I just got home from work (a seven hour shift, which is long for the theater at which I work), and I’m blasting Michael Jackson’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 on headphones (“Wanna be startin’ somethin’ / You gotta be startin’ somethin’…”) and feeling like I want to write. So here I am. Waxing poetic.
I want to rant about people a little. As anyone who works in a service or retail job knows, people suck. This is augmented for me by the fact that I don’t like people, my smile always feels fake, and I loathe ghetto trash and trailer trash. (And who comes to a discount theater?) Although I will take trailer trash over ghetto hoochies any day. So call me a black redneck, hell, I’m from Texas and fancy myself on the way to a good edjumakashon. What the hell do you expect.
Le premier problème (issue): Obvious racism. I’m working next to hunky-boy yesterday, and not only does every single black youth in the friggin’ place come up to me, but this one guy, a white guy sporting a North Face jacket and Rockports is walking towards my register (there are no lines at all), looks at me, squints a little (giving my frumpy self a waist-up once over), looks at the clean-cut, Boy Scout, Mormon hunky-boy, and swerves right over to him. He bangs his fist on the counter jokingly and says, “What’s up, my dawg?” in that “wow I sound white” voice. Hunky boy chuckles and mutters to me, “See, it’s because I’m white. It’s that race thing.” The dude orders a popcorn and a drink, and hunky-boy asks me to get the popcorn (as is customary for the person with no customers). I look directly at the customer until he looks at me (I can have a very direct and attention-getting stare, I am told). I lift an eyebrow and he turns a delightful shade of red and glances away from me. I turn and fix his popcorn, with him watching me carefully the whole time. I got the distinct impression that he didn’t really want me fixing his popcorn… I’m not the sort that sees racism everywhere, because I have noticed that if you look for it, you find it. In spades. And I would rather spend my time angry over smaller, more personal events than a society-wide issue that I can’t change right now, myself. That may sound petty or delusional, but I don’t deny the existence of racism in America (remember, I am from Texas), but neither do I choose to go around looking for reasons to be pissed at the world and pick fights. It’s all in the choices. And I am honest enough to know that I am racist myself, and believe that everyone is. My reasoning? People want to be around what is familar and clump that way socially at work, school, in habitat, and at parties. In the absence of other information about a person, what is there? Physical appearance. Note that thin people tend to hang together. Also note that in groups (at Harding at least), while there are, of course many mixed groups, among freshmen (who often know very few people at a high school), race is a major factor, seconded by clothing/evidence of socioeconomic status. In the absence of other information about me (I wear the same dorky uniform as others at work, and slouch on the register just as much as they do), black people, even middle-aged and especially older people, will gravitate towards my register. Out of uniform, wearing my tattered jeans, my Kik Wear jeans, my chains, or my Tool shirts, I find myself not so approached. I still slouch as much as I did behind the counter, and I am dressed no differently than the folks by which I am surrounded. My sadistic spirit loves to shock the younger blacks with their “Hook a sister up” attitudes by being cold, frosty in fact. They expect favors and receive none. This isn’t a fucking affirmative-action business. Go get some goddamn money. You pay $4.50 for a bag of popcorn like everyone else. My father was friendly with the ladies, but I know I’m not your sister.
Le deuxième problème: Body Images, and problems therein. I went shopping with my buddy (called “La Chicka” here) recently, and we started talking about a friend of hers, with whom I am acquainted. La Chicka is a average-sized girl (or should I say a healthy sized girl), is about 5′ 8″, and wears about a 12/14. I am considerably larger (ha, no size info here, my own mother doesn’t know what size I wear). Her friend is also considerably larger (although not as large as myself), and I would place her at at least a 16. She would be comfy in a 18. La Chicka and her friend go shopping and this friend, whose family is small (her mother wears a 4, I think, but she’s much shorter than her daughter), tries on clothing the same size La Chicka does. I am told that La Chicka couldn’t even fasten some of these pants, yet her friend bought them. This friend is also the type to wear shorty-shorts, and spends her entire day pulling them down (because shorts crawl on larger women) and shirts that are border-line belly shirts (like, “Now just breathe deeply and reach for the sky…. no, wait, please don’t…”). Her pants are always skin-tight. Question: is she just comfortable with her weight, as my mother suggests? I’m not so sure, as she seems to have a very strong desire to conform physically, like she reads too many Teen magazines. Very strong. All of the people she calls friends are healthily sized or thin, and these are the people with whom she shops. I am very modest (physically) myself, and dislike shopping with thinner people, not because I fear their ridicule or scorn, but because I know it takes me a while to find comfortable clothes, and because I loathe shopping, I wouldn’t want to prolong anyone else’s shopping experience. But I also know how uncomfortable clothing that doesn’t fit right can be. So why is she torturing herself? To be able to say, “yeah, I wear a 14, just like La Chicka”? And she’s definitely not the only one. At the theater I see groups of the preppy or prostitot persuasion, all thin but one girl. And often, unless the group is of older folks, like seniors or collegians (that’s a word) she has poured herself into these miniature-sized costumes they wear, because she is “just like them”. I can’t feel pity for them, as that’s an emotion that is almost foreign to me, but I do feel something for them, because they don’t choose to be comfortable, they choose to be accepted. I don’t fancy myself any type of rebel, but at least I can be comfortable in my conformity.
Le troisième problème: Apologies, Excuse-me’s, and Polite Sympathy. All of them are fake. All of them. I bump into Brandy, I say “Hey, I’m sorry”. Do I really mean it? Am I really sorry I nudged her? Did I disturb her? Do I care that she might have been disturbed, or might have to top off the bag of popcorn she was fixing? Can’t say I do. Do I care that I might hurt her feelings if I don’t say sorry? Apparently I do, because I say it. Process of elimination. Every morning I shove through crowds of folks clogging the hallway like hostile, malignant, bad-ass cholesterol, and never say excuse me. I go to work, where everyone is running in circles fixing popcorn and drinks and find myself saying “excuse me” to everyone, everytime I need to squeeze past them. Hell, I know that we are in each others’ ways; they know that we are in each others’ ways. But we always say “excuse me”. We aren’t asking for excuse, though. We’re telling them to get the fuck out of our way. Then we huff and puff if we aren’t “excused” fast enough. I think a little silence might be in order, although shoving or rudeness isn’t necessary. Today, near the end of the first shift, when everyone is a little loopy, Jennifer is complaining of a headache. Constantly, as she is wont to do. Everyone just rolled their eyes after she passed by. She tried her woe is me attitude on one of our managers (the tall lanky one), and got a response of “I don’t think your sympathy ploys are going to work on us, today.” My response was, “I don’t think it ever works. We’re all used up”. Needless to say, I got evil looks and I’m sure trash will be talked. But it’s true. We are all used up. Shift after shift she has major drama, to which we umm’d and aww’d, but all of us are sick of it. So were we really sympathetic? I know I never was, because sympathy for love-life or social problems is often as foreign to me as pity. I think some of the more emotionally inclined were sympathetic, but the rest of us have always wanted her to just shut the hell up. Her drama struck me as contrived the same day I met her. But I hear the umm’s and aww’s all the time at school. My ear feels trained to pick up that too-drawled aww that signals a deathly bored listener or the too-large-hesitation before an ohh that means the listener had to consciously pick which sound to make aloud to cover the ticking of the clock they hear too loudly, telling them just how much of their life they are wasting listening to this jerk. We don’t say reasonable things when people tell us about their problems. I’m all for being a good listener, but sometimes people actually have the stupidity to ask me “what should I do?” or “what do you think?”. They don’t expect a real answer. And often they know they don’t expect a real answer. If I’m feeling a little sadistic (which is much of the time), I give them a real answer. “Well, you should just suck it up. You gambled and lost, and now he probably wants nothing to do with you.” “You know, if you sleep with a different guy every weekend while you’re wasted as hell, you’re liable to get knocked-up. I would think that condoms would seem a very small part of the whole exercise when you’re wasted and horny.” My only consession to these people are prefixing my replies with “well…” or “you know…” giving them warning that the fecal matter always hits the fan with me. Tonight, while we were cleaning at work, Brandy is cleaning out a popper (I had already finished mine), and she’s complaining of a headache, how it’s too hot in the popper, and how she thinks she may faint. I’m standing right next to her cleaning a counter, tired as hell, having worked two more hours than her with the same break, and I say nothing. I don’t even look at her. It’s obvious she wants me to say “aww, Brandy, let me finish the popper and you can clean the counters”. But I cleaned a damn popper, with a huge light bulb right in my face too. Instead, I look at her, lift an eyebrow and say “It’s not so bad if you turn off the light or work faster, then you can be out of the heat”. Not at all sympathetic. Am I a bitch? Yes, in the traditional sense of the word, I think, as I don’t try to soothe feelings as a nice polite girl should. Do I try to hurt people? Less often than you would think. I feel little in terms of sympathy or pity, and I have a small resevoir of fake sympathy. When it’s used up, there is no more until I recharge. Sometimes I feel bad that I can’t perform up to the standards of society, and ohh and aww properly, but often I either feel nothing, or await the reactions of the people with whom I am talking. It’s like being a third person in the dialogue, to see the flickers of their eyes when you don’t give them the feedback they want. They look around, like looking for someone else to notice my lack of response and come to their rescue. Often their pupils dilate, as pupils do when emotion is evoked. Sometimes they flush a little, in the neck or ears. From there it becomes more noticable and designed to get more sympathy, with a hurt sigh or sometimes a scoff at your condescension, hoping to evoke shame at your own (lack of) response and trigger that sympathy reflex. Sorry, suckers. You caught me on an off day and I’m all used up.
Good night, and I hope my two-hour post was entertaining.