Saturday, July 05, 2008

Could I Be Mellowing?


The Chinese bank teller in the peony-colored blouse said, "You got beautiful teeths" at the same moment I said, "What a pretty color that is on you!"

She smiled. "I got many pinks, but afraid wear."

"Why?" I asked.

She leaned forward and cupped her hand around her mouth. "Gay peoples," she whispered.

Oh.

I think she is taking a chance here. How does she know I am not gay? I even wear pink on occasion.

She is waiting for me to respond. It is clear that she will not perform my transaction until I do.

"You're a girl," is what I manage. "It's different."

And I hate myself for a moment.

I find that I carry my soapbox with me less often these days. It isn't up to me to educate others on my convictions because they are prejudices, too. I am prejudiced in favor of certain values like equality for all and deeply believe that I am right, but does that entitle me to inflict my views on others?

In private conversation, yes, I think it does. But on strangers in public places with a line of people behind me, probably not. And it would be pointless as well.

She has her prejudices, too.

Clearly.

I finally understand that I am not responsible for the earth spinning on its axis. For minds and hearts embracing the principles I hold dear. That standing up and being counted does not mean rubbing noses in others' misconceptions, no matter how grievous, like puppies that have peed the carpet.

We all have the right to be stupid in whatever way we choose. But couldn't some of us be a little less flagrant about it?


“Just think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of them are even stupider!”
-George Carlin-

56 comments:

RED MOJO said...

You could be mellowing, but you you were probably right about using restraint in that situation. I would have too.

George Carlin's quote is mind-bogglingly true.

comfortandjoy said...

Heart,

First, I had no idea that pink was an identifying characteristic of gay people!

I'm going to run right out and buy pink additions to my wardrobe.

Secondly, and on a more serious note, maybe, I think you're right. The eloquence of your convictions would be lost, I think, on sweet little bank tellers who use the word "teeths."

Besides, if you truly are mellowing, then you may not have as many convictions to go around.

I need them here to inform and guide me. *smile*

CJ

thailandchani said...

Mojo makes a good point. It's about restraint. Believe me. I struggle with this one daily!

For me, it's worked a bit to realize that everyone has their own path and it's not my responsibility to change everyone's thinking. Maybe that's why I keep a blog. That way, perhaps I can influence people but at least it's voluntary. :)

Confronting people never works anyway. It just ticks them off.

Em said...

I bet you aren't mellowing...just discriminating. That was not the moment. Her preconceived ideas, the line behind you...the deck was stacked.

Other times, I'm sure you would have your say. I hope so!

furiousBall said...

jury duty. that is the eye-opener for me. go sit on what is called a jury of your "peers" the dumb, it overfloweth

On a limb with Claudia said...

Maybe you are accepting that it's not your job to police the world. At least that's what has happened to me. I'm no more mellow - I just put my energies into places I can make a kind difference and don't waste it on silliness.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Mojo,

Her comment was so off the wall and I was so offended by her conspiratorial whisper that I didn't know what to say.

George Carlin was a righteous dude.

CJoy,

Nor did I. I'm glad we cleared that up!

It's strange. The woman has not been in this country long enough to speak English well, yet she has already acquired some dumbass redneck views - in San Francisco, yet.

Don't worry. Running out of convictions will never be a problem for me. :)

Chani,

If I were a gay person, I would have delighted in telling her so but lying to make a point automatically negates it, in my view.

Em,

Thank you for making me laugh. Yes, the deck was stacked indeed and the line was long.

Van,

Yeah, verily. Jury duty and voting booths. The dumb astonisheth me.

Claudia,

I am learning, finally, that sometimes the less I say, the more I see.

You are right about putting your energy where it can make a kind difference. Rebuking stupidity changes nothing and only makes ones target resentful.

Nick said...

That was a complex issue to explain to a bank teller with a queue behind you, so I think you were right to duck it. But if there'd been just the two of you, you could have discussed it all properly. For me it depends mainly on how outrageous someone's behaviour is. If they're being extremely prejudiced I would probably say something, but if it was just a mild slip I would ignore it. Then again, if there were a whole group with the same bigoted attitude I would think twice about confronting them.

There's no point in lecturing unreceptive people but if they seem receptive, why not say something? If they're genuinely unaware of the negative implications of what they're saying, they might actually appreciate being told.

And I don't think believing in equality for all is a prejudice, I think it's just the sign of a civilised society.

seventh sister said...

I wonder what she was afraid of? that gay people will berate her for wearing 'their' color? that people will think she is gay if she wears pink? What a weird thing to say.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Nick,

I was dumbfounded by her idiotic comment, but quickly decided it was not the venue for addressing and correcting social ills.

Call me naive, but I would think that a person who came here seeking freedom and prosperity, the American dream, would know something about negative perceptions of those who are different from oneself and not visit them on others.

Sister,

I'm sure she was afraid that people would think she was gay if she wore pink.

Another case of understanding just enough to be dangerous.

I could have said, "Get a life, lady. Get a brain." But I didn't. I took my deposit slip and left, shaking my head in wonder.

Molly said...

To give her the benefit of the doubt, it has to be difficult to come to this country, knowing only a smidgen of the language. Just enough to understand the gist, but completely zone out on the small print. A little knowledge being, as you said, a dangerous thing, she'd be wiser to listen more, and opine less. The other thing about keeping one's mouth closed is that it's more difficult to insert one's foot.....

Angela said...

I always find myself not quite knowing what to say. If something presents itself, great; if not (which is more often the case) I do my best to keep my mouth shut. ;)

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Molly,

How true. It seems sad for us to import more narrow-minded people, though.

I say that as one whose feet are often in her own mouth.

Angela,

What a novel concept, and one which I have never mastered.

meno said...

We must have a lot of gay newborn baby girls. Who knew?

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Meno,

All of them. Except for the ones who grow up to be bank tellers.

Maria said...

Oh, good grief....didn't you just want to whisper, "I want to kiss you long and hard, pink woman!"?

But, then...she might have fucked up your bank transaction.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Maria,

She wasn't my type.

Say It said...

Its hard to respond when you are caught off guard. Its a girl wearing pink. I'm not sure what message that gives other than of femininity. Not sure why it matters. Baffling.

Pam said...

Great quote by George Carlin.Had the same sort of experience with an aquaintance who twittered that she "didn't know where to look when a gay couple sat opposite me in the train".I just laughed and said "you really gotta get out more...".

Slip said...

I wear pink, my favorite dress shirt for one. Sometimes my formerly white underwear would take on a nice pink in the washing machine. Made me switch to boxers! Is this a Californicate thing?

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Say it,

Yes, it was a tad strange.

Pink is a flattering color for me, so I wear it sometimes. I am a simple person.

Pam,

Your twit acquaintance probably thought it was contagious.

Someday, future populations will wonder how people could have been so primitive in our time. (I wonder now.)

Slip,

Maybe it's a Bank of America thing.

Ian Lidster said...

When I first started in the newspaper business an old editor said to me as a word of journalistic advice: "You cannot underestimate the intelligence of your reading public -- and remember, those are the ones that can actually read." Scary and cynical, but by this point in my life I agree with George C. On the other hand, as a friend said: "I realized I'd gained some maturity when I accepted that if there is a God, I'm not him."

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Ian,

You're not God?

Really???

This changes everything.

Maddy said...

Oh dear me, how very true. Love the end quote too.
Cheers

Sienna said...

It's..it's....

"It's a strange, strange world we live in, Master Jack.
You taught me all I know and I never look back.
It's a very strange world and I thank you, Master Jack." (Spiro D.M)

There are some days Hearts when you just feel like ya wanna head "Into The Wild".........

....and then you realise, oh crap, I'm already in it!

"Pink Moon I saw it written and I saw it say
Pink moon is on its way
And none of you stand so tall
Pink moon gonna get you all
It`s a pink moon
It`s a pink, pink, pink, pink, pink moon" (Nick Drake)

Howzya teeths :)

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Maddy,

I miss George Carlin. I miss basic intelligence. I miss common sense. I miss my pink toenail polish.

Pam,

My teeths? You heard the lady. They're beautiful. And they bite.

rhubarbwhine said...

PInk was the colour of gay men's clothes, here in Australia, during the 80's. It was SUCH a statement to wear pink or be associated. The memories of such a discriminatory time...

Oh - and you are tagged - and awarded!

Franki said...

LOL! I'm thinking you are just lucky she didn't say something critical of you...the Chinese ladies are famous for this. My roommate, when going to get waxed, got, "You too fat! No hurt you not so fat!"

And I, getting a pedicure one day, was wearing pants that had a safety pin holding up the hem. I got, "Oh, you lazy girl!"

WNG said...

"I am learning, finally, that sometimes the less I say, the more I see."

Amen.
Mama G says - 'You do what you can do and that's all you can do'...or maybe it was Popeye. Anyway, the point is what good would saying something have done in that situation? I'm still not at a point yet where I could have kept my mouth shut...but everyone in the line behind you was probably glad it was you and not me there!

The CEO said...

You are correct, as usual. The guidebook was misleading, and the instruction manual was totally incorrect. I am glad you are rewriting them. Thank you. Well done.

Craze said...

We often have to make the judgment call on when, where and to whom we will confront.

ProudMary said...

i think the thing to remember here is,
1) everyone thinks his/her opinion is correct.
2) if everyone went around educating everyone else so we all matched... what a dull, sad world.

Live and let live. It doesn't matter. Only YOU are your responsibility.

Los Angelista said...

I think you handled it as best as you could. There's a time and a place for everything, and who knows, maybe you'll meet that bank teller later and be able to have a meaningful conversation with her.

Actually, those are the moments I wish I could remember to say something like, "Gay? As in happy? Yes, pink is an incredibly happy color for happy people!"

I never can think of stuff like that in the moment though.

the walking man said...

Living in the most racially segregated area of the nation has unfortunately left most people here immune to blatant prejudice. *sigh* It never ends.

jalishouse said...

My mouth gets me in big trouble sometimes with strangers, so I'm making a big effort to just let things go.

It's tough.

witnessing am i said...

The "mellow you" still has more passion and kick and moral strength than a gaggle of goofballs.

Funny how we never seem to say the right things in these situations -- we say too much, we say too little, we don't choose the right words. It is amazing that we are constantly caught off by weird comments like that. I like that we are surprised but wish we could handle things, however, exactly how we would dream of handling them.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Rhubarb,

It's strange how colors take on significance. When I was a child, my mother wouldn't let me wear purple because somewhere, sometime, it was a mourning color.

Thank you for the nifty award. I'll try to earn it by doing the exercise soon.

Franki, you lazy girl,

Most of the manicurists here are Vietnamese. I'm pretty sure they say horrible things about their customers all the time, but since I don't speak their language I can't prove it.

Wng,

It seems that if everyone considered, "What would Mama G do?" regularly, we'd all live sane and gracious lives.

Monty,

It wasn't really maturity and wisdom that kept me quiet - I just couldn't decide if I was more offended or amused.

Craze,

I really dislike confrontation although I have been known to set those feelings aside.

Mary,

Being responsible for me is a full-time job.

I love the fact that in this country we are free to express our opinions. It never fails to astound me what people come up with, though.

Liz,

I'm not sure when the word "gay" stopped meaning "happy," or why it was chosen to mean "homosexual."

Mark,

With such attitudes comes a staggering degree of unawareness.

What state do you live in?

Jali,

Yes, I can see how your mouth could do that. As you know, I totally relate.

David,

Oh, come now. I'm mellow. Like I said. I'm a brand new MELLOW person now, and I'll beat up anyone who says that I'm not.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

You make a valid point, dear lady, but I disagree to an extent.

We share very similar values and morals, you and I, and while I am polite about 'inflicting' mine on other people, I do not hesitate to share them with others in kind and thoughtful ways in order that perhaps the person I am speaking with might broaden their own perspectives when they are shown new horizons without danger of belittlement.

Damn that's a long sentence.

If the kindness doesn't work, then I whip out the soapbox, climb on and shake my fist at the sky in anger and passion.

How does that saying go... something about trapping flies with honey instead of vinegar?
Well, mostly, it's true.

Change her mind, show her with compassion that she is being narrowminded and shallow.

People can't grow and learn if they are not taught.


XO
Scarlett & Viaggiatore

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Scarlett,

And then I would have to change banks. They would see me coming and armed guards would lock the doors. My picture would be circulated in police stations and post offices and even the Jehovah's Witnesses would run screaming from me in the streets, scattering Watchtowers everywhere.

There would be widespread panic and the National Guard would take up permanent residence in my neighborhood. Eventually, the president would send the Marines to my apartment looking for WMD's and salad oil.

It's not worth it.

PeterAtLarge said...

In Buddhist terms, you're to be commended for "right speech." Or, in this case I suppose, right lack of speech. I'd have been tempted by the lie: whisper right back in her ear: "That's me you're talking about, lady." But the momentary satisfaction would be far outweighed by recognizing that I'd only be causing embarrassment, not enlightenment.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Peter,

Nothing closes ears, minds and hearts faster than shame.

And I'm not nearly enlightened enough to show anyone else the way. Which is a GOOD thing because I get to come back again.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

I know better than to drink tea while reading anything you've written.

Pardon me a moment while I wipe off my monitor.

*still snickering...*

Political invasion hmm? You know, this may be a good way to get rid of the skankblossom...

I still think you should submit her name and address to every religious sect in the entire city.
Who knows, she might find a creator and change her nasty ways.


Scarlett & Viaggiatore

velvet said...

Restraint really is your friend when faced with idiocy. After all, nobody thinks that they're wrong. I think that you handled the situation beautifully.

Gayle's Joy In Life said...

I am of the mind that something needs to be said whenever I hear someone expressing prejudice against other humans. No need for confrontation or education, just a simple statement of my thoughts, feelings or opinion.

Though I have had more than a fraction of a second to think about it, I might have said something on the lines of "well, that certainly doesn't bother me. Everyone's cool with me and I like pink!"

You don't have to make her feel wrong (although I agree her opinion is narrow and well, wrong). But it is important, I believe to state what is most inclusive and expansive in the face of what is exclusive and small-minded.

I enjoyed reading the blog discussion - thanks.

Gayle

citizen of the world said...

Ah, well. I think you did the right think. It sounds more like ignorance than mean-spiritedness, and do you really think you could have shamed her into thinking any differently? I think that one would have thrown me, anyway, because what an odd idea about pink!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Scarlett,

Sorry about your tea, and your monitor.

Skankblossom had a major meltdown a week ago when she apparently found a board with a nail in it in her parking space. She hammered on our door and screamed at me to stop fucking with her or she would arrest me.

It went on for quite awhile. If anyone needs asylum in a house of worship, it's me.

Velvet,

Thank you. I really mean it. Thank you.

Gayle,

Thank you for coming by. The comments are always wonderful here, just like the intelligent people who make them.

Citizen,

I was quite surprised at the idea that pink means anything other than that somebody mixed red and white dyes together.

And I totally agree that her comment was born of ignorance rather than mean-spiritedness.

the walking man said...

HiS...Detroit MI

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Mark,

You surprise me. I was expecting a Southern state.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

No apologies, please. It's so worth it to come here, regardless of consequence.

That's awesome that she had a meltdown... did you place said spiked board in a strategic place? I doubt you did, but it would have been lovely.

What do you think of slipping Truffle into Skankblossoms' abode for a brief visit while the slug is away, Truffle could have her own closet loving way wherever she wants and then hurry out before SB gets home.

This is a good use of resources.


Scarlett & Viaggiatore

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Scarlett,

It would be a good use of resources indeed. The piracy in your soul matches my own. I don't want my cat to get any sicker than she is, however.

I may have nudged the board from the pile of junk next to her parking space onto the imprint of her tires on the garage floor. Shit happens.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

God bless you lady.

*GRINS*

And, some of my dearest friends are pirates...
;o)

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Scarlett,

Well, if I did it was only by accident, of course.

Jolly Pegleg Sue

Odat said...

Hey sometimes we just can't help saying what we do.....you never know what you'll strike the right chord with someone.....(then again, you could get killed too!)
Such the dilemna!

Peace

the walking man said...

HiS...About forty/fifty years ago the Detroit metropolitan area began to segregate itself by race. What you have now is a core city mostly black with 32% with below poverty level income.

Now that this segregation is 2-3 generations old it has become a normal state of affairs here. BUT at every opportunity it appears as if the Caucasians outside of the city delight in every bad piece of news to come from it.

The display is most apparent to the outsider when reading the article comments at www.freep.com <==one of two daily papers.

Currently the *ahem* mayor is under indictment for perjury and malfeasance and some members(4 out of 9) of the city council are under investigation by the FBI for allegedly accepting bribes to approve a waste sludge contract. It is these two stories where the vitriol today is most apparent.

My experience is that the Southern part of the US may be segregated in action but it is never in word. People generally live and let live now a days but will stick with their own race except in the cities where there is no animosity on a large scale, the power of a persons money is not diluted by the color of their skin.

It is not so here; the first non-white family that moves into a predominantly white area is cause enough for the forest of for sale signs to appear. Which is why the concrete has tripled from 356 sq. miles in 1950 to near 1000 now.

In this regard only are the massive foreclosure & fuel problems becoming the great equalizer. You can buy a good house in Detroit for under 50k and a rehab for under 10k. White folks are beginning to trickle back after a looooooong absence.

In general MI has been in the dumper for the better part of 15 years. Leading the nation in lost manufacturing jobs, foreclosures and unemployment. Detroit leads the state in all of those areas. At last count there were upwards of 25k homeless here seeking either temporary or permanent shelter. The homeless are regularly counted for census statistics to bolster the population which has decreased by more than one million in the past 40 years, moving Detroit from 5th largest city to 11th or 12th now.

For all of that though there is still much to recommend it.

MsLittlePea said...

Am I missing something here? What does pink have to do with gay people?

Soap boxes get heavy after a while so we need to put them down once in a while. If she had said something just outwardly offensive and hateful then keeping quiet would have probably been harder. But that sounds more like a fear/ignorant comment than a hateful one.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Odat,

Unless one is a real zealot, there will always be situations in which it's unclear what to say, or how much to reveal of our own opinions.

Few issues are worth getting killed for, though.

Mark,

Thank you for the history lesson. Although I've been to the Henry Ford Museum, which was amazing, I don't know much about Detroit except that many of the auto industry jobs were outsourced to other countries with cheaper labor.

When we lived near Nashville, TN, we were constantly astounded by the in-your-face racism, the preponderance of "n" word usage, and by the assumptions of most white people that we shared their views. Since we did not and they were inescapable, we sold our house and moved here.

We gave up a lovely 4-bedroom house on 2 acres of beautiful land with a creek for a small apartment, but it was worth it not to see a steady stream of pickup trucks trailing giant Confederate flags off the backs and spreading their hateful message.

I do believe that if we had lived IN Nashville and not in the country, the social climate would have been different.

I have never understood the desire to live among people who are exactly like oneself, which would be unutterably boring. We can only learn from those whose cultures are different from our own. There is no point to living if we cannot open our minds and hearts to include new ways of thinking and being in the world.

Sweet Pea,

I must have missed that connection, too.

If ignorance were a crime, most of us would be in jail.