Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ma'am, I Am

Yesterday was absolutely a crazy, get-in-bed-early-and-hide day.  It began at the eye doctor, where I enjoyed a fun exchange with the tech doing my work-up.

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 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'!

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