When I’m not a happy camper, the look of annoyance is written all over my face. So said, so done at a kid’s birthday party a few weeks ago. Now, I’ve attended my fair share of events with a start time on the invitation that makes me give the poor piece of paper the side eye, because I know damn well the festivities won’t begin on time. But the tardiness of this one was enough to piss me right off and re-think my “blackness.”
After an intense and stressful work week, I had put off a ton of errands to the weekend. The laundry list included, well…laundry, groceries, an oil change, a mandatory trip to the beauty supply store for some hair products, buying the kid a birthday gift, and summer clothes shopping for my daughters. I hit the road early and tried to knock most of the items off my to-do list before the 2pm birthday party. My self-diagnosed OCD began to show itself, as I checked my watch over and over and over again, anxious to get there on time.
2pm, my behind. The little ones and I arrived just before 3, and I felt terrible. We greeted family and friends, and I looked around for the girl of the hour to give her a birthday hug and kiss. The 3-year-old was nowhere to be found. One hour in, and she hadn’t arrived at her own birthday party. I mean, I’m all about making an entrance, but damn! 3:10…3:30…4:00…ok, this is nuts. No party mama, no birthday kid – only a room full of guests who hardly knew each other. Yet, I left a pile of unfinished tasks and drove like a mad woman to get across the city as soon as I could. The kid’s grandmother walked in shortly after 4, carrying the beautiful birthday princess and gave a half-assed apology for being late. Please. Still, no party mama.
My screwface became permanent. My curiosity was peaked. “Where the hell was she?” Well, if y’all have the answer, somebody please let me know. The mother strolled in all willy nilly near 5pm. Even today, I honestly couldn’t tell you why guests were kept waiting for three hours. But besides a handful of us who were outraged and close to leaving the party in protest, many seemed OK with the stunt. Just nonchalant.
Coloured people time aka CP time aka CPT, has become a thing us black folks just accept. It is a term attributed to the belief that people of colour operate on their own sense of time, which doesn’t adhere to the clock. I know that tardiness can happen to anybody (technically, I was also late for the party), but it has become so thoroughly engrained into black culture that we often use the term amongst ourselves. And we use it as an excuse for not being timely as well. So is it a myth? Or has CPT become a fact of life?
Aside from the obvious problems with using the word “coloured” in the 21st century, CPT is not inherently a negative thing. It’s actually an inside joke. I just can’t help but wonder if the joke has been taken too far. To me, it’s a blatant lack of respect for time. Disrespect for MY precious time.
Generally, I’ve grown to accept tardiness in my dealings with black people. But as a person who is NOT typically late to my appointments, when I do show up tardy, is my lack of timeliness attributed to my race? That’s when I wonder if the stereotype is harmful. If CPT equals, “She’s black. She’ll be late” then how can I ever be taken seriously? When is disregarding another person’s schedule acceptable? The stereotype has conveniently transformed itself into an acceptable social norm, however CPT is NOT acceptable to me. Tardiness doesn’t have a colour. It’s not a genetic trait. Consistent tardiness is a personality defect. It makes your friends secretly hate you and avoid making plans with you. And by the way, if you’re working with me, it’ll get your late ass fired.