As parents, leaders and youth continue to choose sides on what has become a controversial subject – that is, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks recent decision to more strictly enforce a longstanding juvenile curfew law – I thought I’d weigh in on the issue as well.
After careful thought and a walk down memory lane, I decided the best way to explain my perspective would be to share two experiences that arose within the McNeir/Baker household that I have never forgotten.
The first incident occurred in Detroit back in the mid-1970s when I was a teenager living with my parents and older sister. The second reflection may be more surprising to some readers because I was well past the age of adulthood.
My formal introduction to curfews came when I was about 14 years old. I had been invited to one of those parties which, if you’d been included on the list, meant you were part of the “in crowd.” You were hip – you were cool – and everything was “groovy.”
Because I wasn’t old enough to drive, my dad offered to drop me off. But, like Cinderella would learn just before she headed off to the ball, I, too, had been given strict instructions. My father, not mincing words, dropped the bomb as I got out of the car and checked my outfit one last time before making my entrance: be ready to leave by midnight.
I tried to explain to Daddy that because of the importance of arriving “fashionably late,” no one who was “anyone” would be there until just before 11 p.m. As for those who were among the most admired, chances are they wouldn’t get there until just before the bewitching hour.
However, Daddy remained adamant and warned me not to make him have to wait on me and make sure I was ready to go when he returned. Surely, he had to be kidding, I told myself, crossing my fingers just for good measure.
I was having a great time and was on the dance floor trying to do the funky chicken or the robot – whatever dances people were doing on Soul Train or on The Scene (Detroit’s televised dance program popular with the Black community).
Suddenly, to my horror, the host’s mother came to the landing of the stairs which led from the upstairs kitchen to the basement where the festivities were being held. The party was started to get super crowded and I couldn’t wait to brag the next day at school, making those who had not been invited feel even smaller than they already felt.
I had to be imagining things but I thought I heard my father’s voice. Could it be? No way!!
Then, I heard it again – three words delivered in his baritone voice, uttered so loudly that I could have sworn he was using a megaphone: DOMINIC KEVIN MCNEIR.
Talk about being embarrassed, mortified and humiliated.
How could you, Daddy, I asked him? His reply was terse: “I’m your father and it’s my job to take care of you, to give you everything I think you may need and above all to make sure you’re safe. So, get your behind in the car!”
Actually, he said a few more things – expletive-laden phrases that I shall not repeat. But you get the point. So, you see, a city-wide curfew was unnecessary in our home. In fact, it would have been irrelevant. I was already living under a curfew – one which remained non-negotiable.
I had a much later experience with the dreaded curfew while visiting my mom more than 20 years later. This time, I was given an extension of sorts until 2 a.m. But she made it clear: “Get home by 2 a.m. or stay out all night.”
I made it home by the skin of my teeth, driving like a madman down the streets of Williamsburg, Virginia.
So, what’s the big deal about curfews anyway? They’ve always been enforced in my family.