Read an Excerpt
Sckraight from the Ghetto
You Know You're Ghetto If ...
By Bertice Berry, Joan Coker
St. Martins PressCopyright © 1996 Bertice Berry and Joan Coker
All rights reserved.
All Up in My House
1. The only TV in your house that works is the ten-inch black-and-white and it's sitting on top of the inoperative floor model.
2. There's reusable bacon grease in a Maxwell House can in the center of the burners on your stove.
3. You own a crocheted tissue box or toilet paper cover with a doll's head on top.
4. Your pillowcase has more than five uses (e.g., laundry bag, luggage, dust rag, ice pack, infant blanket, towel, washcloth, placemat — you get the point).
5. You have a picture of the Black Trinity — Jesus, Martin Luther King, Jr., and John F. Kennedy.
6. Your lampshade still has the plastic on it.
7. Your bedspread had that lumpy floral pattern, and you picked the fuzzy balls out, and your mother beat you and said, "That's why we can't have nothing nice."
8. There is a kitchen chair with exposed padding on the front porch.
9. Your bed has slats.
10. Your screen window has no screen.
11. The exhaust fan over your stove works better when it's off.
12. You have a plastic runner in the living room that throws everyone one hundred feet when they attempt to walk on it. (Note: Tack that bad boy down.)
13. The only form of art in your house is the naked lady lamp that drips oil.
14. You use a pair of pliers to change the channel on your TV.
15. You've never had anything professionally repaired. (Child, Uncle Booky will fix it.)
16. Turning up the heat means turning on another burner on the stove.
17. The batteries in your remote control are held in place with a piece of tape.
18. There is foil or a hanger on your TV antenna.
19. You have project heat. (Note: This means that you have to open your window in the winter.)
20. You use a can of Bon Ami to hold your bathroom window up.
21. All of your windows are painted shut.
22. Your baby's shoe doubles as a door stop.
23. You use the same light bulbs for four different lamps.
24. You have French Provencial furniture.
25. The Antebellum South is a theme for anything.
26. You leave your Christmas lights up all year.
27. All of the pot holders in your house were made at summer camp.
28. You have a bag of wrapping bows and boxes that came from presents you got years ago.
29. Something smells spoiled in the refrigerator, and all you do is change the box of Arm & Hammer baking soda.
30. Your drinking glasses used to be jelly jars.
31. Your old tire is now your planter.
32. Your furniture is covered in plastic.
33. You have unbreakable dishes and you don't have children.
34. You run to get pots as soon as it rains.
35. You have a brown stain on your ceiling.
36. The roaches in your house only come out when company comes.
37. Your telephone is still a rotary and has an extra-loud ringer.
38. Your lampshade has a stain and you turn it toward the wall.
39. You still refer to your stereo as the hi-fi.
40. You refer to your dresser as "the bureau."
41. You refer to the refrigerator as an icebox.
42. You think of paneling as a home improvement.
43. You have faux wood paneling wallpaper.
44. You decorate your home in the same style as the ones your great-grandmother had to clean.
45. You insulate your home with heavy plastic and tape.
46. You have a lamp that has no shade.
47. You have to unscrew the light bulb to turn your lamp off or on.
48. You've ever used a coat as a blanket.
49. The shag carpet in your home is now more like a flattop.
50. The back of your toilet seat is always off, and you know how to manually flush it.
51. Your glasses and silverware came from a gas station.
52. You have more dishes in your bedroom than in your kitchen.
53. You never clean the ring out of your tub, hoping that it will magically disappear.
54. You have ever raked, swept, or watered your dirt yard.CHAPTER 2
55. You have more than ten uses for Vaseline, and one of them is shoe polish.
56. You don't think you're clean unless there is visible baby powder on your neck and chest, and you ain't even no baby.
57. You look greasy. (Note: We had lots of examples, but our goal is not to offend, nay to heal.)
58. The heels of your feet look like you've been kicking flour.
59. Your collar is still up.
60. You wear any of the following: Brute, Hai Karate, Jean Nâté, Old Spice, Chloe, English Leather, Charlie, Fabergé.
61. You use Tussy.
62. You use black eye liner to line your lips.
63. Your lipstick matches your clothes.
64. You run out of the 3 for .99 plastic caps, and you use a plastic grocery bag to cover your head instead.
65. You have rolls in the back of your neck.
66. You wear your shower cap everywhere but in the shower.
67. You dry-clean your washable clothing (e.g., jeans, T-shirts, baseball jersey, etc.).
68. You wrap your teeth in tissue.
69. You run out of toothpaste and you use the box of baking soda that's been absorbing odors from the refrigerator.
70. You've never been to the dentist.
71. You clean your teeth with a matchbook or business card.
72. You clean your ears with a bobby pin, key, or ink pen cap.
73. You wear your clothes with a tag on them.
74. You don't remove the cloth label from the sleeve of your suit jacket.
75. You iron dirty clothes.
76. You have a keloid on your ear and you still wear earrings.
77. Your bathroom medicine cabinet is filled with Avon's Skin So Soft.
78. You got in a fight with your brother, Brother, because he had a crease around his head, and you automatically knew he had stolen your pantyhose to make a stocking cap.
79. The only art you own is on your fingernails.
80. You've ever used a cold biscuit to polish your shoes.CHAPTER 3
81. Your husband's hair requires more rollers than yours.
82. Your comb has three teeth and you still use it.
83. Your weave is longer than your torso.
84. You still use any of the folllowing: Sulfur 8, Dixie Peach, Bergamont, Dax, Murray's, Tuxedo, Ultra Sheen.
85. You parted your hair in the center of your head and slapped grease across the front of it and referred to it as "my baby hair."
86. Your hair leaves a stain on the rear passenger window.
87. You still wear, or want to wear, bangs or a mushroom.
88. You go to a barber for a blow-out or shape-up.
89. You go to a beauty salon for a press and curl.
90. You've ever waited several hours in a salon to get your hair done and you had an appointment.
91. Your daughter has a barrette on every extension.
92. Your daughter is under sixteen and has extensions.
93*. You've ever asked, "How my waves look?" (As in finger waves.)
94. Your daughter's ribbons are ten inches longer than her ponytail.
95. You have burns on your ears from the straightening comb or curling iron.
96*. You perm your five-year-old's hair.
97. Your hair won't move and it's not short.
98. You decorate your hair with any of the following: glitter, rhinestones, glue, gold spray, or Kool-Aid. (Note: these items are for arts and crafts.)
99. You spend more time combing your hair than you do studying.
100. You have to put a towel on your furniture so that your curl activator won't stain it.
101. Your wig is bigger than the hat that's on it.
102. You refer to the hair at the nape of your neck as your "kitchen."
103*. You ever got your hair did, fixed, fried, dyed, or laid to the side.
104. You still think there's such a thing as "good" or "bad" hair. (Note: It's not the hair, it's the brain under it.)
105. Your roots are a different color from your hair.
106. Your baby has a bow or barrette on her one strand of hair.
107*. You're on a first-name basis with the Korean lady in the wig store.
108. You still part your hair down the middle. (Note: Old ghetto, or retro-ghetto, it's all the same.)
109. Due to excess pulling, your hairline starts at your ears.
110. You have those little white bumps around your head because your hair's too tight.
111. There's more hair on your bathroom floor and in your sink than there is on your head.
112. You never learned to swim because you couldn't get your hair wet.CHAPTER 4
It's All in a Name
113. Your name is spelled phonetically.
114. Your nickname is the opposite of your appearance, e.g., Shorty, and you're six foot, five hundred pounds, or Redbone and you're blacker than Mickey's ears (the mouse, damn it.)
115*. Your child thinks his real name is Little Man.
116. You changed your first name 'cause you said it was the white man's, but you kept your last name — your real slave name.
117*. You have trouble spelling your children's names, and you named them.
118. You've changed the pronunciation of your name, but you keep the spelling the same (e.g., Rachel — Roshell, Sade — Shade, Jackie — Jackee. Okay, she actually changed the spelling, but you get the point.).
119. You had your unpronounceable name designed in a piece of jewelry.
120. You were named after any of the Jacksons or any character from Roots.
121. You're known by the positioning of your feet and legs (i.e., pigeon-toed, slew- footed, bow-legged, knock-kneed).CHAPTER 5
The Things We Do
122. You have actually invited someone to talk to your hand.
123. You weigh more than three hundred pounds, but you claim that you can't eat everybody else's food.
124. You threaten anyone who comes near the corn on your baby toe or the bunion on your big toe.
125. Every fashion show you've attended was also a hair, craft, or variety show.
126. You have razor bumps on the back of your neck.
127. You've ever dropped anything and kissed it up to God.
128. Your TV and stereo are always on at the same time.
129. You still eat at Denny's.
130*. You've ever called a radio station for anything.
131. You've ever screamed on a radio station before you even heard what your prize was.
132. You think that every line in a movie theater requires your loud response.
133. When you're discriminated against at a store you buy tons of stuff to prove to the clerks that you can.
134. You've ever parked your car in the middle of the street for hours.
135. You're over eighteen and you've never voted in a presidential election, but you're constantly complaining about the state of the union.
136. You page yourself.
137. You own a tip card, and you use it.
138. You're late for everything, and you try to act like it's a cultural expression.
139. You use the bathroom with the door open.
140*. You come out of the bathroom and ask for a pack of matches instead of air freshener.
141. You light your cigarette on a stove.
142. You're afraid of your own people.
143. You call people long-distance to talk about the soap operas.
144. You call people locally to talk about the soaps.
145. You talk about the soaps.
146. You set your watch fifteen or thirty minutes fast and you're still always late.
147. You show up to events because you know that there will be freebies.
148. You get drunk and brag about it.
149. You think that you can smell rain.
150. You put an empty ice tray in the freezer.
151. You put a large container that has only one drop of whatever it had left in it back in the refrigerator.
152. People can hear you breathing and you ain't even asleep.
153. After twenty years of using a headset you finally figure out that there is a left and right earphone.
154. Your key ring has so many keys on it that people think you're a janitor.
155. You keep a coat hanger in your purse because you know you're going to lock your keys in your car.
156. You have so much food on your face that other people can feel it, but still you don't.
157*. No one is allowed in your home after New Year's until a man has come through the door.
158. You give directions vis-a-vis fast food restaurants.
159. You follow the fire truck or any other emergency vehicle.
160. You shop at a store that's lined with Plexiglas.
161. You shop where you can buy one item and get three free.CHAPTER 6
It's All Relative and Yours Are Ghetto
162. None of your aunts or uncles is in any way related to your mother or father.
163. You have a brother named Brother.
164. You had to take your little brother or sister everywhere you went.
165*. You refer to your boyfriend as "My Baby Daddy."
166. There is a wall, table, or curio full of pictures of every relative known to you, but even more of those who aren't.
167. Everybody in your family talks at the same time.
168. You can't watch TV without seeing someone who looks exactly like somebody you know.
169. Your mother cleaned floors to educate you, and now you think that you're better than her.
170. You have an uncle who is both a drunk and a genius.
171. Your drunk uncle comes in, and your whole family says, "Oh Lord."
172*. Your family members are related to you on both sides.
173. You have a brother named Stink, Booh, or Pookie.
174. You're working on a graduate degree and your family keeps saying, "I thought you already graduated."
175. The only time your family gets together is when somebody dies.
176. You can't remember your mother's address, but you can still sing the address to Zoom.CHAPTER 7
Bad Rags/Ghetto Clothes
177. You ever ordered anything from a Flagbrothers catalog.
178. You carry a purse with a jogging suit.
179. There's a nail coming out of your pumps, and you still wear them.
180*. You look like a walking advertisement for a sportswear company and you don't have an endorsement contract.
181. Your shoes are run over in two directions and everyone can tell but you.
182. You wear white stockings and you're not a nurse.
183*. You have hundreds of college sweatshirts but you claim you can't afford to go to college.
184. You have ever worn any of the following:
A gold chain with a Mercedes symbol
Tailor Mades (the pants)
Multiple zippers on jacket or pants
Sun visors in the nineties (see O.J. Simpson)
Stirrups, pumps, and socks — all at once
Cowboy boots with a skirt
A silk black vest with anything
A vest with glitter — correction, any clothes with glitter
Colored stockings, baby-doll socks, and pumps
Leg warmers and a skirt
A sweater tied around your neck — and you've never played tennis
185. You wear your Easter outfit to school the Monday after Easter.
186. You still get Easter outfits.
187. You feel compelled to wear a belly shirt, exposing your many rolls of fat, and you think you look "da bomb."
188. Every pair of underwear you own has a little hole in them — from merely picking.
189. You've ever sewn a crease in your jeans.
190. You've ever used bleach to write your initials in your jeans.
191. You don't feel quite right about being at an amusement park unless you're dressed exactly like at least one other person.
192. You have an uncle who wears leisure suits.
193. Your clothes look like you had to jump off a roof to get into them.
194. You dry your clothes with an iron.
195. You've ever worn wet underwear.CHAPTER 8
Stylin' and Profilin'
196. You keep all of your prized possessions in a Crown Royal bag.
197. You wear flip-flops outside the house.
198. You wear dance shoes and you're not on stage.
199. You're a man and you think that it's your God-given right to wear your hat inside, or anywhere else you please.
200. You have any symbols, designs, or letters cut into your hair. (Dennis Rodman, this includes you.)
201*. You're known for rolling any of the following: your neck, your eyes, your r's, or your wrist.
Excerpted from Sckraight from the Ghetto by Bertice Berry, Joan Coker. Copyright © 1996 Bertice Berry and Joan Coker. Excerpted by permission of St. Martins Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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