After years of re-entry, you would think I would be used to it by now but, every time I land back in America the electric colors of my world turn to sepia. It starts with the moon bus ride to the terminal. Since I can’t stand flying on US carriers, I always make sure to land at home in Washington. Anyone who has been through an international arrival at Dulles is familiar with the extra hassle of the far-flung terminals. The 1970s color scheme is the first clue that my cost of living for the next few days or weeks is about to quadruple.
Giant Starbucks and Capital One signs remind me of my return to the land of overpriced weak coffee and credit card debt
With the invention of Global Entry and my frequent flyer status, I can usually clear immigration and the baggage hall quite quickly. I then find myself in a sea of rude rushing people with giant Starbucks and Capital One signs reminding me of my return to the land of overpriced weak coffee and credit card debt. Getting into an Uber or car service, (I feel guilty asking anyone to face 66 or 95 traffic) I settle in for what could be upwards of a 70-minute drive for the 35 miles back to the city.
While this is no longer such an issue, I do remember visiting home when I was living in Europe in the late 90s. I had completely forgotten that you pay for incoming and outgoing phone calls on your cell. I spent 10-days talking freely on the phone with my friends and family who called me. Five weeks later, my dad called me to say my bill had arrived and it was over $500. Considering my rent at the time was only $400, you can imagine my dismay. Now, with social media and the need to keep my family from worrying, I check-in when I land. This gives me about a 15-minute window before the phone starts ringing. Being home means an end to my freedom and a return to obligations from happy hours to being the resident Geek Squad member.
I become woefully aware of my pop culture ignorance
As I sit with friends (old and new) drinking craft cocktails featuring infused bourbon, I chuckle as they look for politically correct ways to ask what it is like living in [instert country]. Do they hate Americans? Are you allowed to drive? Is it safe for white people? And on, and on… The ones used to my periodic pop-ins have long since shed the attempts at PC discussion and just want to hear about the latest drama and projects. It’s during these exchanges, I become woefully aware of my pop culture ignorance. In 2011 when I hadn’t been back in about 18 months, I was assaulted with the Hide ya kids, hide ya wife viral video. While on the surface amusing, especially after living in the South, I quickly thanked goodness it didn’t reach me overseas. As a “representative of African Americans” [read token Black] how would I have sat through Brits talking about it?
This inevitably leads me to get upset with Black people. The “angry black woman” played out in Being Mary Jane and seen across the city, the drunk man sleeping on the steps to my friend’s house, and thumping bass vibrating my car from the guy next to me all make me ask Black People What Ya’ll Going to Do?
I feel lost. I identify as a Black American yet, I’m not a full-fledged member of the community. I am Black and American. Where do I fit in? I can’t name or sing along with any popular hit songs, 60% of Deus & Mero‘s jokes fly over my head, and the #BlackJetSet drive me crazy.
So I Whatsapp my friends still abroad and feel pangs of jealousy as they tell me about Friday’s brunch or the crazy new characters at the gym. I miss them but more than that, I miss my house help—this laundry and grocery shopping is not for me.
Off to the Safeway to get some chunky peanut butter, where I am paralyzed staring at fifteen different types plus almond, cashew, and walnut versions. Do I want honey roasted, low fat, sugar-free, organic, or what choosy moms choose? Incapable of deciding, I venture on to Whole Foods with my sister. There, I spend my weekly grocery budget on one paper bag of….what the hell did I buy? Oh yeah, natural sleep aids because my global medical insurance doesn’t cover a visit to the doctor or prescriptions for sleeping pills to get me back to my real home overseas.