White men can’t jump. And black people can’t ski!
That’s the general racist consensus. But, in the world of delightenment, words like can’t can’t exist. (Hee hee.)
Take skiing. Before my new Charlotte project began, I’d never gone skiing. In fact, about 20 years ago, I’d pretty much reached an agreement with myself that skiing was just not an option. I told myself skiing would simply not be an item in my repertoire of Charlotte performances. The net sum of it: Charlotte can’t ski.
Well, guess what? New Charlotte can ski! New Charlotte did ski this past weekend!
I mean, for sure it’s slow and ugly. It’s sloop-footed, knock knee’d and snow plough-y, no doubt. It’s accompanied by tear-soaked goggles, fright nausea and preceded by temporary ski cap to ski boot paralysis. It’s on Eldora Ski Resort’s Tenderfoot Trail where babies as young as eight months old take the slope with an unnecessary show of courage and skill. New Charlotte’s skiing is done with her skis locked into the skis of her boyfriend who’s really doing all the S-work and speeding up and slowing down. New Charlotte’s skiing is powerfully uncommon. But, Charlotte can ski.
At one point, I thought I had Tenderfoot figured out. There I was, at the top (yes, I would like to call it the top) of the slope (yes, I would like to call it a slope.) With knees bent, poles to my side, urine remarkably cold, I take off down (yes, I would like to call it down) the mountain (yes, mountain.) I’m going what feels like 45 miles per hour, swooshing past baby bibs and pacifiers, spraying up powder (Johnsons & Johnson baby powder, that is.) Yes! I almost fall but I nail my first turn. “Yaaaaay!” shout my friends up at the top. I slide easily around a man in a wheelchair, zoom past a nursing mom and a “Watch Me Ski” battery-powered doll…Yes! Turn two, nailed. Now, kidding aside, Tenderfoot Trail really is where they teach the toddlers to ski. It’s not steep at all. To be completely accurate, there is an instructor with a line of about seven or eight little kids taking the slope with ease and proficiency. And there’s me. A 40-something-year-old black woman in a bright red jacket and Jolly Green Giant goggles ski-flopping past at three miles per hour like I’m coming down off bath salts, one ski pole pointed east, the other stuck in my hair, and here–I’m sorry, the word can’t is the only word available to me for this–I literally can’t stop after my last turn. My friends shout at me to “SNOWPLOUGH!!!” but by this point, I’m really hearing nothing except the Lord’s prayer which I’ve involuntarily begun to scream at the top of my lungs. When I open my eyes, I’ve come to a dazed and confused halt at the head of the parking lot about three inches from the grill of a Subaru Outback.
It may be freakishly fatalistic, but New Charlotte can ski.
Here’s the thing: what good does a word like can’t do for you? The word can’t only shines harsh, incandescent light on some thing or idea or activity that you’ve told yourself is not a possibility. And who needs that kind of limitation?
I say jump white men! White women, too. Jump! And black people ski! I mean, don’t go crazy with the jumping and skiing…take it all slowly and sensibly. Skip first, then hop, then jump. And take a proper ski course before you mount anything as treacherous as Tenderfoot Trail (those kids get perturbed if you appear to not be taking the sport seriously!) But do it! And be delightened by it!
Til next time.