The Hollow Fad
Back to school shopping in our house was big. Up until I was about 10, my Dad would use his RCA video camera to record us putting on fashion shows. My Mom, our ultimate mc and hype girl to each of these illustrious affairs, narrating our meticulously paired get-ups.
Our shows continued in Indiana, even when our audiences changed. Indiana was always a strange kind of outcast experience, beyond the obviousness of being Black in the Midwest there was of course classism. I created these strange fixations with relics of middle-upper class America or 'white folk trends'. Things my parents did not buy into. These included things like Abercrombie and Fitch (never owned), Aéropostale (scraped together some babysitting money to buy a shirt with blue monkeys across the chest), and clogs. Birkenstocks, to be exact.
Each of my sisters and I received $300 a year for back to school shopping. Our clothing trips often coincided with Labor Day to catch the Sears and JCPenney sales. I was headed into middle school, the big leagues with lockers in 1998 and we were on our way to Castleton Square Mall. Glowing with anticipation as we drove down the Klein Parkway, I had one agenda. Get Birkenstocks. My mother's response to this of course was, "You got Birkenstock money?" To which I winced and ignored the glares and shaking heads of my sisters, finding my determination comedically tragic. "No Ma, but Labor Day sales could be really good." I lied to myself repeatedly that day. As the errands dragged on and my hope dwindled (I attempted to pull my mother into Macy's, Von Maur, and a slew of other stores that like to keep a watchful eye on us Black folks). Immune to all of my pleading, we finally got to Payless. In an effort to acknowledge my fixation, my mom calls me over. "Camille, I found your clogs." They were stiff, beige, and a size 11. Though dupes, I was so proud of those shoes. So proud in fact that I wore those shoes to the ground; through rain, snow, and rain again. By March, they were a solid brown. I didn't care, I was hanging on to these clogs. The smell...the smell. I ran track and played basketball. My dad would crack jokes about getting rid of them. "They died 4 months ago." "We need to prepare a service for their home going." “Can we lock them in a safe?” I would let out a grimacing laugh, "Never." One Saturday morning, I woke up and went to put them on for a bike ride. I couldn't find them. As I went downstairs hurriedly searching as if they might have run off on their own, it dawned on me. Dad! As I ran to the basement calling out to him, "Dad, don't do it. No." He was there at his computer, not typing. "Turn around, Dad." He turned, a clog in the left hand and a box cutter in the right. "Giiirl, the shoes gotta go." He ran upstairs, I chased after him. He sat the shredded shoes on top of the refrigerator. I was laughing and crying at how ridiculous it was. The absurdity of my infatuation rushed over me. I reached up and pulled them down. They were impossible to wear, and they did smell like shit; a fitting metaphor for this Black girl.
Camlle Dantzler: "I am a researcher with an expertise in African film and literature, gender studies, critical race theory, public policy, and critical trauma studies. The product of Mississippi migrations North, my lineage has inspired my passion, research, advocacy, and writing on Africa and the Diasporas, particularly on the experiences of women and girls. I teach a variety of African studies and African American and Diaspora studies courses at Rutgers University and Middlesex County College.
"I have published poetry in Becoming Undisciplined Literary Journal and have held multiple research fellowships, including the Frederick Douglass Doctoral Fellowship, Just-Julian Research Fellowship, and Sasakawa Young Leaders Foundation Fellowship."