[****NOTE: Correction to yesterday's blog post: Chris and I will be on Keith and the Girl today at 4pm, not 5pm. I, Meghan C. Rowland, am a whore and a horrible human being. I apologize.****]
Well, last night sucked: the Saints lost, I tripped over a Christmas tree on the sidewalk, and Wacky Wanda pounded on the door and tried to get in at 1:30 in the morning. That’s probably the thing that pisses me off most that people ever do: they knock, and then if you don’t answer they try the knob. And so… what? Are you just going to walk in? If I’m not here, are you just going to pop in a DVD of It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, help yourself to a beer, and wait? Wacky Wanda was angry because, as she put it, we “stole her pocketbook that she left in the foyer.” So, naturally, after leaving her possessions in a public place, she assumes they were stolen by the only two people who bother to be polite to her crazy ass. I did get a little reassurance, though: I’ve always hated my speaking voice, but I noticed as I shouted at Wacky Wanda that, when I’m angry, my voice does in fact sound like an angry adult man, and not the Paul-Lynde-with-hayfever production I hear on answering machines, so that’s good.
As for the Saints… I don’t know where to begin. I’m completely irrational about football, to the point where watching The Walking Dead is less stressful for me than others because, since it takes place in Georgia, I figure everyone involved is a Falcons fan and already spiritually dead. I did manage to avoid actually crying in the bar, which was a very small victory.
So, since 2012 has started with a whimper, I’m going to go for it and tell you my best “I was accidentally racist” story ever. It’s called, “It’s not because you’re black; my mom thinks I have a disease.”
So, this past summer, I was running an SAT prep seminar for a group of kids. The organization I was working for would generally leave someone in the room with me for crowd control and, presumably, So There Would Be An Adult In the Room, Not That We Think You’re A Sex Pervert But Well What With the Church Better Safe Than Sorry And We’re Sure You Understand, It’s Really For Your Protection. The Designated Adult was generally one of two African American ladies of about the same age.
You see where this is going, right? I called the one by the other’s name. In my defense, I badly need new glasses and I genuinely expected Jane, not Tessa, to be there that day. What makes this so acutely embarrassing and Accidentally Racist is that, instead of saying, “oh, excuse me, got a case of the Mondays!” I PANICKED and started babbling about new glasses because the part of my brain that ensures compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 burst into the control room and yelled at the rest of my brain, “SHE’S GOING TO THINK YOU DID THAT BECAUSE SHE’S BLACK AND JANE IS BLACK AND THEY’RE BOTH BLACK AND YOU CAN’T TELL BLACK PEOPLE APART BECAUSE YOU THINK THEY SHOULD BE MAKING YOU GRITS, THAT’S WHAT SHE’LL THINK!” That’s what’s racist – just assuming my black sort-of coworker with whom I’ve had several pleasant conversations is going to be racially offended because I called her by the wrong name one morning, and further assuming that the only way I can head off being reported to the Southern Poverty Law Center is to apologize way too much, offer a convoluted excuse, and make it a bigger deal than it ever would have been if I hadn’t panicked. Essentially, I was filibustering her being offended.
Thank God for small favors, and the fact that I genuinely do need new glasses, because the first thing I thought of to say, that I might actually have said if I hadn’t remembered I was half blind, was this: “It’s not because you’re black; my mom thinks I have a disease!”
Backstory: My mother thinks I have that disease where you can’t recognize faces. When I was a child and young teenager, we’d be watching TV, and I’d say, “oh, isn’t that Jessica Walter?” Instead of saying, “no, shut up about Jessica Walter for five minutes” my mother would turn to me with a baffled look and say, “No. No. That actress doesn’t look a thing like Jessica Walter. That’s Susan Anton. I think you have that problem where you can’t recognize faces.” Granted, untreated ADHD and constantly needing a new glasses prescription mimics that disorder very closely, but it wasn’t like I screamed in terror when Dad came home because there was a strange man in the house, every single day. I have a friend who thinks everyone on TV is “that guy from Monk.” (She can’t remember his name or face, but the core concept sticks with her.) Plus, Mom thinks everyone has every disease. (This from a woman who genuinely believes she had the menopause three times.)
So, of course, that was the excuse I thought of. What’s less racist that not being able to tell any people apart? I don’t see black and white, I see ever-shifting, interchangeable, practically Cubist agglomerations of features. And, of course – to make sure my point got across – the first sentence I thought of was “It’s not because you’re black; my mom thinks I have a disease!”
“It’s not because you’re black; my mom thinks I have a disease!” just summarizes my life. My awkwardness, my constant borderline hysteria, my peculiar childhood, all neatly explained in one barely coherent sentence. It’s up there with all the other great lines in the history of the English language:
“We have not yet begun to fight!”
“Millions for defense, not one cent for tribute!”
“I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king – and of a king of England, too!”
“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a minute believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle until, in God’s good time, the new world, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”
“Sorr about the bag.”
“It’s not because you’re black; my mom thinks I have a disease!”