By the time we arrived at the courthouse at 8:30 AM, I had already been up for four hours. And thanks to my new NO COFFEE diet, I was also tired as hell. I still managed to dress well, shower, comb my hair and apply some decent color to my face.
Now, based on my experience of binge-watching The People’s Court and the multiple times I’ve been called to Jury Duty, I know there are two kinds of people that go to court: Those Who Dress Professionally and Those Who Don’t. Today there were more people in the Those Who Don’t category… which, based on my aforementioned experience, seems to generally be the case.
Why was I at court? Well, it wasn’t for Jury Duty this time. No, on this occasion I was standing in line waiting to enter the metal detectors of the rectangular, boring-as-watching-cement-dry building as moral support for my friend during her custody case.
It is the first hearing for my friend in what has been a long and agonizing two years of single parenthood. She’s been working two full time jobs to survive and provide. She is educated, talented (gifted in the performing arts), and a really good person. She is smartly dressed for court in freshly pressed, khaki colored slacks and a bright blue button down that makes her skin glow softly and disguises the sleepiness under her eyes. Her hair is swept back into a neat bun and her lips are gently glossed. Her look is put together, smart, and approachable – the woman you would ask for assistance if you needed it, and she is an example to everyone on HOW TO DRESS FOR COURT.
Sure, I’m being a little funny regarding how we present ourselves because there is an abundant amount of truth that we are prone to making snap decisions based on appearances. I’m being 100% honest and I will tell you why:
My friend, I will call her Eve, is outwardly calm, but her insides are a mess. A mixture of anxiety, sadness, fear, and anger are twisted in so many knots that to distinguish one feeling from the other is nearly impossible, and so she has learned to push them down and smile with false calmness and a bit of self-deprecation to help her and me laugh at an otherwise appalling situation. As Eve would say, “I am thirty-something years old and smack dab in the middle of an episode of Sixteen and Pregnant.”
It’s funny, but the truth is even at an age when we have our shit together and we’re in a tenured relationship, we can end up with a father that, “wasn’t ready,” and “doesn’t love us anymore,” and feels that, “ever since the pregnancy you’ve been a Bitch,” and my personal favorite, “you made me cheat on you.”
I guess when I saw him, Eve’s Ex, show up to court in his new weekend casual sneakers (they were pretty great and I want a pair, but are too expensive and not court appropriate), his easy going polo, and his Los Angeles standard-issued-denim (jeans) I knew I, too, was smack dab in the middle of Sixteen and Pregnant. He definitely presented that he was indeed not ready to be a father, however, he did make sure to be escorted into court by a well-dressed attorney.
Well, if you’ve never been to court for a custody hearing, let me give you a brief run down on the flow. First, the Bailiff checks you in and every body else that’s showed up for a court hearing. And Family Court takes place in Civil Court, so you sit and wait and listen to all the folks wearing their F*ck Off graphic tanks and acid washed jeans rant about the “bullshit” restraining order against him/her. You listen when the young woman in her ill-fitting, years old Homecoming dress tells the Bailiff she’s innocent and shouldn’t be there. You eavesdrop on the planned lying between middle-aged sisters against a landlord. And you tear up and worry a little when you look over at your friend, Eve, and see that she’s praying for this to not be happening to her.
At the end of eight hours of mediation, no agreement was reached. Throughout the entire day Eve asked on three separate occasions for a continuance, which the mediator, an Accident and Injury Attorney in this case, denied. The Mediator sent Eve out to sit in the courtroom while he spoke alone to the Ex and his Attorney.
When the Mediator returned to Eve he looked her straight in the face and told her, “Either you give him what he wants or you’ll end up with the cops at your door. You wouldn’t want the police to show up to your home would you? Nobody likes the cops called on them.”
I know this is exactly what he said because I was sitting right beside Eve when he said it. This officer of the court, a court-appointed Mediator.
The Mediator threatened Eve with a call to the police because she asked for a continuance so that she could employ her own legal counsel. She had been blindsided by the appearance of her Ex’s attorney and she had been blindsided when her Ex, who has not seen his child in over a year – electively, asked for sole custody so he could leave California and raise the child in Michigan.
Let me say this – all the under-dressed, unkempt, orally dysfunctional (did I make this word up? You get it), white people that filled the courtroom were treated with respect and never threatened with a call to the police, even though I’m pretty sure with the lies, multiple false allegations, and domestic abuse, there probably should have been some mention of police involvement, but no.
Eve is black. And no, it is not a coincidence.