Tech: "Have you ever smoked?"
Me: "Well, yes, a little in college, but nothing major."
Tech: "What did you smoke?"
Me: (worried that this was actually a hidden camera sting operation) "Cigarettes, only cigarettes. (beat) Actually it was heroin."
Tech: (awkward pause) "Oh - ha ha!"
I think she got me after that.
She then dilated my eyes and told me to wait for the doctor. As I was blurring, my iphone starting moaning with emergency messages from my boss about needing publications designed and printed in a 24-hour turnaround for a major board meeting. This type of timeline is basically impossible in the publishing world, but I squinted and texted and tried to make things happen while sitting in the examining chair.
Then the doctor came in. And after introductions, we had this conversation:
Doctor: "Has anyone ever mistaken you for a man?"
Me on the inside: 'He did NOT just ask me that ...'
Me on the outside: (awkward pause) "Oh - ha ha! You mean because my last name is a man's name?"
Doctor: "Yes, I've often wondered how people handled that ... wah wah wah ... Have we met before? You look familiar ... blah blah blah ..."
I was creeped out and wanted to leave immediately. That feeling was underscored when he reclined me all the way back in my chair. I had no idea why this is necessary for an eye exam, but I was sure it would end with jail time and an emotional interview on the evening news - "Victims of Handsy Optometrists at 11:00!"
But, I exaggerate. The worst thing about it was that he had weird breath.
The rest of the day was spent meeting unrealistic expectations at work, giving my jammed computer printer the Heimlich, a lot of cussing, stumbling through freelance deadlines and then declaring myself done with life for the day.
As I lay in a stupor on the sofa watching "Storage Wars," I thought again about the doctor's confusion over my gender. Obviously, I'm not a man, but a ma'am. At least, I hope it's obvious. I have been questioned about my appearance quite a bit in my lifetime. As far as I know, I am Caucasian, but grew up with dark olive skin and non-British-tea-party features. Some of the comments/questions I have received over my almost 40 years have been:
- "You ain't all white, are ya?" - a man on the beach while on a high school trip to Jamaica
- "I am casting for a mulatto Snow White. You'd be perfect." - a man in the UNC Chapel Hill quad while on a summer study program
- "You have a big nose!" - a friend's toddler
- "Are you from Puerto Rico?" - a waitress at a Georgia restaurant
- "I have some friends that went to your university - maybe you know them? They graduated in 1955." - a saleswoman who did not receive a commission from me that day - BIG mistake - HUGE ...
- "Can I speak to your mommy?" - most telephone solicitors
So, I have always wondered about my heritage, and believe that somewhere back in my parents' timeline is a melding of cultures and ethnicities that led up to me. My sister looks like she stepped right off the Irish potato boat, so we definitely have a melting pot in the gene pool. I don't know much about my distant family, but have subscribed to the free trial of Ancestry.com several times in an effort to find out. Of course, it hasn't led anywhere, because I secretly don't want to learn that there is nothing exotic about me. It's a nice daydream to think about mysterious ancestors from around the globe.
I guess for now it's enough to know that I can't be labeled in one box, except the female one. And that I can literally do my job with my eyes closed ... or just really glazed over ...
Until next time, keep crowin'!