By Joe Ribton
Yesterday we all wrote poems about ourselves as concrete nouns. I cleared my mind, let it run loose, and immediately landed on avocado. Now I had my reasons, when I was a baby my mum always read me a book called ‘The Avocado Baby’ about a child who ate loads and grew really tall. I was a big, lanky, rugby-playing boy who passed 6 foot around age 13/14, the kid you passed the ball to every time because it took the added weight and drag of six of his playground mates around his ankles to stop him scoring a try. I ate avocado so often in my life, often with the biggest of smiles on my hungry face, entirely oblivious to what Dee would say to me when I asked her for a simile about avocados.
“Have you seen those signs: sprinkle raisins or avocado on it and white people will be happy?… An avocado is like white indifference”
My stomach flipped, and my face was awash with shock and horror in equal measure. There’s a very fine line that the middle class cys-gender white man must adhere to in order to try and enact change in society – and that is in no way a complaint. I desperately do not want to be one of those Vice media in your face #woke guy that Sacha Baron Cohen satirised so well in ‘Who Is America?’ I don’t want to be self-hating or apologetic, I was brought up right and know how to be a respectful and loving human. But I also don’t want to be ignorant, and in that moment I felt like I’d unwittingly identified myself as another indifferent white person. Wow, first world problems.
So maybe the avocado IS a big old symbol of white cultural appropriation and the avocado baby I so admired is a ‘Hitler youth-esque’ aryan poster boy for western colonisation of the food industry. So I wrote a poem called ‘The Imperfect Avocado’, wanting to make a grand and complex statement about me not being another indifferent white man, being emotional and being tough. At this point I realised I had condensed this point down to calling myself a gross avocado and hadn’t for a second considered how this sounded. I didn’t want to be self-deprecating or need any sympathy, I want to enact change goddammit. I’ve had an incredibly easy life, with a loving family that – until very recently – was whole. In a way I felt vulnerable and exposed when Dee said the above words to me, and as I write this now I am reminded of my first phone call with Marc when said to me “You haven’t found your voice yet, but you’re experimenting – and that’s good”. So here’s to finding more out about myself – but never the whole shabang, experimenting with a whole new medium, finding my confidence in front of an audience, and enjoying a good avocado.