Looking back, my 19 year-old neighbor was actually no “slut” by any means. She was sort of the Kim to my Moesha, the wildly flirtatious co-star to balance out my All-American girl next door naiveté.
More than anything she was a misunderstood, sensitive, thoughtful, sexually active teen who learned a lot of life lessons the hard way. To a somewhat sheltered 13 year-old she might as well have been a mashup of Amber Rose, Nicki Minaj, and Lil’ Kim. She taught me how to shave my legs, twerk, and was my primary source for information on all things sex.
I wasn’t given nearly as much latitude as my free-spirited neighbor. My mother was a nurse at the time and had given me a fair breakdown of what to expect from puberty, along with the usual spiel about not getting pregnant and saving myself for marriage. Sure, my mom knows an insane amount about biology, but can she tell me how to get away with wearing white pants on a heavy day, how to put on a tampon in a public restroom while touching as few surfaces as possible, how to cut a panty liner to put it in a thong, or how to pee in a romper? Yeah, probably not.
My neighbor on the other hand had a young mom, was allowed to go to house parties, and was even permitted to go on dates as long as she “communicated” with her mom. Her mother offered me liquor, open access to her condom stash, and hosted co-ed sleepovers; it was a far cry from the abstinence chatter that was going on at my dinner table.
My mom gave me all the advice she could but she couldn’t speak on what she had never experienced. She married her first boyfriend, my dad, and is pretty much the quintessential sassy, church-going, Black TV mom. She taught me how to manage my finances, ask for a raise, and make a microwaveable dinner look homemade. She inspired me to fight for what I want and showed me that balancing a career and family life is not only possible, but can be done gracefully.
I seriously doubt she knows the tricks to peeing on the side of the road without getting it on your shoes, but that’s what my neighbor was for. That and teaching me how to snap back at a hater who calls you a slut. It’s an adage as old as time, “Ya mama.”