My father and his closest friend, a man I call an uncle, discovered an easy way to save money: always wet your toilet paper and paper towels. Apparently, once these rolls dry after you have wet them, they no longer roll as easily because ripples have been created. This will slow down your roll, LITERALLY, if you take too much toilet paper when you are on the throne, for instance. People use less paper products, the fewer paper products you need to buy, the more money you save: it’s all a vicious cycle. I hover back and forth between two adjectives for this practice… CHEAP…and… RIDICULOUS. It does, however, offer me endless opportunities for shit-talking with my father. I could tell any array of such stories to convey how frugal my father is, but I hope this lumpy toilet paper saga will suffice.
Unlike some of my peers, I was never the type of child to be embarrassed by my father’s frugality, not even them $2 grocery store sneakers. I think a lot of people could use the character building that comes from building a real sense of worth rather than buying labels as the sole sign of worth. Given the high price African Americans have had to pay for every advancement we have achieved (think back on the parents who sent their children into the terrordome of Central High School in 1957 Little Rock, Arkansas as just one example), paying yet another high price for something as insignificant as a clothing label seems, at best, redundant for us.
Since my father is now a “health nut” (my uncle’s words), he once again fits the suits he wore when he was in his 20s and left to his own devices, he will roll out them polyester-bell-bottom outfits if the occasion permits. The rationale here: these suits fit well and are in pristine condition. Because far too many women of my father’s generation have convinced him that he is a dead-ringer for a chocolate-skinned Billy Dee Williams in a Colt 45 commercial, I am convinced these foolish compliments have encouraged him to roll out that 1970s gear even more. This is all mostly comedy for me, but I will admit that I do have one pet peeve: my father’s socks. It has taken me years to convince my father that Dr. J-styled tube socks ROLLED ALL THE WAY UP to the knees are simply not appropriate for the 21st century (and contrary to popular belief: matching such tube socks to the outfit is not a plus). This Father’s Day, I got my father sneakers with matching baseball cap, shirt, and, of course, ANKLE socks (things he would never buy himself) with the promise that he will look flyer than a Colt 45 commercial.
My father does not dress up without occasion because dressing up must be purposeful. Since it is Juneteenth, he will commemorate the occasion the way African American communities have for more than a century now: dressing up in one’s finest and reflecting on the high price we have continually paid for freedom in this country. No one says you can’t be fly, Colt 45-style and all, but your flyness must be purposed beyond America’s pathology of conspicuous-consumption. My father may not be wearing one of his suits today, but he does have a new, fly outfit for this commemorative day… with matching ANKLE socks.