Friday, April 21, 2006

Auntie Thomasina-ing on the Job



The Kingpins.

The new Cocoa Boy at work seems to have mastered the fine art of shooting the breeze mocha-style, which set off yet another round of ANTT (America’s Next Top Tom) on the job:

Cocoa Boy: “Hey, Cocoa… how’ya doing!

Cocoa Girl (not to be outdone): “I’m g-r-r-r-eat!! What can I do for ya this morning!!”

Cocoa Boy: “Cooould I use a few of your sanitary cleaning wipes for my desk?”

Cocoa Girl: “Of course!!! Help yourself!!!

Cocoa Boy: “BTW, Haaaaappy Friday!!!!”

Cocoa Girl: “Aww…Haaaaaaaaappy Friday to you, too!!!!!”

Cocoa Boy: “Hey… that’s what I live for!!!!!!” [visualize the Bing Crosby eye-wink/finger snap to a finger point combo].

Cocoa Girl: “Ha, ha, ha!!!!!!”

While Cocoa Girl typically leaves the office Tom’ing to the clueless suburbanites and adoptee blacks from places like Minnesota, ain’t nobody – she repeats – NOBODY – outdoing her (that’s me, ya’ll…keep up) when it comes to pimping “the system” on the job!

(ONLY FOR THE MOST HONEST OF YOU): In what ways do/have you Tom’ed it for a little advantage at work? Changes to the ‘accent’? Strategically-arranged lunch invites? Vocab adjustments to include the top mochaisms of this age, e.g. ‘Woo-hoo,’ ‘You rock’ and ‘Awesome’? Making it a point to alert your mullet-wearing manager that you too loved Def Leopard... C'mon...spill it!

CG./R.

42 comments:

Harlem Songstress said...

GUILTY as charged. I confess..yes I have played the role of Aunt Tomasina for the sake of the workplace.

From exclaiming "thanks a bunch" & "Cool beans!" to getting really excited and interested when hearing about my co-workers rock climbing adventure over the weekend by asking them a million-and-one questions..or going into baby frenzy mode when I run into that colleague or executive who just returned from maternity leave.

Those are the only things that come to mind right now (I am sure there are tons more), but if I remember more I'll post them as the day goes on-lol

Cocoa Girl said...

OH my goodness... I don't think I've EVAH said "bunch." Lawd, pray for us negresses on the job...LOL Thanks for sharing!

Kenny said...

I'm sure I've had many Junior Tom moments in my life, but I can't think of any specific event at the moment. (especially being one of the handful of blacks (or only one) in my classes all throughout school and work)

I think I've mastered the art of switching accents/dialects as well.

Nichelle said...

Chile, please...

I ain't never had to 'Tom.' That would imply that anything outside of Ebonics is "not really black" or that black people that know how to handle different kinds of people in various situations are "faking it" and can only be "ghetto." I don't play that...

I'm just myself. It's like India said in the song, 'sometimes I shave my legs and sometimes I don't.' Sometimes, I feel like being more 'Chile please' than 'No worries' -- but it's all me because I am every woman! It's all in me!

Since people (black, white, Asian, whatever) tend to have fixed ideas on what black people should sound like (and be able to talk about) I realize that I can come off in different ways to different people. I am an artist, but I'm not an actress, so I can only be myself for better or for worse.

One of my favorite quotes from Langston Hughes pretty much sums up my philosophy for every aspect of my life:

“We younger Negro artists now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn’t matter. We know we are beautiful, and ugly too. . . . If colored people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn’t matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves.”

That will conclude my sermon for this afternoon. You may now return to your regularly scheduled 'slacking', 'tomming', 'loafing', or whatever it is black people do on the job. I'm going back to work for my colored self!

Cocoa Girl said...

Nichelle - It's funny that you write as if black people are the only ones who "slack, loaf, and tom" on the job, because we're not.

I think your statement is loaded with a lot of naivete about how things run on a job, which may make since because you're a writer who has worked for yourself for years.

However, everyone at works act...no matter the environment, race a non-factor. Not every white person is white bread and not every Asian automatically fits in and not every black working security is from the blue-collar background. It's called fitting in while standing out.

Thank goodness you work for your self...

Harlem Songstress said...

Nichelle--I agree with your philosophy on life and that's the only way to live your personal life and be 100% succesful.

However, the corporate world lives by a different philosophy/set of rules and at the end of the day you will either have to adapt, assimilate or be outcast--end of story. The business world is a big game and those who want to participate need to know how to play the game the best way they can or be left behind.

It's no secret that it's not WHAT you know..it's WHO you know...and if WHO you know likes you ...the likelyhood you will have more opportuinities is much greater. So if I have to put on my Tomasina hat every now-and-then then so be it. By no means mean I am compromising myself at all because what I do for a living does not define me as a person-just means I am adapting to the culture.

Cocoa Girl said...

Well said, Songstress.

Miss Ahmad said...

great post cocoa girl..once again on point!

i Nichelle I noticed you don't have any other blogs linked to your site...is this a sign?

now while i blush bashfully i must admit that i used words like "dude" and "awesome" as apart of my every day vocabulary. blame it on my years of listening to depeche mode and wearing black clothes...

not that i can't get east oakland on a fool if i have to, but my killer becky slang is probably better!

Nichelle said...

Cocoa - Of course black people aren't the only ones who "slack, loaf, etc." I was moreso joking about most of the people who come and visit your blog.

I do not always work for myself and I have had more than 15 years of working with white folks. I worked at GQ magazine for goodness sake. Not a lot of black folks up in Conde Nast - trust me on that one.

The point I was making is that what some may call being a "Tom" is not an act for everyone. If you can agree that not every white person is white bread and not every Asian automatically fits into the Asian stereotype - than you can see that not every black person that navigates successful in a corporate/mostly white environment is "tomming".

I have also worked in all-black environments by the way -- and there is no shortage of politicking and pandering there too.

Nichelle said...

Miss Ahmad: Nichelle I noticed you don't have any other blogs linked to your site...is this a sign?

I've got several blogs linked to my site, including yours. What are you talking about?

Nichelle said...

Cocoa: Sorry about the triple posts. The stupid connection keeps re-setting

Harlem Songstress: I have worked in several corporate environments and I have found that you can't win for losing, with black and white people. Even in "creative" corporate environments, you have to be careful. Everyone, especially black folks, adapts and assimilates in corporate environments, but I take issue with it being called "tomming" - because that is not always the case. There are indeed some bona fide "Toms" to be sure, but I think we have to be careful with the automatic labels.

Miss Ahmad mentioned listening to Depeche Mode and wearing black clothes. Is she automatically putting on a "Tomasina hat" when she says "dude" and "awesome"?

Please, I grew up when the Valley Girl thing was at it's zenith and the word "like" is a permanent part of my vocabulary. I'll be saying it when I'm 80 years old.

I think it's important to distinguish between adapting/assimilating and tomming, because the latter is destructive.

Cocoa Girl said...

Thanks Miss Ahmad. What a compliment! ;-)

Nichelle - I asked people to share how they 'Tom' on the job - I don't recall saying that all black folks that don't do ebonics Tom. Not for sure where/why/how you read that into my post.

Also, if you don't think that you 'Tom' on the job, then just say so. I felt that the bit at the end of your first message was insulting and self-righteous and that's not necessary.

I have no problem freely talking about all points/areas of black life in Corporate America, because I acknowledge that it all exists and for a reason and I'm not one to knock any black person's hustle who is trying to get along in this mess.

BTW, I've been accused of 'acting white' since I was young - before the concept of a sell-out or Uncle Tom ever became a part of my vocabularly... Didn't phase me then and it doesn't phase me now.

Let me get going...our staff meeting is starting soon and I'm opening it up with a spirited rendition from "BoJangles."

i like liquor and tv said...

Cocoa ROFL@that conversation Haaappy Friday!

I don't switch dialects, but I do use words/phrases I don't use in "real" life like "wonderful wonderful", "how's it going" and "wow". And I hold back on "dope", "word", and "girrrl".

But they don't hesitate to "You go girl" me. And THAT's from the MEN.

Miss Ahmad said...

i feel like tv is a business of smoking mirrors and shucking and jiving, that's how i hustle up work and keep myself afloat.

my most famous moves include bringing baked goods when i'm an hour late for work, pedicures at lunch, taking my staff out for three hour lunches and doing so in a stillettos and a smile.

i am a favorite negress moves include wearing skirts and high heels as often as possible so as not to be asked to do slave labor, organzing trips to the baseball stadium where the whole office must leave early and of course being the life of the party while trying to claim and maintain my six figure nigga status:-)

Nichelle~i was joking about the blog links!

Anonymous said...

RFLMAO off at Cocoa!!! U r so silly!

Nichelle: What cocoa is talking about can include, but is NOT only limited to one's exclamatory vocabulary or phrases.

Re: Miss Ahmad's statement, my answer to your question would be "no" because it is a genuine response for her at work or at home. Cocoa asked everyone to share THEIR specific ways.

Let's keep in mind, there is no set list of words, phrases or actions that list the profile of someone who one would consider a Tom.
It is completely subjective based on your work enviroment, and even to some degree your industry culture and to take it an even step further the median age. If I am working for company "x" and everyone uses the term "Leaping Lizzards!" I could make the decision to incorporate it in my work enviroment lingo. Would i say that normally on a Saturday spending time with friends and fam-probably not.

But I repeat, What cocoa is talking about can include, but is NOT only limited to one's exclamatory vocabulary or phrases. It's completely subjective.

Harlem Songstress said...

Oops--BTW the post above is from Harlem Songstress

Joel Randell said...

wow, interesting forum today cocoa! i was just talking about this the other day with a co-worker in my office. i'm currently working at a 90% all-white, all-female major magazine in new york city. me, personally, i just be myself. and i'm hip-hop to the core! haha. no one cares.

while i'm very careful to be sensitive to women's issues when i'm here, i make it a point to be myself when it comes to working with white folks. always have, and always will. fact is, i've been spoiled in terms of work environment. after college, i had the good fortune of working at VIBE and The Source, where it was majority black, twenty/thrity-somethings running shit. you didn't have to say "hey, how are ya?" in the a.m. you could walk in and say "peace" or "what's good".

but even now that i work in a couple of different majority white offices, i still make it a point to NEVER, EVER be the "jolly nigger". i'm not knocking anyone who's posted here and say they "tom" on the job - do what you feel you have to. but i don't think it's necessary in the 21st century. don't forget the different time we live in today, people. white people more than ever want to be like us culturally. they admire and covet our vernacular, style, and coolness. so i think you'd be fine if you went to your jobs and just flexed your intelligence muscles and knowledge of your position. you don't have to put on a "black face" (one that's acceptable to whites). just be professional, and be you.

bottom line: i'm happy i don't work in corporate america b/c i wouldn't last 5 mins! hahaha. no offense, but corporate america is too uptight! y'all should switch to pop culture industries! hahaha. but to everyone here today who posted: survive in the shark tanks i know you work in, and do what you feel you have to. but don't dance. never dance. they'll never truly respect you that way.

love all y'all!

Cocoa Girl said...

JR - I wish you could have posted before my tap-dance opening a few minutes ago...LOL

I agree with everything you are saying and find it very smart of you to acknowledge the diff between the creative worlds and corporate America, because there is a huge difference. I've worked in the public relations industry and it was the same way as where I work now (finance).

However, I have also been in environments with nothing but Cocoa folks who have a problem b/c they think I'm 'too proper' - so the basic notion is that the posturing can be necessary in all areas, not just white work environments.

Miss Ahmad - Dayum, how can I be down... Also, PR was a shucking and jiving environment just like TV - all about perception. One of my firm's slogan was "perception is reality."

Smoke and mirrors...

Unruly Brown said...

LMAO!!!

NAHHHHHHHH, Cool Sista don't PLAY THAT! lol Sounds like fun though! I might have to play. lol

P said...

Whether you are an entrepreneur, a corporate beast, or a grifter, everyone, at some point in their lives, have done SOMETHING in assimilation that necessarily does not equate to selling out, but was more in line to what the expectations were AT.THAT.TIME.

Nichelle: I understand your position - and disposition, and in a perfect world (which we will never have) often times we adapt, and that is not selling out.

I'm a true ryder. Period. But that doesn't mean that I don't adapt.

A person that comes to mind and heart who I love dearly here is the director of sales for the hispanic market. He makes about 200K, STAYS SUITED AND BOOTED, goes out with the powers that be, but when he is all alone, he is playing rap, calling me with Juicy Fruit blaring in my ear talking about "what you know bout this", and singing round a way girl.

He can't do that around them.

And he doesn't. So he adapts.

Cocoa: You are RIGHT on with this post. It's really groovy, and HOT!

:P

Cocoa Girl said...

OCS - It can honestly be quite fun!

Nichelle said...

Nichelle - I asked people to share how they 'Tom' on the job - I don't recall saying that all black folks that don't do ebonics Tom. Not for sure where/why/how you read that into my post.

I used Ebonics as an example. I said that I never "tommed" because "that would imply that anything outside of Ebonics is "not really black" or that black people that know how to handle different kinds of people in various situations are "faking it" and can only be "ghetto."

Harlem Songstress mentioned saying things like "thanks a bunch" and "cool beans." Kenny mentioned "switching accents & dialects" and Miss Ahmad mentioned saying things like "dude" and "awesome," so I'm hardly the only one to equate speech patterns with your question.

Also, I don't take the term "tom" lightly, even for actual "toms" if you will. And again, I have worked in several environments: creative, creative/corporate, corporate, all-black creative, all-black corporate, all-white corporate - so it's not something I just throw out there.

Also, if you don't think that you 'Tom' on the job, then just say so. I felt that the bit at the end of your first message was insulting and self-righteous and that's not necessary

Hmmm, not sure why you would read it as "insulting and self-righteous" (the Langston Hughes quote). I posted it to illustrate that you're not going to please all black people or all white people all of the time. Hughes said it in reference to W.E.B. DuBois taking issue with black writers not presenting a perfect portrait of black life in their work.

As for the "'slacking', 'tomming', 'loafing', or whatever it is black people do on the job." As I've said before, I specifically said "black people" because it is mostly black people on your site. And you are talking about 'working while black' here, right?

Nichelle said...

P- Nichelle: I understand your position - and disposition, and in a perfect world (which we will never have) often times we adapt, and that is not selling out.

I agree with that, but I think it's important to distinguish adapting from tomming.

Cocoa Girl said...

BTW, I am going to have to say that I think the humor of this post was lost on you and that's ok...

This was Langston Hughes??

That will conclude my sermon for this afternoon. You may now return to your regularly scheduled 'slacking', 'tomming', 'loafing', or whatever it is black people do on the job.

Miss Ahmad said...

okay so tell the truth....

which one of ya'll is the spook who sat by the door?!

Nichelle said...

Nope, that was me, as I said in the previous post. If you scroll back up, you'll se that I highlighted the Langston Hughes post in bold/italics.

And I did get your humor, but like I said, I don't use the term "tom" lightly. I think it's important to distinguish "tomming" and "adapting".

There is even an interesting book called "Shifting: The Double Lives of Black Women in America" that deals with how black women have altered their speech, behavior, hair, etc. at work and in their private lives.

http://www.blackwomenshifting.com/

So, while I can appreciate humor, we're going to have to agree to disagree on the use of the term "Tom."

Nichelle said...

LOL@ Miss Ahmad...

T. Cas said...

Damn, I came late and missed the show. I've gotten my Tom on at work by talking about NASCAR and shortening my name and not calling out the white lady who likes to say "off the chain" and "our stats are the bomb".

Cocoa Girl said...

Miss Ahmad - I'm slow today...please help me out...

T.Cas - You are so crazy. NASCAR, huh? I totally can't do it.

Miss Ahmad said...

Cocoa Girl that's your reading assignment 101...The Spook Who Sat by the Door is a must read for all black folks with jobs. It will actually change your life...or at least give you some new blog references:-)

solitaire said...

Why do white folks LOOOOVE to say "that's the bomb", then throw a look to you as if you're supposed to raise your fist?

Miss Ahmad, I've heard of "Spook". I'm going to check it out forthwith.

I've heard a lot about "Shifting: The Double Lives of Black Women in America" and I gotta read that as well! Man, I love intelligent folks (and I love books!!)

For me, being the ONLY sista... I've been in situations where you don't show 'the blackness'. Other than that, I'm pretty much myself at work... not Black, not white, but PROFESSIONAL. Show 'em who's boss, you know? I don't know if I'm supposed to speak in ebonics... but I don't do that at home. Why would I do it at work? I'm Canadian, so I don't have an accent.

But I hear you on 'white-speak', if you want to call it that. Even though, as a Black person, you are speaking the King's English...there are some things that you JUST did not grow up with. I mean, "awesome"? I hear some folks say it in church ("God is awesome!") but, um... I don't use it. Sometimes I'll say "high five!" when something goes well (lmao) or the occasional "woo hoo".

Feh. Adapting, getting along.... but I wouldn't call it 'tomming' or 'cooning'.

solitaire said...

OH yeah, and big time laughs for posting pictures of the Kingpins. MUAH HAHAHAHAHAH ROTFLMAO

Cocoa Girl said...

Ok, I have some new reading...LOL

Soli - Folk act like that in Candada, too?!?!? WTH...where is the refuge?!?!?

Unruly Brown said...

Just came by to tell you there's a new post on my main blog dedicated to you. ;)

Frog Kisser said...

can frogs be toms too?

Cocoa Girl said...

Thanks OCS! You're crazy...

Frog Kisser - LOL! What's up with the Frog stuff?

Knockout Zed said...

This white chick that works for me had the nerve to call something "Ghetto". Now, these saltines know I'm not exactly Mr. Corporate America (shoulder length dreadlocks, anyone?), but I'm usually in white American corporate mode at work.

"What you know about the ghetto?" I ask. She tries to respond "I was just saying..."

I think being me being excessively corporate has led them to believe they might have a house nigga in their midst. That "ghetto" incident happened Thursday. I bet they won't keep making that mistake.

KZ

inciquay said...

I hate to admit it but sometimes when the CEO comes around and asks me something, my voice gets unnaturally high and very WASP-y. I don't even notice it until its too late. I giggle at his lame jokes and say "excellent" after his boring pronouncements. This only happens with him though :-(

Oh and the Spook That Sat By The Door is, as my white coworkers would say: "the bomb"! LOL

jameil1922 said...

sigh. i hate this. 'you rock' is in there. one of the black upper level peeps told this white girl he was going to hurt her if she said "awesome" one more time and she was so scared. I FELL OUT!!

Supa said...

Hey Cocoa. Whoa, I've been out of the blog loop for a minute, and I missed all the funny! :)

This post generated some interesting comments & underlying themes. Another great one, Cocoa-style!

As for moi - I shamefully admit that I have uttered the words/phrases @ the CSS:

"alrighty"
"okey-dokey"
"OH MY GAWD" (Valley Girl inflection)

Why this happens, I do not know...but I gotta get that okey-dokey shit outta my vocab with a quickness. That shit sounds hella goofy. I'm working on it.... :)

Haaaaappy Monday!!

PS - I LOVE the "Spook Who Sat By the Door." I am she. (wink wink)
That movie would be FLY, if redone from a woman's perspective in the 21st century.

Cocoa Girl said...

Zed - I agree that if you're usually in white corpie mode and girly still said the g-word, then they probably do think you're a little, um, House Negro-ish. So sad.

Inciquay - Don't worry. He's the CEO and that's just a part of that fine tactic called kissing a$$. Race aside, everybody (successful) does it.

Jameil1922 - Um, where do you work and live?!?!?! I'm scared for that brother's job and I do not even know him.

Supa - Welcome back! I feel you on alright-y! and okey-doke! I am guilty as charged with those two and more...

1. Awesome!
2. SO! (as in "that is SO not correct.")
3. Totally!
4. Completely!
5. No prob!
6. Hot! (post-Paris Hilton)
7. Omigosh!
8. Perf!
9. Of course!
10. Sure thing!

Lawd...let me stop...

Mocha said...

Great Blog!