A Quirky Late Bloomer's Response to Michaela Coel's Chewing Gum
When it comes to trends and the latest cool things, I've always been late to the party. Ever since I was in grade school, I've never quite caught up to my peers. I used to think it was because I was a little younger than most of them, but as time went on, it was pretty obvious, even to me, that the reason had nothing to do with my age.
I was simply a very, very odd duck. No matter how much I tried to mimic my peers and fit in, I constantly kept missing the mark, regardless of what area it was in. Dating, general popularity, clothing, hairstyles, makeup--it didn't matter. My mom's extremely strict Christian sect's* idea of proper upbringing was a big part of that. In a nutshell, that entailed no teen dating, only "respectable" clothing and hairstyles, church three days each week, door-to-door ministry on weekends to "preach the truth," studying the Bible and the sect's publications as often as possible, heavy policing of any music I listened to, and no "worldly" aspirations/friends/desires.
All sexual acts before or without marriage were definite NO's and considered unclean sins. Sins that got adults as well as teens in trouble with the church elders. So all of that combined with my mom's old-fashioned ideas of child-rearing made for one seriously socially-awkward adolescence that honestly, still haunts me to this day. No kidding. My only saving grace was that I was in the art club, which sometimes gave me an excuse to be a fish out of water.
So when I finally hopped on the Chewing Gum train, I was both amazed and slightly embarrassed by how much I can relate to Michaela Coel's brilliantly strange character, "Tracey." At 24 years old, I'm still learning how to interact normally with my peers. I started my quest for social normalcy my freshman year of college, after declaring my disinterest in becoming a member of the sect's church.
But unlike Tracey's overzealous pastor mother, mine was disappointed, but ultimately understanding of my decision to veer from the path she'd hoped I'd come to love and follow.
Tracey's journey to exploring and discovering her sexual desires mirroring my own made me happy. It's rare to see a show that embraces a quirky black woman and even more rare to see one that has her as the main character. It was nice to be able to connect with a character whose awkwardness and naiveté made me go, "Yeah, I remember being confused about that same thing!" and "Yep. That was me, too." Like Tracey, I made a lot of embarrassing mistakes that I can look back on and either laugh at...or cringe at 'til I forget about 'em again.
Being able to feel like you're not some abnormal creature and you're not alone in the struggle to navigate certain aspects of life is awesome. And that's not something you find often in media--especially in TV shows. So I'd like to thank Michaela Coel for this gem because not only does Chewing Gum deliver a seat at the table for every quirky, socially-awkward WOC out there, it leaves open spots for those in other marginalized groups as well. (Intersectionality. 'Tis a beautiful, beautiful concept. Wish more areas of media adopted it.)
If you're like me and perpetually late to, well, damn near every party, you need to go on Netflix and watch Chewing Gum ASAP. While you're doing that, I'll be here, patiently waiting for Season 3.