The Nostalgia Machine

The Nostalgia Machine - student project



My personal concerts were held between the hours of 3:00 pm and 7:00 pm, at my house, where no one is invited. This was the time I was usually left alone in the house. When there wasn’t anyone home and I already finished my homework or sometimes before I started homework, I would blare music in the computer room and perform like one of Beyonce's backup dancers.  

I was a big girl. A big light skin girl. So with the flick of a simple gesture, my ethnicity could become very confusing game of “What are you?”. With the sway of my hips and force with every movement, I confused my pretend audience with my ethnicity. I didn’t think it mattered too much until later in life. I didn’t feel like answering these questions, simply because I didn’t know them myself. So I opted to mind my business and keep only a few friends. In my parents eyes, I was doing my homework and reading books while they were away. They knew I could dance but didn’t know how much I enjoyed it until we were at a FAMU football game and I kept up with the dancers perfectly.

Observing my sudden burst of energy and confidence at the game, my parents immediately enrolled me into dance classes. It was a fun after school extracurricular, though I wasn’t fond of my teachers. Andrew, flamboyant and yet Russian, was too soft on me. When he corrected my steps, I felt it was more out of pity than a useful critique. Ana, on the other hand, was a high schooler who was counting the minutes till she could spend time with her skater boyfriend. Though, the one thing they had in common was comparing me to my older sister.

My sister was the dancer in the family and kept the title for years. She had the body and the grace for a ballerina. She could’ve been the next Misty Copeland if she didn’t let her looks control her decisions. I couldn’t dance the same style. I was much more interested in dynamic styles such as Hip Hop, Krunk, and sometimes contemporary.

Me and my sister were massively different and we rather like it that way. We are 2 years and 4 days apart. She is darker, thinner, with socially acceptable curls. I am light but juicy, and currently transitioning my hair back to my natural curls. Rather than be compared and broken down into a copy of my sister, I opted out of dance and found comfort dancing in the house alone. I appreciated the time to myself and looking back, I considered this time as self care. I wasn’t judged for my moves, my music taste, and I was truly free to move my body however I felt. Yet as time went on, I loved being by myself, but it would be nice to dance with my friends. My favorite hobby is being dramatic, so I figured I’m not doing the world justice if they can’t see me perform.

I looked forward to every school dance. My school would host one every month and I always begged my mom for 5 dollars for a ticket. Personally, paying for a ticket was like admission to my own concert. At times I would be offended, but I had no reason to if I didn’t actually dance in public like I do alone in the computer room. I would feel the beat here and there but become immediately apprehensive once my song was playing. I would wait particularly for a Chris Brown song, though, at this time we listened to “Pretty Boy” Chris Brown, not “Thug Life” Chris Brown. I liked Chris Brown at the time because he performed like no one was watching. Again, he was cute at the time and so his music actually prompt you to dance fearlessly. Other artists like Fergie, 3OH3, or Akon, were explicit and derogatory but still somehow played at our middle school dances.

It was the Halloween dance and without a date or costume I decided today was going to be the day I performed. Then it happened. The Dj played Chris Browns “Kiss Kiss” and I marched to the dance floor before I could convince myself not to. This was my moment to shine and if I didn’t do it now I would never do it. I jirated, which was considered twerking at the time, to the chorus and everyone stopped to stare at me. I was fearlessly shaking my excess jelly rolls and I had full attention of the room. I felt on top of the world once the song was over and everyone came up showering me with compliments. Soaking in the moment, I continued to dance the night away in the same style but to artists such as Paramour, Carrie Underwood, and Gym Class Heroes.

Though to my surprise, the bullies were ready the next following Monday. Before the morning bell, I was hearing my name escape everyone's lips and for a moment I felt pleased with myself. Maybe this is my Regina George moment and I finally made it to popularity. Though, I walked past a group of girls giggling, amused that a big girl would have the audacity to dance like me. It hurt. I figured if they’re saying it, so is everyone else.

I knew the other kids were going to say mean things but nothing could prep me for the embarrassment I felt that morning. I nearly faked my period just so I could go home early. I wanted to drink hand sanitizer, so an ambulance could be called and take me away. Yet, I knew that would give me more problems at school and at home so I decided to be depressed for the entire day. Like every middle school drama, it only lasted a few days until something else took people's attention. I continued to be a shy, big light skin girl who enjoyed reading books like, Charlie Bone and minding her business.