This morning as I was standing in the shower doing my thinking (all of the best thinking takes place in the shower), it occurred to me that my life would have been very different if I had been raised by my favorite celebrity couple. And I don't mean that in the baseline, 'lol wouldn't it be cool to have a Bentley?' sense. It felt more finite somehow. That my reality would have been shaped by two creative, young, black artists instead of two business-minded, middle-aged white people. What would my brain be like now? What would my priorities be if they had been guided and nurtured by Hov and Bey?
At first the game was to imagine what it'd be like if they adopted me now, in my 20's. A weekly phone call. Occasional brunches while wearing sunglasses. The only thing I could really think of to "ask for" was the ultimate bat mitzvah bash I never got to have because I'm not Jewish.
Then I dug deeper. What would I have been like as their child? Certainly some of my decisions would have still been the same.
I mean, of course a million little things would have been completely different — like how they do that weird rolling thing to squeeze the last bit of toothpaste out of the tube — but at the end of the day, would I be any cooler if I were raised by a couple of Grammy winners?
I decided to look at the after-school activities I tried and quit over the years to imagine what might have been.
1. The Ham Radio Club
What really happened: In the 6th grade I moved to a new town. Within the first week of school, I had made friends with a nice girl named Leslie who was in my French class. I was honored and excited to have a person to speak to, and pretty hellbent on making sure I saw the friendship through, so when our French teacher announced that he was going to be starting a Ham radio club and Leslie signed the "I am interested in this club" sheet he passed out, I put down my contact info too.
The one and only meeting I attended was held the following afternoon in our French classroom. The teacher, who had an imperial mustache and a pair of have-you-seen-this-man glasses, began by explaining to us that he was a cat breeder and teaching was just his 'day job.' A brutal 30 minutes later, after being walked through the various channels the Ham radio offered to any enthusiastic hobbycrafter or storm chaser, I left the classroom and said to Leslie, "Ugh! That was the worst!"
She frowned at me like I was the craziest person alive and said, "No way! I thought it was awesome!"
Unsurprisingly, we did not last long as friends, and really I think I won in the end because two years later that same teacher was caught looking at porn on his computer during lunch and was forced to take a leave of absence for a 'heart condition'. (He had forgotten to unplug the TV monitor he'd rigged up for class presentations, so hot XXX action had been projecting out into the hallway when he was caught.) By that time I had already made other friends.
What could have happened:
Christine [at the dinner table]: Mom? Dad? I think I'm gonna join the Ham radio club.
Jay: The what?
Christine: The Ham radio club.
Beyonce: Aren't those the radios truckers use to talk to one another?
Christine: I'm not sure.
Jay: What you really need is some H.A.M. radio.
2. Swim Team
What really happened: In the fourth grade I joined a swim team because I wanted to learn how to do a flip turn. Acquiring that skill took approximately two days of practice, and I spent the rest of the season politely participating and praying that I would not get chosen to race in any meets. If a friend wanted to dive in first or volunteer for something, I gladly let them slip ahead of me. I actually made it all the way to December with that middle-of-the-pack-and-disappear mentality, and I thought I was in the clear until they posted the rosters for the Big Final Meet and I learned I'd been set to race in two events.
I attended the meet dutifully, and did my best to smile like a Real Life Child when really all I'd wanted out of this experience was to look like a badass in the lake at summer camp. My swim cap had a giant paw print on it.
At the end-of-the-year banquet I received three trophies: one for completing the season, and one for each event I'd raced in. I felt like a huge fraud and told my father that I didn't think swimming would be necessary in the Spring.
I swam for two more seasons.
What could have happened:
Christine: I got three trophies at the banquet this afternoon.
Jay: Congratulations, that's awesome!
Christine: I don't think I want to swim next season.
Jay: Hey, no one can knock you for bowing out while you're on top! Who's higher than number one?
3. After School Art
What happened: In the seventh grade I tested into a ~*~special~*~ program for creative kids. Every Wednesday after school we'd get free run of the art department, and while there were general guidelines, it was mostly a listen-to-your-heart kind of situation.
At first the experience was novel. An honor! I was special! I had a lot of fun sitting a table with my friends and making elaborate watercolor sunsets with jet black panther silhouettes in the foreground (feelingz).
But it turned out some of the other children were needlessly full of themselves, and generally unpleasant to be around. Once a girl the grade above me burst out in tears at a pottery wheel because a younger boy was mocking her vase.
I decided that if I wanted to doodle goofy shit with my friends I could just invite them over to my house where we had better snacks, and I politely bowed out after one year.
What could have happened:
Christine: Mom, I don't really like the kids in my art program.
Beyonce: How come?
Christine: They're super-competitive and I don't think they're having fun.
Beyonce: What do you mean?
Christine: Timmy made this girl cry the other day.
Beyonce: If I were a boyyyyyyyyy...