I looked high and low for the perfect domestic attire for a skit I wrote for the Beckyville trailer. Since I was running on CP Time as usual collecting my props for the video shoot (which films tomorrow), I didn’t have time to order a uniform online, which probably would have saved me a lot of money. Most costume shops in L.A. specialize in the French maid type uniform, which is definitely not the look we’re going for. Hattie McDaniel would be too through.
After much searching, I finally found a company that sells the proper domestic wear. Naturally, they were located in Reseda, about a forty-minute drive from my job in Hollywood. The proprietor, the only person in the store when I walked in, sat at a computer in the back room working on her novel. It felt strange walking through those tight, clothes-clogged aisles looking for the perfect maid uniform. My grandmother was a cleaning lady, and I accompanied her once or twice to the homes of her white employers. Mom-Mom didn’t wear a uniform, and even if she had, that tall, bespectacled woman would never have assumed a servile position. In the skit, I want to touch on the notion of black female servitude, especially how it relates to Miss Becky Ann.
When Marie, the proprietor, learned that I was producing a trailer to promote my book, she revealed that she is a self-published author as well. While I was still trying to decide which uniform would work best, she plunked down on the counter a 400-page science-fiction novel she had written. She offered me coffee, and I spent about an hour chatting with her. It’s funny how quickly writerly bonds can form. Marie is a biophysicist from Poland, and I’m a dysfunctional diva from L.A., but five minutes into our convo we were discussing the pros and pitfalls of self-publishing like two buddies who had reunited after a long separation. Marie has the freedom to write in between attending to customers; she is her own boss. This freedom is a large part of my decision to quit my job. I can sit at my laptop for twelve hours straight working on my stories, and it doesn’t feel like drudgery to me. It’s what I was born to do.
I finally interrupted the conversation because my meter was running out and bid my fellow author adieu. The historical significance of the black-and-white uniform that I carried to the car was not lost on me. I get that our many of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers did day work to earn a living, and Hollywood loves to remind us of their servitude, but I’m interested in exploring diverse, nuanced and complex views of black womanhood. Give me a maid with telekinesis or the ability to burn down the servants’ quarters with her superpowers. Hollywood may not be ready for such a radical re-visioning of mammy, but I am.