creative non-fiction: Girl Gang -- Acknowledgements in chronology


Girl Gang:  Acknowledgements in chronology

Michelle Sindha Thomas

Thank you to Mama for being the absolute queen, empress, warrior woman. 

Thank you, Cherie, my baby darling, for keeping my secrets from the very beginning. 

Thank you, Nani, for the lack of fear and lack of sense that opened up a world of adventure for us all.

Thank you, Babyammachi, for your gloom and frigidity. You were the example of what we did not want to become. “Uncross your arms, you don’t want to stand like Babyammachi. Smile when you meet someone new, you don't want to be like Babyammachi.” You were the reason why I never let tragedy devour me, why I chose joy. You were, though, a magnetic pole for us; you were a constant, you were rooted, you were as stable and constant as Nani was changeable. From you, I’m learning the value of quietly, simply, putting one foot in front of the other and pushing through, saving money, leaving a legacy for others to enjoy (responsibly). I’m learning to be quiet and still until the storm passes instead of shaking a lighting rod at God and screaming for release. All things bloom in their time.

Thank you, Aunty, for teaching me that blood is no thicker than water. History need not bind us together. Some partings are mutually acceptable.

Thank you, Mrs D’Agostino, for teaching me not to scuff my feet but to walk with a clean heel-toe.

Thank you, Reena John, for sharing your fascination with Bollywood and making it okay for us to love India as hyphenated American fifth-graders in Chicago. Thank you for encouraging my first crush on Aamir Khan.

Thank you, Corey Lamb, for teaching my mother about mousse and curl cream and how to best address my incomprehensible hair.

Thank you, Aquaneta, for being the single lady Beyoncé sings about, for teaching me a little French, for following your heart to Paris, for making a career of wonderful things like handbags and cheesecake.

Thank you, dear Mrs Berry, for buying my first commissioned artwork and writing two checks:  One to cash and one to frame. You were an angel with the goodness to follow up on your exclamations. I wish I had your optimism. You are still on my shoulder.

Thank you, Maribel, for having so much self-regard even as one of the few Latinas at TF South High School in Lansing, Illinois. Thank you for protecting me from frenemies even before we had a word for them. 

Thank you, Val, for being a pal through time and distance. 

Thank you, Ms Lisa Bouler, for teaching me feminine mystique. You wore the most fabulous clothes to school, quasi-cocktail dresses with gold bows, and always high heels. You loved Prince. You could have been a modern dancer, a fashion designer, or a fairytale princess, but you chose to be a high school English teacher. “When you receive a compliment,” you said, “just smile and say thanks. No one needs to know if your shoes were on sale or but that you’re having a bad hair day. No need to downplay.” You also consistently seated me next to Tom King, which I appreciated. You were a glamorous black teacher on a homogeneous school staff and you taught me how to BE. When I became a teacher, I kept a log of my outfits, aiming never to repeat them in a semester — because I learned firsthand the magic of day-to-day dazzle. 

Thank you, Ms Reina, for always supporting my sartorial experiments, imparting a love of languages and showing me that a schoolteacher could have a social life, a house in Barcelona, and a wardrobe sourced primarily from Plaza Frontenac if she prioritized properly. 

Thank you, Manisha Koirala, for portraying melancholy so gorgeously and providing my teen angst a template upon which to model.

Thank you, JLo, for teaching me to love my bum.

Thank you, Salma, for teaching me to love my skin.

Thank you, Victoria Beckham, for Posh Spice. You are the reason why I could never be compelled to smile for photos in the 90s.

Thank you Ms Singer, Professor Shmigel, Professor Stone for helping me learn respect, for teaching me that prodigy must bow to experience.

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Thank you, Shviger & daughters, for teaching me the need for boundaries and mental self-defense.

Thank you, Dr Nickels, for teaching me to rest my mind and care for my brain, and thank you for respecting my faith. You saved my life.

Big thanks to Barbara for teaching me about finances and legal matters and collecting so much of my art. Thank you for seeing me as a practicing artist when I thought that I was a teacher.

Thank you, Mindy, for loving your Dravidian body and wearing bright colors and showing us that a brown girl can be noisy and funny and the leader of a gang. Maybe you didn't go far enough, but you went further than I ever imagined.

Vogue India, British Vogue, Sabyasachi, MIA, Bombay Electric, thank you for joining Instagram and helping overturn decades worth of media messages dictating standards of beauty that rarely included girls like me. 

Thank you, Beth Plunkett, for taking a chance on an art teacher who wanted to become an English teacher. Thank you, Brandee, for taking a chance on an English teacher who wanted a grown-up Silicon Valley desk job.

Many thanks to Amaka and Flor who saw me through webs of corporate intrigue, cared for me when my face was red and hot, and saw me through to greener pastures, i.e., supported my decision to quit and become an artist (i.e., to run to mommy and splay out for half a year in tropical South India). 

Thank you, Zen, for being my first friend in India and being so enthusiastic about my art.

Thank you, Freja Beha Erichsen, for liking posts of my paintings on Instagram and giving me hope that I’ll be a VIP in Denmark someday. 

Thanks, Zen, for being my only friend in India and understanding when it was time for me to leave my parents to their retirement and begin again in California.

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Saba, Jasmin, Asena, Gracie, Chiny:  Thank you for being my mothers and sisters when mine were far away.

Thank you, Amy G, for being a tough cookie, my favorite type because of that gingersnap sister of mine. You probably didn’t like me at first — but when I passed the authenticity test, you rolled up your sleeves, mopped me up in heartache, held me accountable for resolutions, and continue to align with my side of stories with a fierce loyalty that makes me feel strong and correct.

Thank you, Denise, for everything. Thank you for being a highly sensitive person who values asymmetry in composition, grasps every nuance, communicates with great humor and irony, and carries on 13 conversations in tandem without missing a beat. Thank you for teaching me how to gracefully become an adult, how to rest and cultivate coziness emotionally and in physical space. Thank you for teaching me to see the beauty in growing up and settling down. 

Thanks, Megan, for building an optically diverse team to support your work in art museum education, a bold move even through we live in 21st century San Francisco. Thank you for bringing me back into a field that feels like home, in a capacity that I can sustain. 

Many thanks to Ayesha, Annakiya, Jessica, Megan, Micah, Codi, Jackie, Onyoo, Elizabeth, Letitia, Courtney, Gabi, Lorin, Hannah, Jayla, Joanna, Laysi. Witnessing how you support and promote one another, following all you are learning and accomplishing is my life’s greatest joy.