Sidebar 1: Adventures in Politically Incorrect Behavior
May 31, 2007
Sometimes life overwhelms art. For example, I just experienced an episode of political incorrectness. Actually, I am lying: I just perpetrated an episode of political incorrectness.
A woman at my work (R, who works in another department) reminds me just a bit of Precious Ramotswe. Probably you are already familiar with Precious, a fictional character in a wonderful series of books about the #1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. Even though they are very popular, they are quite good. If you are sometimes amused (an even on occasion moved a wee bit) by my writing, Smith’s is about eleventy-seven times better. By several exponents.
Although the word cheerful does not pop into my mind in my stereotypes of Africa, these books (although they contain sadness and tragedy) present a cheerful view of the country of Botswana. As far as I have been able to discover (without following the more useful alternative of traveling to Botswana and living there for a few years), Botswana does have many characteristics to be cheerful about as countries go.
As I’ve mentioned, my ethnic background is Eastern-European Jewish.
Although I have no idea what land R’s ancestors came from (and I suspect they may not have come to America willingly), Botswana is a possibility.
I find R quite charming. One reason is that she is quite cheerful. Now my employer, a few years ago, began promoting the idea that we are a “retail” organization, indicating that we should present a cheerful disposition toward customers. In principle I agree (even though my natural disposition toward other people is surly), but many people in my organization present a cheerful disposition that seems as if it was sprayed on from a spray can they found for sale at Wal-Mart.
R, on the other hand, exudes a natural cheerfulness.
Also, she laughs at a lot of my jokes. It’s hard to be more charming than that.
Most of the time, R dresses in standard American attire, though she dresses better than I do. Although my wife (who has impeccable taste) tries to make me look respectable, I defeat her efforts.
The other day, as we met in a hallway, R was wearing a colorful dashiki dress. This is not the actual dress, and the picture is a blouse rather than a dress, and R’s dress was more red than orange, but aside from being quite different, this picture gives you a rough idea of the appearance of the dress R was wearing.
Though it’s probably not corporately appropriate to comment on a fellow employee’s attire, I told her I liked the dress.
She began laughing. She told me that she had bought it at a thrift store. In fact, she said, she had purchased two different items because they matched each other and then had sewn them together to make the dress she was wearing. I expressed my admiration and appreciation for the final result.
She said she liked this particular thrift store because it specializes in apparel for women of “traditional build.” That’s how Smith describes Precious in his novels about her. R is not really “heavy,” but she’s not a skinny woman.
R said, “This store is called ‘Two Big Blonds.’
This time I laughed. I said, “It’s not appropriate for us [meaning whites such as myself] to make jokes about black people. But we can get away with jokes about blonds. It’s one of the last groups considered ‘fair game.’”
I apologize to any blond person reading this blog posting.