Let’s close out Women’s History Month with a musical group who impacted my most formative time-space moments: Cheryl ‘Salt’ James, Sandra ‘Pepa’ Denton, and Deidra ‘DJ Spinderella’ Roper! Collectively, you know them as Salt N Pepa.
I remember my first encounter with Salt N Pepa. “Push It,” came on the radio, and I listened to the lyrics as it played. I had no earthly connection to what they were talking about, but their vocal delivery, their ‘out there’-for-a-tween lyrics, and frankly, their female-ness sent me into an array of emotions: Amazing! Who are they? How cool; they’re rappers…and women! With boom box in tow, I ran into my brother’s room, breathlessly exclaiming, “They’re girls! And they’re rappers!!” in a tone suggesting, “See big brother? Girls are just as good at hip hop as boys!”
He responded, “GET OUT OF MY ROOM!” which, translated, meant, “You are the best sister anyone could ever ask for. You are correct; that is a wonderful discovery and what a historical vault for American womankind.”
During our last art date, Marie and I talked about how “Let’s Talk About Sex,” the seminal Salt N Pepa pop tune that spurred much controversy, saved us from haphazardly jumping into an activity with serious life consequences. The song came out about the same time my classmates were getting physical, yet none of them could answer for me, “Why do you have to have sex?” Here they were, 13, 14, 15 years of age, engaging in mating ritual, without putting much thought to the significance of the act. Then this song came out, and I’m practically stuffing my headphones into my ears. What the hell is this ‘sex’ business about??
Let’s talk about sex, baby
Let’s talk about you and me
Let’s talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be
I set out to talk about it. My mother, when confronted, checked out a copy of “The Joy of Sex” from the library and hid it under my bed, with a simple suggestion to check under there for answers. My best girl friend gave me a copy of Nancy Friday’s “Forbidden Flowers” to peruse. The following summer, I took a job at the local daycare center for Army babies. Oh boy…that’s why everyone’s having sex?? Seems like non-fun.
Salt N Pepa prepped me with life-saving messages in lyrical form. As such, when the guys pushed up, I asked, “We’re friends. Why complicate that with sex?” I had no want for disease or oopsie babies, thanks to my hip hop muses.
I fear today’s young ladies in their formative years aren’t receiving the right empowerment messages. Iggy Azalea prides herself in…what? Guys noticing she has friends and a huge ass (which is how I summate her freshman album)? Nicki Minaj wants to encourage sexual desire, but only on the B side does she refer to its consequences (which is how I summate her sense of accountability)?
Perhaps I’m just a tired old bag who feels the genitals have nothing to do with self-esteem or positive living, but I am glad that, because I listened to my musical mentors and their messages of truth, I own my sexuality. I determined upon my start and still today, when, how, and with whom I engage with sexually. I am a goddess, I only get this one body, and only I am responsible for it!
Thank you, Salt N Pepa, for using Hip Hop to educate, influence, and lift up those within listening range.
If you’re a high-level thinking individual who’s sexy to boot, then you’re already enjoying Aeon Magazine. I appreciate their thought-provoking articles and intuitive content contributors. Recently, I beheld an interesting editorial section, Aeon Ideas, in which they posited: If you could undo one historical event, which would it be? Mr. Haselby responded with the U.S. Government response to the Elian Gonzalez affair. Good one, I thought, as US-Cuban relations are now the hot topic.
Reflecting on the past, I tried to pick an event I would undo. The Holocaust? Pol Pot? Every Kardashian?
It’s so obvious: I’d revisit my SAT exam!!
Let me set the sad story. I moved to Texas from Germany mid-high school. Probably before the end of my first semester in America-American school I realized this country was academically slow. Wherever the America-American curriculum was set at, I’d already completed it before moving to the Western Hemisphere.
Because of this inconvenience, I would cut school, pretty regularly. Kept a decent routine; you know, be present for roll call at the beginning of 2nd period, then throw a few hand signs to a select group of people before excusing myself to the ladies’ room, winding down the stairs to the parking lot, where those who interpreted the signal correctly would be waiting to enter my family’s Ford Aerostar. Lots of coffee and pancakes at Kettle, day trips to Georgetown or Austin. We had a good time!
My first official boyfriend was not into school at all. Like this should come as a surprise to you regulars…he was quite involved in gang activity. When not day tripping to the Salado gift shoppes, I was rolling around town with this wonderful-to-me/nightmare-to-society individual. Lapses in judgment and time resulted in several Saturday detentions, which was fine, because my boyfriend would be there too! Aww, young love…
Still an Honors student, I scored high on my course exams and was ranked in the top 10% of my graduating class despite hardly entering the building (save for Band, gotta stick with Band). Used to being told to show up to the gymnasium, I trotted in one Saturday morning blissfully expecting to see BF and his gangsta cohorts. Instead, I saw kids that were in my Honors classes, looking nervous as fuck.
What happened that got all the Honors kids detention? I actually thought. I was yelled to sit down, so I did. I was handed an answer sheet and a pencil. What the…? Am I in the wrong gym?? Slapped down in front of me was the official examination handbook. SHIT.
Didn’t know, so, didn’t study! I scored a dismal 950. However, stroke of friggin’ luck…in Texas, if you are within the 90th percentile of your graduating class, your SAT scores don’t matter if you apply to a state school. Hurrah!
EXCEPT. You’re also automatically enrolled in remedial courses if you score less than average than the graduating class. Fuck fuck FUCK!
Here I am, a proficient writer in and speaker of the English language, enrolled in collegiate remedial English! Our instructor was a frail, wool-chested, chain-smoking idiot who wore his shirts unbuttoned to his naval. My first paper for the course, I misused a word: condone. To condone is to forgive or allow, I knew that, but I intended to use the word condemn, which is to judge as unfit, as I remember it was a position paper and I wasn’t agreeing with the stated position. Either way, simple mistake, especially for a handwritten, in-class assignment.
Chesty McDickerton marks my paper as a Fail. To the right margin, in creamy, red felt ink, he noted, “I understand why you made such a simple error. You haven’t mastered the English language yet.” Such gravitas!
I went from being one of the brightest and gifted students the Department of Defense Dependent Schools system has ever had the glory to educate to a fresh off the boat, English as a Second Language, special needs student in the eyes of Texas.
All because I kept skipping class.