ladies’ men on campus. Chicks who previously couldn’t spell Louis Vuitton wrangled all of the available funds on their fresh-out-of-the-envelope credit cards to Cinderella themselves into designer divas. In between them were the benchwarmers with no stats but plans for college ball glory, the neophytes who were cornballs before they got letters and truth be told, were still cornballs well after that cross was complete and the late-blooming geeks (like this self-proclaimed word nerd) who weren’t necessarily frontin’, but fakin’ it until they started makin’ it.
In my little clique alone, I had about three perps: one who claimed his mother was a high-ranking government official in the city he lived in back home and one, Lord, who swore he was from the hardcore streets of north Jersey when in fact he hailed from a cushy suburb fit to be plastered across someone’s souvenir postcard. But my girl, who shall remain nameless just in case I feel like posting this on Facebook, which is the only place we remain friends, was the kind who insisted she came from an affluent, Jack-and-Jill-born-and-bred, Huxtable-esque background. As it turned out in an unplanned and very unceremonious trip home, she was just as blue collar as Florida, James, Jay-Jay and me.
Now I never understood why this particular young lady felt the need to front about who she was to me of all people. Child, I am the first and only person in my family to go to college. Ain’t no airs to be put on up in here. My mama and my aunties all work in factories and my grandfather spent 40 years as a steel mill worker. If her family had money, good for her. Mine didn’t. (Incidentally, if we did, Sallie Mae and I wouldn’t be in such close communication as we are right now.) My friend’s stories of cotillions and fancy vacations and finishing schools and exclusive clubs were like fairy tales to me. Low and behold they were fairy tales to her, too. She was embarrassed when her entire squad learned that she lived in a three-bedroom rancher instead of a sprawling estate. I was relieved that I didn’t have to curtsy or worry about which fork to use in the table setting when I walked in to meet her mother. They were regular folk but for some reason, that embarrassed her. It hurt her to see the fantasy image she had built for her college self collide with her real-world, back-at-home self. What she didn’t realize was a whole rack of people had already called her bluff long before she even came clean.
Somewhere along the line I had a point, and I guess this is as good a time to make it before I drum up more crazy memories of the hoops that girl had to jump through to keep her real life from slipping out from the cover of her fake life. The point is don’t feel forced to fake for nobody. Now that some of us have graduated and have important-sounding jobs with disappointing paychecks, ascending and moving laterally across the corporate ladder, we still have an obligation to be ourselves. That means not chuckling along with the jokes that Brad and Becky make that you know darn well you don’t get or hiding that bottle of hot sauce you know you keep tucked in the corner of your purse or telling people you live close to downtown when you live a hard 30 minute commute into the ‘hood. And that’s OK! Because the unique flavor that you bring to the table is a culmination of all of the background, experiences, beliefs and qualities you’ve picked up over the years of living in your household with your crazy relatives immersed in your own habits. And that’s just as cool as the next chick’s story.
Shoot, in a way I’m a recovering fronter myself. My family is headquartered in Peach Bottom, Pennsylvania and I never wanted to admit that thing out loud, let alone include it in an article for people to Google furiously, wonder where the hell it was and thank God it wasn’t them. I’m sure none of my fellow Clutchettes needed a pep talk about being unfake and unphony but from time to time, we all need a reminder (and a funny little story at someone else’s expense) that can’t nobody be bad like us, individually or collectively.