Not only did he attend school plays, piano recitals, basketball games, athletic competitions, even church once or twice, but it’s also he who drove me to these events. Every time I adopted an attitude, he knew how to put a smile on my face. He picks me up and takes me to museums, the playground or the flea market, teaching me how to choose quality works of art and furniture.
He would take me to candlelight restaurants in Manhattan to expose me to different cuisines and fine dining; he took me to McDonald’s because he knew, after all, that it was my favorite. And if those things didn’t make me glow, he resorted to my most hated tactic: becoming an insatiable ticklish monster, only stopping when tears of laughter streamed down my face.
He was also the only person who never questioned my girlishness. Others would demand that I be “manly” and not be so “girly” in my behavior or interests. Uncle Ronnie, however, owned a barber shop and was the only man I knew who used words like ‘fabulous’ and ‘honey’. He never tried to trample on my innate sweetness; instead, he quietly fed him. He encouraged her by making fun of my impressions of Cher. He protected it by giving me my first summer job as a salon receptionist. He honored it by having my signed Destiny’s Child poster framed, saying they were to me what the Supremes had been to him.
Shortly after graduating from college at 21, my mom and Uncle Ronnie had a big falling out. I won’t share the private details of their discord, but I can tell you that my mother came to me and told me clearly what happened. Uncle Ronnie did the same. Both had different experiences of the situation, and my Uncle Ronnie in particular expressed being hurt.
I’d never seen them disagree on anything, let alone argue, so I wasn’t used to being in the middle. But from my understanding of the parental arguments of those 90s TV shows, the kid always picks a side. Since Uncle Ronnie was my godfather and not my biological father, my choice was clear: blood is thicker than water. I chose my mother and stopped reaching out to my godfather.
At 25, I worked for a fitness company called Flywheel Sports. Our flagship studio at the time was in the Flatiron neighborhood in Manhattan. I often taught classes at 7, 8, and 9, which meant that before my afternoon sessions, I had what we instructors called a “second breakfast” — too early for lunch, but still a full meal because I always ate before my classes and needed even more food afterwards.