Monday, August 25, 2008

some things don't get better with age

I've been stared at by a broad range of individuals in several regions of the country. It could be my hair (even my friends make fun of it). It could be my facial piercing. It could be my androgynous features and way of dressing. Maybe people are trying to answer questions like "is that a dead squirrel on her head? or his head? or wait, her head (his head?)??" Wherever the confusion originates, my point is, I've had many an eyeball boring into the back of my head.

And that's usually where it ends. Very rarely does anyone verbalize their inner debate or disagreement, with the exception of small to medium sized children who haven't learned the social grace of waiting until you get out of ear shot. Today was a rare day.

The sauce and I were in line at the grocery store, and as the register dinged through our items, I could feel the man behind us staring at me. I tried to get a bead on just how much he was staring by casually turning back towards the magazine rack. We're not talking about a sideways glance here. I'm talking about shoulders facing forward, full on gawking. I made very brief eye contact with the man (white male, early 70s) as I turned back towards the clerk. This apparently made him feel like we'd bonded because a second later he said, "You know your thing there looks a little infected." At first I thought he was genuinely concerned or possibly making a joke. I've had older men take paltry stabs at piercing humor that involved fishing lines jokes and "did you know there's something on your chin?" So I muttered something about how it was fine, but thanks, and turned away from him, but he wasn't finished.

"My son's a doctor and he's had to remove half of someone's face before! You could lose your face!" and he made a dramatic swipe of his right cheek. (The exclamation points are because he was on the verge of yelling) Now more people are staring, although I was comforted by the fact that half of them were staring at the old coot raising his voice.

"You know, you feel good about yourself by earning things. You work hard and you earn things. THAT's what makes you feel good." He may have leaned in for emphasis at this point, but I lost all ability to see anything except the canned goods directly in front of me, so I can't say for sure.

"Oh look, she has some too [looking at charrow as she bagged our groceries]. Oh and there's one in her nose. What about your tongue? You got one in your tongue too??" He may have been gesticulating at this point, but all I could focus on was punching in my PIN and waiting for the "Approved" to show up so I could get my receipt and run.

"You need to ask yourself where you're going in life!"

To which Charrow replied "You need to ask yourself if this is any of your business!" And then we left, seething and wobbly from the overdose of ignorance. We got home and went to our respective corners, her to the kitchen to make gazpacho, and me to the couch to finish my writing assignment. Thirty minutes later, Charrow said, "I'm still really angry." (even as she's proofreading this, there's no laughter)

After today, I may have to add elderly white males to the list of populations that hasn't advanced past the "You think it, you say it" mentality. I know it would be more fair (and valid) of me to wait for further evidence, but it's not the kind of research I care to conduct. I'll stick with the cold hard stares of 12 year old girls in the pool locker room. At least they're easy to forget.


Spinning Ninny said...

i mean, he has a poorly constructed point. i think everyone should ask themselves challenges questions about their lives.

strangers, however, should not feel at liberty to ask other strangers challenging questions. they shouldn't feel that your facial piercing and squirrel produce reasonable doubt that you may be (mostly) normal.

the generation gap is increasing, but those folks won't be around forever...

ps - since you're getting're gonna get there too someday. and you'll be challenging folks in the hover-craft lanes of the highway about why they brought the 80s back...

ester said...

on the eve of Birfday, too! some people have no manners. don't worry, he'll probably still be muttering as he gets in his car and he'll shift into Reverse instead of Drive and end up hugging a lamppost. and with his dying breath, he'll say, "why wasn't I more polite to that nice young gender-indeterminate individual in the supermarket?"

courage: soon you will be in NYC where no one stares cuz there's too damn much to stare at.

elsabelle said...

I second Ester's comment. (But I did laugh when I got to the part about Charrow telling the old geezer off. Classic.)

Steve said...


Well, maybe not ALL elderly white males -- one hates to generalize -- but this guy definitely sounds out of control.

Laura said...

I never came up with a decent response to this because there is no decent response to it, except for the assclown to say he's sorry and terribly out of line. I hate how if you don't look like you stepped out of the appropriate section of the fucking J. Crew catalog, you're only worthy of stares and statements--you're public property, basically. And are piercings comment-worthy because of the misconception that people get them because they want attention? And with a few exceptions, I don't trust white males o any age, at all.