LADEELEROY

2002-09-20

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The day I was Vanessa Huxtable
 
  Hey, it's almost a month until Halloween, why not get all theme-atic.

When I was a young Leroy, my family and I were fans of "The Cosby Show." Every Thursday, the Mom, The Sis and myself would sit on our bean bag chairs and eat a dinner consisting of fish sticks, canned fruit salad, microwaved broccoli with cheese and a glass of skim milk.

I truly loved that show as a child. Bill Cosby seemed like the perfect Dad and his wife, Claire, seemed to rival my own Mother in maternal fantasticness.

Rudey was a bit annoying, but she was young and I forgave her. The oldest sisters I don't recall much, as they were either featured characters or kicked off entirely. Theo was the older brother I never had, but always imagined I'd have if I were African-American and rich.

For some reason, however, the one Cosby Kid I really identified with was Vanessa aka "The Cosby Kid Everyone Kind Of Doesn't Remember." She was slightly older than I was, wore much dorkier outfits than I did and her hair, good God the hair she had seemed to be a comment on Mushroom Clouds.

That's why, when Halloween rolled around the corner in fall of 1987, I decided I wanted to be Vanessa Huxtable.

"How will you dress up to be Vanessa Huxtable?," my Mom asked hesitantly.

"Well, I'll have to put my hair in braids, get some cool clothes and get some make-up to make me look black."

Thinking back, I don't remember my Mom visibly displaying her debate on letting her lanky, skinny, so obviously white child dress up like a Cosby kid.

"Are you sure that's what you want to be for Halloween?," she asked, hoping that perhaps in the time my last comment had been said I had changed my mind and wanted to be something more, er, racially appropriate... like SheRa or Gem! (truly truly truly outrageous).

But I was firm and excited about dressing up like Vanessa Huxtable, my favorite Cosby kid for Halloween.

I need to stress for those reading out there that I was not raised in a racist household- in fact I was raised in a very liberal, open-minded, loving every color of the rainbow and the rainbow itself sort of household. In my young 10-year-old mind, I never once thought that dressing up as a black girl, colored make-up and all would even be considered offensive.

I was actually celebrating the fact that I, for one day out of the entire year, wanted to be, act and receive free candy like I was Vanessa Huxtable the Cosby Kid.. skin color was only part of the costume- not the intent.

When we were at the costume shop picking out the needed costumes, I was at the make-up counter conferring with the college aged kid on what type of body make-up I needed to get.

"You want to be Vanessa Huxtable?," she asked.

"Yes! She's my favorite one on the show! I'm going to put my hair in braids to look like her and everything!"

The college aged kid looked at me and saw that my desire was pure and true.

"Well... let me see what I can find."

Fast forward three days later.

Little LadeeLeroy is in her bathroom covering every exposed part of her body with a sort of burnt amber/orange/brown make-up. She has on jeans that are pleated in the front and flair out at the hip. She's wearing a Hawaiin shirt that she thought she saw Vanessa wear once on an episode and her hair is done up in braids. Top it off with a jean jacket with shoulder pads and some fold-ed down Converse--- I thought I was the shit.

There's only one picture of this Halloween stashed somewhere in the family album. It's of me and my sister standing in front of the family car. My sister is dressed up as Punky Brewster complete with skate key and freckles. She has a cute Brewster smile on her face. Next to her is me. My eyes and teeth are the first thing that stick out in the picture as they shine out when placed next to my brown/amber skin. My hands have streaks of white skin where I didn't do such a great job of applying the make-up.

I truly look like I'm having a great day.

Then we go out into public.

There are no pictures displaying my immeadiate feelings that I had done something that was not right.

It was one of those times in my young life that I remember freshly- the pit of my stomach feels sick, I avoid eye contact with anyone, I know that I've done something that is not looked apon as 'good' by the people that pass, but I can't figure out what exactly it is.

I was just dressing up as Vanessa Huxtable for Crissakes? What the hell does everyone have against the Cosby Kids?

Black kids would point and laugh at me and say that I looked stupid. White kids would point and laugh at me and say that my costume sucked. Adults would cock their heads to the side and ask me "Who are you supposed to be?"

"Vanessa Huxtable."

"Huxt-a-what?"

"Vanessa Huxtable, the Cosby Kid."

"You mean you're that little black girl from that Bill Cosby Show."

"No, not the little one. The second to youngest."

"Hm. I don't remember that one. But I do remember that they were black. You're more of a burnt amber."

"They didn't have black body make-up at the costume shop."

"Here's your candy anyway."

It was perhaps the worst Halloween ever. It was also perhaps the first time I realized how much emphasis people put on skin color.

I also realized that being white was always going to be part of my description.

Vanessa Huxtable was a Cosby Kid. She was black.

I'm LadeeLeroy. I'm white.

It's going to be a descriptive that goes hand in hand with who I am. And no matter how much body make-up I put on, I'm always going to be whitie.

Because, even if I wanted to be Vanessa for a day, it's not something I'm going to be able to be respectfully or innocently... just because skin color is one of those things that we just can't seem to handle because it's such a Catch 22.

Everyone is different, yet everyone is equal, yet everyone wants and deserves respect for the uniqueness of what we are on the outside and the inside.

All I wanted back in 1987 was to have the best Halloween costume.

All I got was a story that I can't seem to find the moral to.

 
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Copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 L.Leroy