I saw something kind of weird happen yesterday as I stood in line at a sub shop to get one of their delicious subs. The incident in question reminded me of days in elementary school and high school. It also reminded me that humans can be evil to each other for no good reason. I thought about this incident a lot as the day wore on, and I talked about it to my wife last night. It really did bother me that much.
So what happened?
I was standing in line at the sub shop, waiting to order a delicious sub when I saw a woman make her way through the crowd. The shop was crowded. The line was all the way to the door, and there were even a couple of people waiting outside. The woman made her way to another, younger-looking woman who was already in line. The woman making her way through the people stood out because she was very tall. It was only when she got closer that I realized she was a male, broad-shouldered and no hips, dressed in women’s clothes, with long hair, and what could pass as breasts on any given Sunday. We’ll call her “Steve”.
Steve made her way to her friend, “Sally”, and said something that sounded like this: “Sally, the other girls and I are waiting for you right over there.” Steve then pointed to the far side of the shop where, indeed, a group of girls were waiting. Then, with a smile, Sally replied the following: “Steve, you’re not a girl.”
Writing it doesn’t express the inflection or intent of what Sally said. It was hurtful. It was said in a mean way. Steve lowered his eyes and answered “ok”. She then walked away. Sally stood there, rolled her eyes, and went about ordering her food.
To be honest, what Sally said, the way she said it, and whom she said it to really struck me deep. It hit me hard because so many kids, children, in school were that way to me. No, it wasn’t because I was dressed like a woman. (I can’t pull off Steve’s look.) It was because I was always a shy kid. I was more comfortable sitting with my teacher in grade school during recess than out and about playing. Later, once we moved to the States, I received this kind of treatment because I didn’t speak English well enough. Or because I didn’t wear the right clothes. Or because I wasn’t the right kind of jock. (I played soccer, not football, basketball, or baseball.)
When I tried to include myself in a group, there was always someone in that group who made it clear to me that I was not one of them, no matter what I did to fit in.
It didn’t just happen in school, though. Several of my cousins made it very clear that I was not one of their immediate family when they would get mad at me. “¡No es tu casa!” they would scream to make it clear that I was just a guest, or a nuissance, at their home. From about the age of 17, I lived pretty much on my own as I went through college. So I sought the refuge of my relatives. But all it would take would be for one of my cousins to be having a bad day for them to remind me that I was alone, that I didn’t belong in their group.
Adult life has been better. I’ve learned the tricks to inserting myself into a group and “reading” the members of the group so I can “belong” in them. I know who thinks they’re the alpha and who behaves like the omega… Who to trust and who not to piss off. Yet all those experiences in my childhood and teenage years still resonate when I see things happen like what happened to “Steve”.
Humans can be animals to each other sometimes. Because that whole “you belong, but you don’t” is a clear leftover from our days on the savannah and in the caves. We had to make sure who would be a good fit with our group. Otherwise, the weak link could break the chain, if you know what I mean. And some of us had to assert our authority with the group, sometimes in crappy ways, because we’d be too weak on our own without the group.
At least that’s my read of Sally’s behavior toward Steve. Maybe Steve is too much of a woman for Sally to feel comfortable? Maybe Sally does have the so-called “penis envy” and wishes Steve would remain a man instead of losing something as valuable as the male gender in this man-oriented world?
All that put together worries me about the future Child. The Child will likely be different from his peers. One parent is White, the other is Hispanic. One parent speaks English, the other is bilingual. Both parents are bookworms (though I’m more of an extrovert). My wife and I are not typical. So I wonder how that will go over with The Child, what kind of person he or she will be.
That’s what really worries me sometimes, in between the times I worry about other things. But that’s for a later post at another time.
“You will be different, sometimes you’ll feel like an outcast, but you’ll never be alone. You will make my strength your own. You will see my life through your eyes, as your life will be seen through mine. The son becomes the father and the father becomes the son.” – Superman to his sleeping son in Superman Returns