Just Watching You Without Me

A thousand years ago, Siobhan and I met up with Jill of Brilliant@Breakfast, from whom I learn something every day and you should too. I’m a big fan. Jill was acquainted with Siobhan but didn’t know me. So we walked around bra shopping and had a marvelous time and I was chatting quite naturally until I suddenly knew why Jill was watching my hands and speaking slowly. For all she knew, I was some nutcase stalker in chic suede boots and not an accomplished person in my own right. I stood where I was and laughed so hard I unnerved nearby corsetiers.

It had never occurred to me to list credentials. Moreover, doing so wouldn’t render my life experience transparently obvious to the listener. To her credit, Jill realized that I am a funny enough person and that I get her jokes is credential enough – though that is not the case for everyone. Days ago, I was talking over recipes with another blogger and mentioned I’d been on a college radio comedy show. He said something like, “I did that once. We thought we were very funny.” I didn’t bother mentioning we were on over 100 radio stations in three countries. He just assumed I’d never done anything, which took my breath away.

You know, as mysterious assumptions go that’s one dumb, hurtful assumption – as one ought to assume.

Over the weekend, a commenter on a blog I read obsessively responded to a question I asked by inferring that I was either dumb or playing dumb. I have no need to trouble him further; it matters not a whit that he was probably falling-over drunk. In vino veritas, baby, it’s no mystery what he thinks of me, much as this joke circulating among my brother’s Star Trek-loving friends demystifies a certain chickenhawk mentality:

The Iranian Ambassador whispered to President Bush, “My son watches this show ‘Star Trek’ and in it there is Chekhov who is Russian, Scotty who is Scottish, Uhura who is Black and Sulu who is Chinese, but no Arabs. My son is very upset and doesn’t understand why there aren’t any Iranians, Syrians or Iraqis on StarTrek.” President Bush laughed, leaned toward the Iranian Ambassador, and whispered back, “It’s because it takes place in the future.”

If you listen, you hear the hilarious assertion that in the genocidal future, we Russian Scottish Black Chinese people blow Arabs off the face of the planet. Star Trek would never have inferred this, as its creator was a wise and peaceful man, far ahead of his time; plus, Iranians are not Arab but Persian. Technically, they’re Aryans, which means you should try not to snicker when armed bigots talk about blowing up armed brown people. And if you listen to experts estimate what attacking Iran would do to our military in our future, you’ll repeat after me: I’m sorry, Captain, but we haven’t got the power.

It’s just not that mysterious. Some things just aren’t. I don’t need a list of initials after my name and a Rosetta Stone to back up my opinion that inciting racial and ethnic riots won’t make anyone safer or happier – not that many people are listening. Since May, just about every day, I’ve had conversations with family members, friends, lovers and co-workers where I might as well have poured out my heart to my cat for all the human contact I made.

Some conversations were just peculiar.
Tata: It’s really important that we do a-b-c to solve our problems.
Not Listening: Right. We’ll do d-e-f.
Tata: Doing d-e-f will prevent us from solving our problems.
Not Listening: Right! So that’s what we’ll do.
Tata: From now on, I talk to you in only hand signals.

Some were worse than talking to myself, including words my closest friends hope against hope not to hear.
Tata: I’m a little depressed.
He Who Should Fucking Know Better: You’re never depressed!
Tata: Does your insurance cover hearing aids?

…Or my personal favorite.
Tata: Hi, my name is Tata.
Idiot: Tata? What’s that short for?
Tata: Domenica. Please call me “Tata.”
Idiot: Okay, Domenica.
Tata: …And you won’t even notice me calling you “Douchebag.”

I’m just not going to print my resume to persuade anyone I’m worth my weight in fortune cookies. Miss Manners would not approve! What gives me the authority to say what I say, the way I say it? The truth is you don’t really care – not while you’re laughing.

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