Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Strange Costumes We Wear

Today I was tutoring the football guys, who are writing an essay about empowerment/disempowerment as shown in the movie HOTEL RWANDA. During silent moments, when I would sit back and let them ruminate or peck out an idea, I stared at them incredulously and thought about how very strange it was for us to be in that room, playing the roles we are.

On the streets, these guys are the definition of machismo, "cool pose." They wear unlaced Timbs with sweatpants, have upper and lower grills and their necks, fingers, and earlobes drip with diamonds and shiny chains. When they come to the writing center, they slip out their gold grills and place them over their ears, as one might tuck a mouthguard or pair of glasses for safe keeping. They literally tuck in their jewelry (most likely so it doesn't clink off the keyboards when they lean forward to type, but I still find it interesting) and sit before me tender and emotionally naked as they ask for help with their school work. I look at the molded teeth behind their ears and think how tough the world perceives them to be. I wonder which is the act: the vulnerable boys with whom I discuss racism and power trips or the explosive angry men who fit in with their fake gold teeth.

I type these thoughts from the comfort of my apartment, where I have strewn off my "teacher clothes" and slapped my hair in a ponytail. I'm wearing my very favorite blue slippers and mesh shorts with a rugby hoodie. I look so similar to my students right now I almost feel behind my ear for my false teeth.

I find it so interesting to think about the different people we become through the different facets of our lives. I wonder how they intersect. I wonder, if we all could see one another in our true comfort zones and then out of them if we would then realize people aren't all that different from one another. I wonder if the football guys would respect me more if they knew that I, too, prefer bumming around in sweats to talking about English papers on a Sunday afternoon.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tell me they don't really wear grillz?


~Val

Anonymous said...

I have a question.

Are their teeth ok under the faux gold grills?

Anonymous said...

Oh, Katy. You just keep observing as keenly as you do. Your questions can change people's lives for the better.

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