My Insensitivity

insensitive

I can’t be the only one who suffers from this.

How many times have you been in a conversation with someone and you’re totally fixated on a huge mole, or a piece of food in their teeth or a big zit that looks like a school volcano project?

There’s no way you can concentrate on what they’re talking about.  They’re going on and on about their vacation in the Mediterranean, and all that’s running through your head is ‘That thing’s gonna blow!‘…

I’m gonna assume you’re all yelling, ‘Yes!  I do that all the time’.  At least, I hope you are – that way I won’t feel like the only oaf in the world.

It’s one thing to giggle like school children when someone has toilet paper stuck to their shoe at a swanky event, but what if it’s not toilet paper, but something a little more….permanent?

You’ll probably still stare and be transfixed, but it’s a lot different than a zit or food in their teeth when it’s something they have no control over.  You try your hardest not to look, and act all casual and cool, but deep down, it’s all you can think about.

“OMG – does that guy really have no ears?”  I need to look, but I don’t want to get caught looking.

Case in point:  I was waiting (appropriately enough) in a waiting room recently.  It was very narrow, with two rows of chairs facing each other.  Only enough room between them for one person to walk through.

I sat down across from a lady who was deeply focused on whatever was happening on her cell phone.  She was wearing sandals and had her legs crossed so that one foot jutted out into the narrow walkway.  No problem – although with me doing the same directly across from her, the magical and invisible ‘personal space’ zone was seriously violated.

That’s when I saw it.  Open-toed, strappy sandals, horrible yellow, chipped and cracked nails…and 9 toes.  9 little piggies staring at me without nail polish or any reasonable pedicurial effort. 9 of them….no big toe on one foot.

Maybe she had a terrible lawn mower accident, or lost it in a bet or something; I don’t know, but all my self-control and strength could not keep me from looking down at her foot regularly.  I tried my best to focus on the artwork behind her, but the draw was too strong. This 4 digit foot was my Kryptonite.

Trying to focus on the artwork behind her was like staring at the sun too long.  My pupils burned, my hands shook and a bead of sweat appeared on my forehead.  No painting is that interesting.

Like a reflex action, my eyes would dart down and I prayed I wouldn’t get caught staring at this small but distinctive abnormality.

Then I got to thinking;   Why would she wear an open-toed shoe and dangle it right in front of me unless she was either proud of it, was was trying to evoke some sort of reaction? Why should I be the one to be all ‘avert your eyes’ and embarrassed?  Is she deliberately taunting me?

I wished I was a little kid – they can get away with anything; “Hey lady, what happened to your toe?  Does it hurt?  Can I touch it?”.  No fear, no inhibitions, just pure innocent curiosity.

I remember knowing a guy who was born with only one arm.  It didn’t stop him from doing anything. One day though, at a local store, a little girl looked up at him and asked point blank; ‘Where is your arm?‘.  I think he told her it was at home doing the dishes.  ‘Oh‘ was all she replied and went along with what she was doing.

You and I would never get away with that!  I think I might even get blackballed for sharing this personal limitation, but it’s what we all think – right?

I’m no worse than the next guy.  I can sympathize with those who aren’t made the same way I am, or have had some tragedy befall them so that their look is altered in some way.

It doesn’t mean they are any different inside, does it?  I can embrace the person and see beyond that nasty, yellow, crooked 4-toed foot.

Okay, maybe I still have a bit of work to do…

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The cruelest “ism” of all

They roll their sarcastic little eyes while they try to explain to you for the 10th time what ‘tweeting’ is.  That look is deliberately designed to make you feel stupid.  And the kids are very good at it.   Don’t you just want to smack them?

I get this treatment a lot lately – not so much from my kids, although I did get some attitude last week during a family card game.  Good thing too, since I didn’t have a topic to blog about this week…Thanks ‘C’.

It seems that the most unchecked ‘ism’ out there is ageism.  That’s right – being treated unfairly, rudely, rejected, or outright ignored because of ones age.

The big problem here is that the age stereotype just gets worse with each passing day.  Let’s face it; you’re not going to get any more black, short, sexed (well, maybe a little), ethnic, or whatever, but you are definitely going to get older.

One friend always points out that getting older is better than the alternative…funny guy!  I want to smack him too.

I have a particular issue with other people who are already at this age, or are close enough that they should know better.  I thought we were supposed to support each other.

And we should stick together, right?  We should run out and get a great car insurance discount then brag about to a bunch of 20 somethings.

I was at an interview recently, and as it was winding down, I asked the gentleman across from me if there was anything in my application that was a problem for him.  He said the only potential issue was that I was ‘over qualified’.  Over qualified?  I thought being more qualified for a job was a good thing, but we all know what that really means, don’t we? It means we’re too old and can’t learn new things.  That we’re hard-coded to an old way of doing things and are too inflexible to learn a new job.

The kicker is, this guy was roughly my age. Way to stick up for your fellow discriminatee, dude!

That’s something else that is a complete ‘no-no’ for our generation.  We’re not allowed to say certain things, are we?

‘Yo! What up!’ is completely unacceptable when addressing your neighbour while putting out the garbage in your housecoat and slippers.

You can never say ‘That’s badass’ when describing a friends new golf club or riding lawn mower.

If someone is planning a long road trip to the coast with their kids and dog, you’re not allowed to say ‘That’s Cray Cray’.

You’ll never see anyone ‘Twerking’ at a curling club dance.  Okay, that one is probably a good thing…no one wants to see that.  Besides, there might be hip injuries.

But we should be free to do it if we like, right?  No discrimination.

I tried to do a ‘selfie’ but it just came out creepy…and I don’t know who I’d send it to anyway, but I should be allowed as long as all those teens are doing it, right?

Maybe that’s the key to this whole ‘ism’ problem.  We need to normalize behavior that might not fit our social norms.  Not because we really want to share photos of our lunch on Facebook, or ‘hashtag’ the Air Supply concert we’re at, but because we deserve the right to do those things that suppress us.

I could be the Rosa Parks of middle-aged men!  Who’s with me???

Oh wait – there’s a patio furniture sale on at Lee Valley this week.  Maybe we can fight for injustice next weekend…

 

 

 

 

 

The Awkward Shopper

I’ve been out doing back-to-school shopping with my kids.

Now that they’re older, with one in university and one in her last year of high school, the old list has changed a bit.  No more backpacks and colored pencil cases.  Now it’s modular shelving and office chairs.

We still managed to drop almost a hundred bucks at an office supply store, getting stocked up on extra paper, binders and pens, just for old times sake.

Today’s shopping was with my wife and daughter – my son, thankfully, was spared (and we were from him) from being subjected to ladies fashion and shoe stores.

While they happily browsed racks and racks of various sizes and styles of outfits, I was in charge of purse-holding, and rack leaning.  The rack leaning becomes a fine art after about 20 minutes of standing next to your ladies while they hold up outfits and say “‘what do you think about this one?”.

Leaning on the rack is the only thing that keeps you from falling over altogether, since these stores are clearly designed as a shopping marathon, and not a shopping leisure event.  No comfy couches, no televisions, no coffee machines.  This is ALL business, mister!

The endless line of clothes that dizzy the eye and the hours of standing on your feet, trying to stay engaged in the shopping process is not the worst of these outings, though.  It’s not even heading to the cashier with an armful of garments to hand over your credit card, or holding the purse – does any guy know how to hold a purse properly?  Really – I’m asking.

The big challenge is knowing where not to look.  Wandering eyes for any man in a ladies clothing store has to be the trickiest part of the process.  Standing there in the store, holding up another rack of clothes (hopefully not underwear), you have to refocus your eyes so that you don’t slip into unconsciousness.

It’s during this ‘refocusing’ that things can get dicey.  You look out, further than the rack directly in front of you, trying to recalibrate your vision, when you realize that you are looking directly at a woman holding up some slinky little number against herself.  This is coincidentally enough, the exact moment that she catches your nonspecific gaze at her.

Nothing can feel more creepy for either parties.  You’re trying your hardest to quickly look away, like you were never looking at her in the first place (which you really weren’t), and she, I assume, realizes that there’s a creepy dude staring at her while she sizes up outfits.

Awkward.

If you’re really lucky, you might catch the eye of another poor male soul, trying his best to look natural in this most unnatural of settings.  There’s a common bond in these unspoken connections – brothers in arms, fighting the good fight for the sake of our precious relationships.

There’s sometimes a silent nod – ‘Hey, brother, I feel your pain.  Hang in there.  You’re taking one for the team’. Somehow, we find comfort behind those desperate glances.

At least we know that we’re not the only creepy stalker dudes hanging out near the undergarments.

Of course, when your lady heads to the change rooms, there’s a whole other level of awkwardness going on.  Now, you’re standing outside the change rooms where ALL the women come out to get opinions on their finds.  You don’t know whether to quickly look away, or give a thumbs up on what they’re wearing.  You’re busted – no way out of it.

That’s one area of the shopping process that you can’t skip out of either – they want your feedback.  They need your feedback.  So, you have to standby and wait, again trying to look natural, leaning against something you shouldn’t be leaning against, hoping that when you hear that change room door open, it’s for you.

If the people who design ladies apparel stores were smart, they’d set up ‘Man Cave’ zones, where we could be within sight lines of our lovely shoppers, but sit in comfort – maybe they could have a TV set up somewhere – heck it doesn’t even have to be on a sports station – the Weather Channel would be better than the alternative.

I know this all sounds rather sexist, but I tell you, it won’t work in a Men’s store, because men don’t shop – they buy.  We pride ourselves not on the great purchase, but the great speed at which we made the purchase.

We’re not in there long enough for anyone to get sore feet or stand awkwardly against a rack of ties.  And we don’t try things on, either.

“Hmmm.  This plain white shirt seems okay, and it comes in large.  I’ll take it”.  Done.

When we get home, and put it on, it might fit – it might not.  If it doesn’t, that’s okay, because the old one was perfectly good – just a couple of stains.  We’ll just keep wearing the old one, kind of like our underwear.

It’s a wonder that the fashion industry hasn’t figured this all out yet.