Don't Fake the Funk
My Uncle Wimpy used to say it all the time. Wimpy was a cool cat. He's still alive. He's just not cool anymore. He won't mind me saying so. In his words, he has "aged gracefully out of coolness."
But back in the day Wimpy was cooler than the other side of the pillow. Maybe that's where I got it from...ahem.
Anyway, Wimpy wasn't a wimp at all. He was actually a tough guy, and intimidating at 6-foot-7. He was a master carpenter, always with a heavy tool belt around his waist. He used to walk around with two big-assed growling, slobbering Dobermans named Kunta and Kinte, after the character from Alex Haley's masterpiece Roots. And he drove a white '72 Cadillac convertible with fuzzy dice hanging from the rear view mirror.
For years I understood almost everything about Wimpy, except that phrase. Then I finally got it in my senior year of high school.
In a scene reminiscent of the movie A Bronx Tale, where Chazz Palminteri's gangster character gives dating advice to Lilo Brancato's teenager-in-love character, Uncle Wimpy told me at a pre-prom barbecue at my grandma's house "Jamie?" Yes? "Don't fake the funk." It hit me all at once that he was simply - in his cool way - telling me to just be myself and don't pretend to be something I'm not, especially not a "baller," 'cause pretending to be a "baller" never impresses a smart woman.
For the record, I realize if you were raised in certain parts of the country and born before the 1960s, "baller" may have a sexual connotation. But in my generation it's a reference to a flashy person - the guy who has cash to spare, a nice car, a hot wardrobe and all the girls.
So why I'm I doing all this reminiscing? Mrs. B and I were just at the beach and I saw a guy showing off for couple of young women. And I thought it was funny. He was young, and he was trying. I give him credit for that. He was pretending to be a baller, but with self deprecation. So I guess it was OK.
As we left I cracked a joke about people faking the funk and pretending to be ballers. Mrs. B didn't fully get it, so I said I'd point out a better example next time I saw one.
We stopped at the grocery on the way home. And during our brief stop we had the "pleasure" of ending up several times behind a really annoying, really in your face, flashy couple. He was as cavalier as one of the Three Musketeers, gesturing wildly as if telling his girlfriend she should grab anything she wanted, 'cause he was the man. Reminded me of the guy in the bar who loudly announces that he's buying drinks for the two women next to him, 'cause he's cool like that and wants everyone to know. One item after another, this young woman snatched things off the shelves and tossed 'em in their cart. With each item she looked adoringly at this god among men with the apparently bottomless appetite and fat wallet. It seemed like they were shopping for a huge barbecue - not for food to feed starving babies or anything. By the time they ended up at the checkout counter their cart was loaded up like the Clampett's pick-up truck. And once again, we found ourselves in line behind them.
It took the cashier and the bagger 10 minutes to ring up and pack up that car-sized pile of groceries. The braggadocious boyfriend grew cockier and jauntier, and the girlfriend looked more and more adoringly at him. They groped each other like two preacher's kids on a first date.
And then the cashier announced the total: three hundred seventy-something dollars, if I remember right. No problem. Boyfriend handed her a credit card.
One minute. Nothing. Two minutes. Nothing. "Sorry, but it didn't go through," the cashier said.
As a courtesy she ran the card through again. Nothing. The boyfriend tried it himself. Nothing.
The braggadocio came down a notch. Just a notch. The adoring, yearning look faded to one of slight confusion.
A second card. Same result.
Finally, the bagger pushed aside the overloaded cart, and the boyfriend walked away on his cell phone, a credit card in the other hand. I assumed he was talking to the card provider or something. The girlfriend, looking fully confused and a little taken aback at this point, reached for the grocery cart and said something to the effect of "I'll go ahead and take these. He'll be right back." The bagger, bearing a slight smirk herself, shook her head and held the cart with a vice grip. The girlfriend sheepishly stepped back and folded her hands.
As Mrs. B and I got outside finally with our two little bags, the boyfriend was gesturing angrily at an ATM machine that had just rejected his request for cash.
Swagger almost completely gone, he strolled back toward the entrance, presumably to retrieve his girlfriend and go away quietly.
I predict that was a cold evening on the romance front. He faked the funk.