Did they really say that?
I was happily dancing at a family bar mitzvah celebration. I love to dance, everyone in my family loves to dance. I’ve always been told I’m a good dancer…but, just as the music ended a lady quickly walks right up to me and boldly asked, ”do you have black in your blood”? My happy-as-a-clam adrenalin crashes.
What did she ask me, why was she asking, who is this lady? I was thrown a left curve and uncharacteristically had no response. Then her words fumbled carelessly; “Oh, I’m from Berkeley, Ca.”, and went on and on about — I honestly don’t remember because all I could do was walk away.
I’m still fuddled in how I should have handled it. I think she was trying to give me a compliment, but what embarrassed me was the assumption she made that you have be black (African American) to have great rhythm.
Many people have misguided assumptions from strangers — here are a few of mine to add to the basket;
Being Little: (I’m 4' 8")
As I was taking the typing test — applying for a temp job (70's), the representative took my “paper work” to the founder who she wanted me to meet. The first words when this lady saw me, “you’re too little to have such good references”. She turned beet red realizing she put her foot in her mouth.
”I knew you’d be good, but not that good”. Variations of this comment throughout my life;
- after a performance from friends;
- a teacher in Jr. High didn’t believe I created the presentation on civil rights;
- hiking up a mountain with a friend;
”What do you mean you can’t afford a car, you’re Jewish”.
At the time I was living in a rent control apartment in Boston with a wood stove as our only source of heat — yep, woke up to freezing cold floors where I zipped to the bathroom and jumped into a hot shower. My transportation — a bicycle that took 3 months to save for.
Studying at a resort in NY at a performance-art camp where Jews were allowed a few years prior, I was asked, “where are your horns”. I had no idea what they were talking about — apparently missed an important piece of information I wish I had been told at Temple.
These words affected me — without a doubt, but luckily on the road of life’s lessons someone taught me to brush off the naysayers and the bruises they caused to my psyche and scramble back up on the horse. “Keep riding and be proud of who you are”, they said. “If they’re going to throw lemons at you, then you need to make the best lemonade you can.”
Life’s lessons — sure does make the journey a puzzle at times. So, every day I continue to learn way’s to navigate through the odd comments that drift in my ears.
I hear them — and then I kiss them away.