As I was getting into my car in the Food Loin parking lot today, a youngish gentleman approached, motioning me to pull down the window.
“Sorry, I loved your hair, had to stop you—but don’t worry, I’m not hitting on you, this is part of a class project,” he said.
Recalling certain unpleasant class projects from my college years, I decided to not vroom away, not immediately. Plus I’d just seen Hairdresser Jeff, so the kid had that much right: my hair looked great.
“I’m a communications major, and I’m supposed to speak with thirty different strangers. Let me start by asking, are you a nice person or a mean person?”
I deliberated a while. “Guess that depends on the situation,” I said. “I don’t like binary distinctions.”
“Okay, let’s try a different approach: are you having a good day?”
“No,” I said immediately. “That one’s easy.”
“Uh, I see you have the Breast Cancer Awareness plates. That’s cool. I like boobies. High five!”
Now, while it is true that people all over the globe–ofdifferent ages, cultures, races, and genders—like breasts, it’s not something you necessarily say to a stranger.
Also, I can be a touchy-feely person, but only with people I (A) know and (B) like. I did not want his high five.
He asked some other questions, to which I gave benign answers. All the while he was feeding me compliments, presumably because that was part of his assignment. Maybe that’s what they teach in Communications.
“Yeah, your shirt’s great by the way, that’s why I stopped you” [wait, I thought it was the hair…?] “and also because you’re like the only white person I’ve seen.”
Granted, people of modest incomes, many of whom are people of color, shop at Food Loin, the only reasonably-priced grocery store in town. Be that as it may, I really do not see how race was pertinent. And the way he said it, as though to garner my agreement that “Yes, we’re all white here, ain’t it grand?” pushed exactly the wrong buttons.
“So anyway, the folks who do best will win an trip to either London or Paris. I picked London, because they speak English.”
Couldn’t be bothered to learn a new language, could you, you little racist punk. And people don’t win vacations for good grades. This is some kind of scam… I kept these thoughts to myself, with a nice neutral expression, while cogitating on the best way to undermine his project.
“I see you’re not wearing a ring. Single? Got a boyfriend somewhere?”
I debated giving him one of these three answers:
1. I’m married, but I don’t wear a ring.
2. I don’t believe in the institution of marriage.
3. I’m a lesbian.
Instead I settled on “How is this relevant?”
I forget the response he gave, but at the next pause in his banter, I interrupted with “I’m sorry, I’m afraid I don’t want to participate.”
“You’re a fucking weirdo,” he said. “No wonder you’re single.”
I really, sincerely, desperately hope that he is not a Communications major. Really.
I toyed with the idea of calling the police. “Yeah, there’s a young man hanging out in the Food Lion parking lot, going about insulting people. Should be easy to spot him. He’s the racist homophobe, and by his own admission he’s the only white person there.”
But being extraordinarily rude to people is not a crime. I know this well. It’s sort of my mantra at work.
I wish I’d had the presence of mind to ask him for his professor’s contact info. Either I’d have exposed him for a fraud, or I could have informed the professor that his student reacted poorly to learning that a person did not want to participate in the project. “Okay, thank you for your time” would have been the correct response. And while I am, in some senses, a fucking weirdo, and while he correctly guessed that I am single (though bisexual, and opposed to the institution of marriage, in point of fact), I’m not quite sure how either condition pertained to the situation.
This does nothing to assuage my feelings of isolation and loneliness. But I’ve learned a very important lesson today: superb haircuts do not offer protection against mean people.
I’m heading up to Wisconsin to see family at the end of the week. I’ll blog when I get back. In the meantime, feel free to leave comments that ridicule that Communications major and/or make me feel better.