When I would see Sharon at the club and we’d be working together, she was a confident, intelligent, and very strong woman. This was a woman who could handle a crowd of drunks trying to grab her ass in a dark club like a pro. She was no shy wall flower. Nor was she some kind of cowering little mouse either. Actually she was a bit of an iron flower from what I’d seen of her in action.
But when I watched her out with Nick that day at Sambo’s, it was like watching something out of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. For one thing, she sat on the inside of the booth so that Nick had her boxed in. He actually started telling her how he had approved of her clothing, hair and make-up like there was some kind of dress code she had to live up to in order to be with him. He would literally tell her what to wear daily.
She even asked him if she could go to the bathroom like she was a child, and he said no. He didn’t feel like getting up right then, and she just accepted it. Reminded me of my time in EST where the whole point of the seminar was to force you to refuse to let people tell you that you couldn’t pee when you wanted to. Sharon was clearly one of those who would pee on themselves in the EST seminar while no one was actually really blocking them from the bathroom.
Nick didn’t even ask if Sharon wanted steak for her dinner, or even how she liked it cooked. He ordered what he wanted to eat and fed her scraps off his plate like she was his pet dog. I hadn’t seen anything like it really since I’d watched the way my mom had catered to my dad as I was growing up. While we were all talking, and I was talking back and forth with all of the men at the table freely, Sharon wouldn’t look anyone in the eye. That was another “rule”, if you had a man, you didn’t look another man in the eye or that was “out of pocket”. Meaning your man didn’t have proper control over you.
Nor would she speak to anyone, not even me, unless Nick told her it was okay. The only time she’d say anything was if Nick asked her a direct question. I felt like I was watching some kind of strange marionette show with Nick pulling on Sharon’s strings. Sharon had no wallet on her because she carried no money. Any money she did make, was turned over to Nick every night. I realized then I’d never seen her carry a wallet, or money for that matter, when her and I were out somewhere.
I could see her with a wad of cash at night, but the next morning if we were out together, I’d have to even buy her a soda or something because she never even had so much as a $1.00 on her. Every penny she made was turned over to Nick. Not like Nick and her were married either so I didn’t get it. I kind of understood it out of my mom because she was married to my dad, so I didn’t understand what was up with Sharon.
This woman didn’t even have a few bucks of her own to buy a pack of cigarettes despite all the money she was making. The thing is that it wasn’t just strange, but what was even stranger because this was not the Sharon I would see when we’d work together. With her out of the club, and Nick next to her – she was being completely subservient in every conceivable way.
Even down to not looking anyone in the eye, nor being allowed to even speak without Nick giving her consent to do so first. When I asked her directly if she was going to be at this family BBQ I was being invited to, she literally looked over towards Nick as if to say, “Can I answer that?”
Actually, she didn’t answer me. Nick told me that “everyone in the family will be there – including all the bitches” to answer for her. So she wasn’t just being treated like a dog, she was being called literally a female dog by her so called “man” when he’d call her “bitch” instead of Sharon, or even “honey”. Come to think of it, all I’d ever heard Nick call Sharon was his “bottom bitch”. Rock would tell me it was “normal” for the men to call all their women “bitches”, but it didn’t mean I liked it one bit.
To each his own I guess I thought. As they got up to leave Sambo’s, Rock asked me to please pick him up about an hour early because he needed to talk to me in private before we went up to the BBQ. I’m not sure why he couldn’t talk about whatever it was he wanted now, or even on the phone, but I agreed.
That’s when I realized that Rock never called me on the phone. Every boyfriend I’ve ever had, even male friends – would call me on the phone when they wanted to talk to me. I realized in that moment he not only never called me, he never even wrote me so much as a note on a piece of paper.
Hell Rock wasn’t even his real name at birth. Everything about this family, including Nick – was an ingrained culture of not leaving any clues behind that could be traced. You didn’t talk on the phone because you could be recorded. You didn’t write notes because your handwriting could be analyzed. Everyone also had a nickname so that no one knew your legal name that would show on your drivers license. These were all some of the “rules of the game” I later learned to explain why Rock was acting like this.
In fact, that’s when I realized I didn’t even know what Rock’s birth name was. Here he is living in a nightclub, and he doesn’t own a car or even a bike. His life is structured so if he were to disappear, I wouldn’t even know where, or who to look for. He didn’t have any identification I’ve ever seen, or a home address for that matter. He’s not listed in the phone book. I didn’t know his legal name, his birthdate, or even his social security number yet this guy is asking me to move in with him. Yeah, I think him and I needed to sit down and have a good long talk.
I told him I’d pick him up at the club about an hour early like he asked, and we gave each other a hug and kiss goodbye. I went back to work, but I kept thinking about the way Sharon had acted so strange now she was outside of the club with Nick as I’d just seen.
I mean I understood that an African American family from Texas (they’d come to the valley from Dallas, Texas was the story I was told), was going to act different socially that this white girl (look white anyway) from the valley.
But to me this was like I’d landed on mars or something. I couldn’t help but think back to those science fiction films where the human is trying to teach the alien what a kiss or ice cream is. But I was soon to learn that I had truly no idea how different these people were from me on every level.
Remember, I’d been studying various alternative healing and metaphysical kinds of things from Dr. Bombay for years by this time. One of the things he had started to teach me was about Neuro-Linguistic Programming. This is based on the premise that the brain is like a computer, and as such you can program the software on this computer any way you wish. NLP believed mental illness was like a glitch in the coding, which could be fixed by changing the programming. It evolved out of Gestalt, which the simplest way I know how to explain that NLP is like hypnotizing someone while they’re completely conscious.
It was invented in fact by two men – one of who was a computer programmer, Richard Bandler and John Grinder. NLP began when these two men modeled patterns of language and behavior from the works of Fritz Perls, Virginia Satir and Milton H. Erickson, M.D. The first 'techniques' of NLP were derived from key verbal and non-verbal patterns Grinder and Bandler observed in the behavior of these exceptional therapists. Bandler and Grinder's first book was titled The Structure of Magic. The implication of this title was that what seemed magical, and unexplainable, often had a deeper structure that, when illuminated, could be understood, communicated and put into practice by people other than the few exceptional 'wizards' who had initially performed the 'magic'.
This is kind of a fancy way of saying they didn’t just address the conscious mind, but included the subconscious mind when trying to change people. If you’ve ever seen a magician or mentalist’s stage act, then you’ve probably seen where they’ll take some huge leatherneck on stage, and then convince him he’s a ballet dancer. The audience roars with laughter while this huge macho dude flirts around the stage like a prima ballerina – completely believing that he’s a dancer.
The audience can even stand him in front of a mirror and he can SEE he’s not a female ballet dancer, but he will continue to believe he is no matter what his eyes may be telling him. Then the magician snaps his subject out of it. The poor guy will have no memory of what’s just happened, and wouldn’t even dream of acting like he’d just acted “in real life”.
Bandler and Grindler developed ways of changing our programming. They even believed they’d found a cure for many so called “incurable mental illness” using NLP techniques. Tony Robbins was one of their students. Tony later made his fame by traveling around the country showing how he could cure anyone of a phobia in 30 minutes or less using these techniques.
I don’t know how to explain NLP simply other than to tell the story of how the founders proved their ideas worked. When they were ready to challenge the traditional psychology field itself to prove their theories, Bandler and Grinder went to a mental hospital for the hopelessly insane. They asked to be given their most incurable cases so they could fix them in a matter of hours without drugs, or things like electroshock treatments.
One of the first patients brought to them was a man who had believed he was Jesus Christ for years. Nothing anyone had done could convince this guy he wasn’t Jesus Christ. Well clearly someone believing this can’t get a job, support himself, or even rent an apartment for himself. Leaving this poor guy wandering the halls of this hospital insisting he’s Jesus to anyone who would listen.
So Bandler sets up a meeting whereby he’s called into the office with the two of them. Grinder is acting as the therapist, and Bandler is now sitting in another chair across from this man. When he enters the room, he’s introduced not as Richard Bandler, but instead as “Jesus Christ”. Well that hadn’t ever happened to this guy before, so he starts arguing how that’s “impossible because HE’S Jesus Christ”. Bandler argues back that’s “impossible because I’m Jesus Christ and you’re an imposter”.
This is the first time that this poor guy hasn’t had everyone trying to convince him he’s not Jesus and in fact they start arguing over who is the “real” Jesus Christ. Think about how many times, over how many years, and how many people have tried to convince this guy he’s not Jesus. For every encounter, he’s had to INSIST that he “is Jesus Christ”. Essentially further
anchoring him in this belief even deeper with every argument.
Only now he’s been put in a position where he’s trying to convince Bandler he’s not Jesus. In the midst of this heated argument, suddenly the guy goes, “This is crazy”. Bingo. Cured.
To try and simplify what NLP is, it’s kind of the science of how the brain operates. How you can program, or even brainwash, the brain into believing what you want it to believe, as well as how to “undo” these belief systems. Through a series of techniques that NLP teaches, the practitioners can cure any phobia, remove anxieties, or basically plant, or even undo, belief systems.
I’m talking about this because as you learn more about NLP, you also learn what brainwashing, and even deprogramming, looks like. If you’ve ever seen a big football guy dancing around the stage under hypnosis acting like he’s a prima ballerina despite all evidence to the contrary you show him – then you have an idea how a beautiful, intelligent, loving woman can truly believe that she can’t exist without giving some man who treats her dirt. Even how she’ll be totally convinced that this man loves her, while everything he’s actually doing to her is destroying her. When someone believes something that strongly that’s without any basis in reality, that’s brainwashing.
Because as I’ve been learning about NLP for a few years now under Dr. Bombay, I’ve come to know what this kind of brainwashing looks like. I’ve come to know what it sounds like when this messed up wiring is telling this lovely woman that this man actually loves her – while everyone around her can’t understand why she can’t see that he’s exploiting and abusing her. It’s the same type of techniques that a mentalist uses on the stage, that a pimp uses of these victims. As I’ve been learning more about this, I’ve also come to know what this brainwashing sounds like in someone. Which is why I’m recognizing this in Sharon.
An example of a technique to “plant” a false idea in someone’s mind is to first “overload” the system like you would overload a computer program to cause it to crash. Then while the mind, or the computer program, is in a suspended state where it’s not moving forward, or putting up it’s proper defenses, you then “plant” the false idea in it you wish the person to have so as to take root such as the idea they need you. That you’re more important than life itself.
It’s because I am learning about NLP with Dr. Bombay, that I know not to try and argue with women like Sharon because I know it’s no different than the Jesus Christ example. The more I try and tell her he’s no good for her, she needs to leave, someone better out there exists for her that will love her for real – the more I know that’s just going to anchor and deepen this wrong programming in her just as it did the Jesus Christ guy.
Let me illustrate this idea with another story about one of these hopeless maniacs that Bandler and Grinder experimented on in that hospital to prove their theories. The infamous story in NLP circles is called the “Word Salad” case. It’s called that because some people just babble nonsense words, like a “word salad”. One of their test subjects was a woman who had been talking in gibberish, or word salad, for years. All of her other therapists had tried to get her to talk “normally”, and in defeat just gave up on her.
So Bandler sits down next to her in the hallway of the hospital as she’s babbling away, and to create rapport, he starts mirroring her. Meaning he starts by posturing himself as she’s postured. Her leg is crossed, so he crosses his leg. She’s sitting down, so he sits down facing her so he’s mirroring her position. Then as she’s babbling a word like “carrot”, he says the word “carrot”. Using the same tone, rhythm, breathing pattern, he mirrors everything about the word salad lady who is just talking pure nonsense words.
After he’s created the rapport he’s seeking, he then tries “leading” her to see if that now they’re in sync with each other. So she’ll say something like, “carrot stick dog” and he’ll repeat, “carrot stick dog”. He does this until he’s sure they’re linked up in rapport with each other.
Once rapport is established, then he sees if he can now “lead” her behavior. She says, “carrot dog stick”. He responds, “carrot dog – my name is Richard”. To his delight, she repeats, “carrot dog – my name is Richard”. Now he’s leading her, he starts guiding her into putting together a conversation.
A few times she’ll go back to saying, “carrot”, but he just keeps building rapport, then leading her to the desired behavior – while also “anchoring” the desired behavior with a reward. Now I know this sounds a lot like how dogs are trained, but dogs don’t speak English. The subconscious mind is therefore a lot like a dog. The words aren’t as important as the tone, the energy, and the rewards for good behavior leading to a repeat of that behavior.
In the “word salad” case, Bandler got the woman to actually start speaking just like everyone else by continually rewarding her when she’d exhibit the desired behavior, while also punishing her when she’d start babbling again.
Now you’re probably wondering why I’ve gone into this whole lesson in NLP right before I talk about the family BBQ. But you need to understand that I’m taking these classes in NLP and learning about such things as brainwashing, or programming, is accomplished in people – I’m now being introduced into Rock’s family system. When children are growing up, parents “program” their kids. It’s also in children’s hard wiring to model the behavior they’re seeing around them as they’re learning how to view, interact and interpret the world.
When I went to see Rock early that day so we could talk, he asks me to sit down. It’s clear he’s about to tell me something important. I can tell he’s trying to open himself up to me by telling me how he’s the “black sheep” of the family because he really doesn’t want to be a pimp like Nick, or any of the other uncles. To his family, that makes him someone who is going against the family wishes. In some families, they expect all of the men to grow up to be doctors or lawyers. Only in Rock’s family, the men are expected to be pimps. Only those who don’t “have talent for the game” are then relegated to being drug dealers as that doesn’t take any real intelligence or game.
Also, the relationships the women have with these men is different than anything I’ve seen because it’s based on the “pimp whore” relationship. One that is coming out of a family who is African American, with roots in their ancestors having been slaves. A family where little girls are literally raised from birth in the “game”. A set of values that’s not unlike being in a Romanichal Travelers family, or even a Jewish family. A family that views anyone that’s not like them as “outsiders”. He explains to me that this has been the family dynamic for generations.
“Why are you telling me all of this now?” I’m asking him because I can’t help but feel he’s prepping me for something.
“Because you can’t go into this BBQ thinking we’re like everyone else you’re used to Jody, that’s why.”
Rock explains further that I’m considered an “outsider” if I act “normal” at this BBQ in other words. As will he. What he proceeds to tell me is that while he would like me to come to this BBQ with him, and meet his family, as well as become a part of his family one day officially, that if I don’t agree to act like them, and try to learn to be like them, that not only will they refuse to accept me, but they will in fact reject him as well.
As I’m trying to wrap my head around what he’s saying, I ask, “Are you saying this is like if I were to want to be in a relationship with a devout Jewish man, while I’m a Catholic, that what I need to do is to act like I’m agreeing to convert to Judaism, and then try to adapt and model myself as if I am learning how to be Jewish in order to fit in with your family, and keep you from being rejected as well?”
“Yes that’s it. I’m not asking you to be like the women in my family. I don’t want to be like the men in my family. But when I’m at a family function, out of respect for everyone I try and act as if I’m one of them, and I need you to ACT like the other women” he explains.
“Are you asking me to act like Sharon, and you’re going to be acting like Nick - and that you want me to put on this charade with you? Is that what you’re asking me to do?”
I listen to Rock explain to me that he doesn’t have enough money yet, nor even a different job – where he can just walk away from the family right now. Nor can he afford to try and buck the family system either because he’s afraid they’ll shut him out. He asks me straight up, “Where would I go if they turn me out on the street? Your mom going to let me come and move in with y’all?”
Well he’s got a point there. I’m hearing his dilemma of what would he do if the family were to reject him being as he hasn’t finished school, he has no car, no other job, no other place to live than the club – and basically he’s totally dependent on the family right now. If he were to buck the system, offend the family, or even outright reject them – what would he do for basic food and shelter?
I felt a total connection with him as he’s telling me of this dilemma because I know full well that I’m having to be a chameleon myself at my home to keep my mom calm and sedate for the same reasons. I’m not prepared to find myself out on the street tomorrow either by standing up to my mom either. At this moment I realized why Rock and I were so drawn to each other – we’re both having to be imposters just to keep the family peace. At least until we’re able to leave the situation and become independent.
On one hand, I could be really insulted here because what he’s telling me is that he wants me to go into this family event and act like I’m just like Sharon. That he’s my lord and master, and I’m supposed to lick his shoes while he treats me like a dog. But on the other hand, he’s telling me he doesn’t want me to be like this in “reality” because he doesn’t want a woman like his family has. So I’m also flattered he’s telling me that I’m important enough to him to be asked to put on this act.
I think to myself that really all teenagers are acting like their parents want them to act until they can get themselves moved out, so this isn’t really any different of a thing he’s asking me to do than any other teenager might who are our age. I laugh when I realize that if he were to come to my house and treat me like Sharon in front of my mom – how all hell would break loose. Heck, my mom would throw him out of the house if he tried acting like Nick in front of her towards me.
So yes, I’m understanding what he’s asking me to do. Besides, now my curiosity is up. I told him I’d back him up and we headed up to the BBQ. I thought it was just going to be like how every family is different. I had no idea what kind of culture shock I was about to walk into.
We arrived at the house and it’s packed with people. The only white people there are the young girls. There are older women there who are clearly the matriarchs and grandmothers. The men are all sitting in the main living room. This was a huge sunken room with a large couch that circled the room. You can see the view of Los Angeles out of the glass wall that’s in front of them. Their living room is about twice the size of mine. You can’t tell how huge the house is because it’s covered by the hedges blocking any view of it from the street.
The kitchen is alive with the young girls doing all of the cooking. The older women are in the dining room being waited on by the younger girls. I can’t count how many children there are darting in and out of the house. Most of the children are under the age of four, and biracial. There’s picnic tables set up in the back yard that is actually off to the side of the house. All kinds of toys are outside to keep the kids busy. There’s a couple of BBQ’s going with women doing all of the cooking.
I’m just trying to be quiet and blend in by modeling what I’m seeing around me. Rock quickly parts from me to join the men, while I’m thrown in with the younger women to help with the cooking, and also trying to keep track of the kids. I can’t help but notice how well dressed the young girls are. That and decked out with jewelry. I’ve never seen a four year old with diamond earrings before, certainly not actual diamonds in her hair either. They’re also wearing expensive designer clothing. The boys are clean and neat, but the girls seem to not only be blinged out, but some even appear to have make-up on.
I don’t know if it was curiosity to see what I was doing, or what exactly but I notice Larry and Weldon are the only two men who wander outside to sit on one of the picnic tables. I’m sitting there peeling peas in a bowl I was handed to help with the cooking. Rock comes outside to have a cigarette and I see him standing by the door watching us from a distance.
Weldon spots one of the little cousins who appears to be about four years old and picks her up. He puts her on the table top and comments on how pretty she is. I can’t help but notice this little girl is wearing more real jewelry than I even own. Her mother obviously spends a lot of money on her appearance. Music is playing in the background, and when she’s put onto the table top they start clapping for her to dance.
As she starts dancing, Weldon and Larry both reach into their pockets. They pull out change and start giving her a quarter for a dance. Each time she dances especially well, they are literally tipping this toddler while complimenting her on how pretty she is, or her dance moves. The look of horror and shock must have been apparent on my face because Rock comes over to me, leans over and asks me to take the peas into the kitchen. He’s obviously trying to get me away from the dance scene. As he’s leading me away, I’m seeing other little girls also being given money as rewards like tips. What I found even more shocking was watching how the little boys were watching this exchange between the adult males and the little girls.
I put the peas down on the kitchen counter, and luckily at that moment the kitchen is empty. Rock already knows what I’m thinking and he just starts explaining to me that the girls and boys in his family are taught from an early age that “money talks”.
“Rock, you’re telling me these little girls are literally being raised to be prostitutes, and what’s worse is the boys are taught that’s what little girls are”, I’m muttering to him in shock and disgust at what I’m seeing.
“That’s what I was trying to tell you. This is the way we’re raised Jody. You aren’t black. You have no clue how we have to get by in this world so you’re in no position to judge us.”
This is when I get angry. “Oh so this is where I hear the speech about how I don’t understand the struggles of the black man in modern America is that what you’re trying to say? I got news for you Rock, EVERYONE has some cross to bear if they aren’t thin, white and rich. I get just as much grief as you do because I’m overweight. Others get it for being disabled, or too short, or even if their broke or ugly. But that doesn’t mean you raise your little girls to be prostitutes or boys to be pimps from birth Rock.”
I wiped my hands with a hand towel and then symbolically threw down the towel on the kitchen counter. I liked Rock, but I had no intention of getting myself involved any further with a man where if we got married would mean I was going to be raising our future children in a family system this fucked up. I turned and looked at Rock and realized I had no idea how deep of roots this family had messed up in him even. I knew my family was dysfunctional and the way I’d been raised was wrong. But it was clear to me this family had a whole other system they felt was right that was so dysfunctional they didn’t even know it was dysfunctional.
It was in that moment the whole thing just seemed more than I could wrap my head around. The whole thing – the drugs, the prostitution, the whole family dynamics, this whole culture whose roots went down the generations – I felt like I had my hands full just getting through the day without taking on what was going on with this whole family.
I kissed Rock and said I just needed to leave. He knew I was leaving more than the BBQ, but checking out completely. I just couldn’t imagine marrying Rock, having a child, and putting that child into this family system I’d just witnessed. He asked if he could walk me to the car. He didn’t ask me to stay because he could tell I just was on overload with everything I’d seen.
When I left, I didn’t think I’d ever see any of these people again. I wasn’t really leaving Rock as much as I just couldn’t see myself as part of that family. We were just worlds apart – or so I thought anyway.
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