Ask Pajiba (Almost) Anything: Socks, Muggles, and Racism
As some of you may recall, we are experimenting with our own advice column here at Pajiba. Your friendly (?) Overlords are putting our heads together each week to formulate the most perfectly dubious answers to your questions. Provided, of course, that your questions are ridiculous and you aren’t deeply invested in free advice solicited from strangers on the internet. It’s a win-win for everybody!
We asked you to write in, and boy howdy, you all did NOT disappoint! Let’s kick things off on the right foot with this question about socks:
Dearest Pajiban Overlords,
I have a fairly large collection of novelty socks. They’re inexpensive, they’re fun, and my feet stink if I don’t wear them with my shoes. Socks.
I fear I may be addicted to them, though. Socks. Just this week I bought THREE pairs; pink & white striped Star Wars Stormtrooper, narwhal, & unicorn. Socks. Is this a problem? Socks. Should I restrain myself? Socks. Can I? Socks. How? Socks.
Eternally grateful, socks,
Thanks for reaching out, Socks! Is it ok if I call you Socks? I’ma call you Socks.
So this was a surprisingly divisive topic amongst the Overlords. The feedback ranged from the eminently practical (“Exercise self-control and set limits!”) to the radical (“Anyone who puts this much effort into socks is an Enemy of the Revolution!”). Some amongst us may have even suggested that only cleansing power of fire can free you from the grip that wacky novelty socks obviously has on your soul. And honestly, I have a feeling that “burn it!” is going to be a common theme in our advice columns moving forward.
But in the end, the Overlords largely came to the consensus that you might not actually be addicted ENOUGH. Indulge yourself! Excess in all things! Are you mixing and matching your socks to create quirky new pairs? Are you still only using these socks on your feet? Did you know that there are a plethora of other uses for socks, from mittens to decorative planters to (I shit you not) DIY humping pillows for male iguanas? How can you say you’re truly addicted to socks until you’ve found a way to incorporate them into every aspect of your daily life?
Write back to us when you reach THAT level of sock commitment, and then we’ll see what we can do to help. Though I’d be willing to bet our advice will be to, you know, burn it all down and start over.
Next up we have a question about how to handle the roaming Harry Potter n00bs in our midst:
Hi there! Longtime reader here.
I need some advice. What am I to do with a co-worker who is of the correct generation (mid-thirties) and has never read or seen Harry Potter?! Seriously, how can someone of our age group have grown up without it? Shall I and another co-worker peer pressure him into watching? Won’t that ruin the joy of watching Harry see Hogwarts for the first time? Should I convince his family they need a Harry Potter movie night? Help!
Dearest Huffs — I’m going to give you the easiest, quickest response to your question, and then we’ll dig into it in more depth. Ya ready?
“Don’t be that person. Just don’t.”
Do you know what I mean by that? Don’t be that overbearing, pushy friend/colleague/whathaveyou who insists that this ONE THING that they love and grew up on is something that EVERYONE must love. Nobody likes that person, because nobody likes to be told what to do! In fact, you may think you’re doing this co-worker a favor, but if your coworker is anything like 99% of the Pajiba staff, all you’re doing is making him more certain that he DOESN’T want to ever explore the magical world of Harry Potter. You’re making him entrenched in his ignorance. Besides, is it possible that your/everyone’s affection for Harry Potter is rooted to where/when we first encountered it? I’m in my mid-thirties, and I started reading the books as a teen. But if I tried to start them now, in my mid-thirties, would they still be as impactful? Who knows!
This isn’t to say that recommending a good show, movie or book is a bad thing. Hell, if you’re a reader of this site, then you’ve probably read one of our reviews of something. Maybe it convinced you to check that something out, or it made you avoid that something at all costs. If nothing else, perhaps it made you aware that “something” existed in the first place. But here’s the thing: there is no way this guy is “unaware” that Harry Potter exists — and if he hasn’t experienced it yet, that’s almost impressive! He’s like an endangered species. Don’t destroy his habitat, conserve that shit.
It’s also a pretty big leap between a friendly, “Hey, this is a really good movie, you should check it out!” to active peer pressure and/or conspiring with his family to force him to watch it. The thing with peer pressure is that it makes your relationship with the person feel contingent on his appreciation of that thing you like. Sure, he could watch the movies and/or read the books. But what if he didn’t like them? Would you hold that against him the way you obviously hold his ignorance of Harry Potter against him? What is YOUR goal in all of this?
Basically, you’ve recommended Harry Potter. If your opinion matters, or if he’s interested, maybe he’ll check it out. And maybe he won’t. Don’t let it come between you. And remember: even in the Harry Potter books/movies there is an entire world full of Muggles who don’t know about wizards. It’s a thing. Accept that this dude is one of them. BOOM!
And last but not least, shit’s about to get real. We’ve got a question that is completely serious and thoughtful. So serious and so thoughtful, in fact, that we answered it in kind. And when I say “we” I mean TK. The rest of us were stunned into silence, basically.
I understand that this may be the wrong place to seek this answer, but the question has been keeping me up at night. My wife and I have four beautiful foster daughters, one of the girls happens to be African-American. How can I teach my daughter to be safe in the world?
I am at a loss, I can’t find the words. How do I teach her all that she needs to know when dealing with people in stores? With police? With people who will hate her just because of her color? How do I teach her what I do not understand?
Scared and worried,
Um, wow. Right? But how could we NOT attempt to answer that? So I’m going to turn things over to TK, who has put together a pretty thorough guide:
The first thing is to wait until she’s at an age where it’s an appropriate and useful lesson for her. Teaching a five year old about prejudice is fine. Teaching a five year old to be careful around cops and shopkeepers is probably not a good idea, because when you’re five, you need to be able to trust certain authority figures. But that said, you should teach your kids starting fairly young what the bad words are, and what they should do/who they should tell if they hear them.
In terms of how to be safe in the world, I’d say… age 8 or 9 is probably when you should start having the conversation. Put it this way - I grew up in Apartheid, but I didn’t _really_ understand what it was until I was about that age, because there was no real use in teaching me about it any younger than that. At 8 or 9 you can start teaching your kid that yes, people are sometimes going to look at them and think about them and treat them differently than others because of their skin. It’s when you can start teaching them the history behind it as well. It’s not a deep dive into it, but it lays the foundation.
Age 10-12 is when shit starts to get more real. You’re spending more time out on your own, you’re probably going to have more isolated interactions with authority figures that you don’t know and your parents don’t know about. That’s about the age I was when I started getting followed around in stores, started having cops give me a second glance when I was walking down the street. And bear in mind, I’m relatively light skinned, so it could be worse for your kid (though in some ways easier because she’s a girl - people don’t trust black kids, but they REALLY don’t trust black boys). Anyway, that’s when you have to start telling kids that authority figures are to be treated with respect at all times… but also they need to be more careful. They need to be better and smarter than their white friends and siblings. They’re going to get singled out, and need to be aware that they’re under a microscope. That’s not to say they should hide who they are or become a mouse — they just need to learn awareness.
This is not an easy lesson. And you need to make kids understand that most of all, this is NOT THEIR FAULT. That sometimes the world is unfair, and they, because of who they are, will need to take steps to keep themselves safer.
Age 13-15 is hard. That’s when they’re gonna start looking old enough to be treated as trouble. That’s when cops will start addressing them directly, when they’ll get yelled at for things like jaywalking or loitering. It’s also a common age for kids to try shoplifting, if that’s a thing they might do. Pro-tip: kids busted for shoplifting are treated RADICALLY differently based on race. I was once caught with a white friend and they literally threw me into a storage closet and called my parents, and then let my friend go. That is literally a thing that happened.
So your kid can’t do shit like that, because if/when they get caught, it will be infinitely worse for them. So tell her to be smart.
Age 16+ is where it becomes bad. That’s when she’ll look like an adult, meaning she won’t get much sympathy from people. That’s when she’ll REALLY need to start paying attention to her surroundings. She’s gotta be the first one to ghost if a party gets broken up, stuff like that.
Despite all of this, you also need to teach your kid pride about who they are and where they come from. You gotta teach them to be honest and not take shit from other kids, and to accept that they might get into trouble, and that YOU have their back if they do. Even if they fuck up, you HAVE to teach them that they can rely on you, and that they should never ever be ashamed of or hide who they are. Teach them it’s OK if they have white friends and it’s OK if they have black friends, because that is going to be a very difficult aspect of this particular case — being black in a white family (similar to me being mixed race in an all-white suburb when we moved here). Don’t try to blend in just for the sake of blending in. Black kids in this sort of situation are going to face a certain amount of identity crisis, and it’s important that their parents embrace whichever end of the spectrum they end up on. They need parental support just as much as they need guidance. But yeah, you have to teach them to be smart, and you have to start early.
And finally, don’t be afraid to teach all of your foster kids these lessons. I think it’s a combination of one-on-one talks with ALL of them, from different angles, and also talking to the siblings as a group. I didn’t have white siblings, but I DID have white friends, and they never understood a lot of my issues because no one ever explained it to them. They may not be treated equally in the world, but you can still reinforce that they ARE equal and have a responsibility to be smart and aware and watch out for each other.
We hope that was helpful in some way, and thank you so much for your question, FosterDad. In fact, thanks for all the weird and wonderful questions we’ve received so far! We couldn’t answer all of them this week, but we’re only just getting started. If you’d like some personalized Pajiban wisdom, send us your inquiry at [email protected] and we’ll see you next week with some hot, fresh, questionable advice!