My wife likes to occasionally present my bottle of Frank’s® RedHot® or my tub of Kool-Aid® as examples of me being hood. She’s probably right, even though I could counter-argue (and win) by pointing out that both hot sauce and Kool-Aid are about as universally-binding to Americans as the Star-Spangled Banner and hot dogs. But even in the face of my opposition to those two American staples being used as representatives of the hood, I still concede that I’ve had other moments, which I unashamedly will share in this post, when my hoodness was on full display. Don’t blame me. I was born and raised in Flint, Michigan. Most of us Flintstones have probably did some of the same things.
(1) I’ve attended random strangers’ funerals just for the food. If you’ve ever been to a funeral held at a predominately-black church, you know that they love to serve food. Like, seriously, they live for this stuff. Inexplicably it seems, all the soul food cooking ability in the universe has been harnessed by the black church and distributed amongst a select few worthy people, otherwise known as a “Culinary Ministry.” These agents of culinary showcase their best work at funerals. Who am I, an insignificant speck in this vast and infinite universe, not to take advantage of this?
So whenever I was in the mood for some good turkey and dressing and mac n’ cheese but my mom wasn’t available, the obituaries were my go-to. They served as my ‘menu’, of sorts. “Oh. Deacon Smith passed? His service is at the Rock of Ages Baptist Church? Bet. They’re probably having dressing and gravy. Dinner time!”
Before you judge me, let me assure you that those days are past me. My wife, momma, and mom-in-law can all burn, so funerals are no longer my source of soul-food nourishment.
(2) I’ve purchased bootleg stuff. Anybody who has stepped foot in the ‘hood for even a second has heard the following phrase: “Yo! Got them DVD’s! Got them CD’s!” You can’t go to a barber shop, a weave store, a chicken joint, or a grocery store parking lot without running into a bootleg man. Thing is: for those of you not interested in breaking laws by purchasing pirated entertainment, there were (excuse me, are) plenty of other things a bootleg man has in his Car Trunk of Curious Goods (I’m trademarking that line. So please believe I’ll be Googling that term from now on to make sure y’all haven’t stolen it). Knock off cologne oils, Obama pictures, shoes, handbags. For the money, the bootleg man offers as much variety as Amazon could on its best day.
Besides, what better way is there to keep “black dollars” in the community than by supporting that unnamed store, down the block, through the alley, three doors down?
(3) I re-use old cooking grease. Not only is reusing old grease economically sound (have you seen how much olive oil is running for these days?!), but recycled grease has been said to enhance flavor. This has been scientifically proven somewhere. I just don’t know where or when the study actually took place. I just know it did. It had to have taken place. I mean, if not, why did Big Momma hoard that stuff like it was gold?
Now, what puts me in sort of a bougie part of the hood is that I don’t use jars. I use tupperware. From Ikea. Oh, and I store my grease in the cabinet and not on the stove. See? I’m a refined hoodrat.
(4) I have no qualms with sneaking food into the movies. Over the last several years, movie theaters across the country have made HUGE improvements in their food selections. They’ve gone from offering things that no sensible human being would ever dream of consuming to having some pretty edible items. Still, I prefer to smuggle in my own food and beverages. Why? Well it’s simple arithmetic, really. If a hot dog and a small drink for one person = the equivalent of two adult tickets and airfare to Hollywood for the red carpet premier of the movie, the decision is pretty obvious.
(5) I cheat in the grocery line. I guess this falls in line with stealing, sorry to say. But if I’m purchasing produce by the pound, I put minimal weight on the scale giving me the best deal possible. In other cases (especially with green onions, grapes, or lettuce) if I don’t need the full amount that comes pre-packaged, I’ll only take what I need from that package and the put the rest in another bag and back on the shelf. What can I say? They shouldn’t bulk the produce so much.
(6) Speaking of grocery store antics, if I’m really hungry at the store, I eat. It started with me nibbling on a cookie or sipping on a Gatorade. But it’s graduated to alarmingly high levels lately. I mean, I pay for it…so it’s technically not stealing right? Oh, don’t act like you’ve never made a ham and cheese sandwich in line. You pretentious so-and-so’s.
(7) I try on dress shirts even if it’s against store policy. I honestly think this one is less hood as it is a silent protest to both the antiquated way dress shirts are packaged and ridiculous store policies. I don’t apologize for trying on shirts. It’s an important part of the whole clothes buying process, which I generally try to avoid (I hate clothes shopping). If retailers choose to continue to waste their money on pins, cardboard, and paper for shirts, then they’ll just have to keep picking up the mess I leave for them after I’m done trying those shirts on. I mean, not all shirts fit the same. Not all materials feel the same. If there’s a problem with my shirt, I want to know NOW. Not after I buy it. Not after I drive all the way home. If you salesmen have a problem with that, kick rocks.
(8) I once moved a bed by tying the mattress and box-spring to the top of my car. Ironically, when I was moving to my apartment in Grand Blanc (the least hood part of the country. It’s French for “great white”, for crying out loud.) I wanted to save my $39 (i.e. what I’d spend on 15 bootleg DVDs) by not renting a UHaul. Instead, I had the bright idea of moving my possessions – trip by agonizing trip – with my 1998 Pontiac Grand Am. But once I got past all the people pointing, laughing and occasionally cussing at me for going 20 miles an hour down a busy street with a bed attached to my car, things were fine.
(9) I had a BlackPlanet account, even after it turned to the hood side. BlackPlanet.com was the lovechild of the hood and the Internet. But at the time of its inception, it was a rather humble and unassuming social networking site. People could meet and chat with new folks, reconnect with old friends, share a pic or two. It was what social networking was supposed to be. But then the hood got a hold of the site and refused to let go. Music playing in the background, amateurish web designs that would cause pages to crash by the thousands, and hood folks creating drama turned the site into the laughing stock it is today.
I should take this moment to point out that, now that I think about it, EVERY.SINGLE.ONE. of my black family and friends probably had a BlackPlanet.com account. I’d bet some of my non-black friends even had a page. So that makes them all equally as hood.
(10) I invoke God’s name as I’m in the process of doing/saying something I know is wrong. Examples: “I know we’re all sinners and we’ve all fall short of the glory of God, but if you say that again, I’m gonna kick your *bleep*.” “The Lord knows my heart, but if this light doesn’t change in the next five seconds, I’m running it.” ‘God, give me strength to deal with my stupid *bleep* co-workers.”
(11) My plastic bag collection is expansive and versatile. In my lifetime, I’ve used grocery bags as a lunch pail, a trashcan liner, a furniture polish applicator, window insulation, a dirty clothes separator in my travel luggage, a depot for grease I discard (after multiple uses, of course), a makeshift shoehorn, storage, etc. In fact, it’s likely that by the end of the week, I would’ve found another practical use for plastic bags. Honestly, as I’m writing this, I suspect this one also isn’t necessary sole province of the ‘hood. I bet you can find a thousand entries on Pinterest saying the exact same thing.
There you have it. A few reasons why I’m probably still hood, despite my best intentions. Still though, Kool-Aid and hot sauce need to stay off this list.