Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Several months ago, one of us made the mistake of quoting Gary Coleman in Diff'rent Strokes.

Instantly, after saying it just once, both of our children started quoting it. Over. And over. And over. It was one of those times when we cast a sideways glance at each other and sighed. We're trying to do this transracial family thing the best we can. All I needed was my then two-year-old, African-American son going around saying, "Whatchu talkin' 'bout, Willis?" to everyone within earshot. While I certainly don't think there's anything inherently wrong with either of them quoting a television show, I didn't want the world thinking that I taught it to my son to try to be funny. As though he needed to memorize any piece of humor ever uttered by another African-American. But I also couldn't tell them not to say it because of the cultural and ethnic implications.

So they kept saying it. And we kept telling them to, maybe, not say it quite so much.

Over time, without us repeating the phrase, it has completely morphed. They still say it. A lot. It still makes them laugh hysterically. But it's like that game of telephone. Even though it's only been exchanged between the two of them, time has slowly evolved the sentence. Now one of them busts up when the other one looks at him and says, "What are you doing, Lewis?" (Although, to be fair, Matthew can't pronounce his L's so when he says it, it sounds more like, "What are you doing, Woowis?")

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