Monday, March 06, 2006

What I should have said

I did the wrong thing, and now I realize what I should have said.

Here's the scene: I'm waiting in the lounge for my car to be finished; the other person waiting has just left. I'm reading a magazine and ignoring the talk show blaring on the TV. A person who works there stops by and makes some small talk; she wasn't the first, I guess they have a policy of not letting the customers feel abandoned. She asks if I saw who won the awards last night; I reply that I didn't watch it, and go back to reading the newsweekly. I realize I'm being impolite so I quickly say that I had heard Crash won best picture. The woman says that that's good; she didn't want Brokeback Mountain to win because "I don't like the idea that a movie about homosexuality would win a top award."

This is where I did the wrong thing. My immediate reaction was intense fury, but instead of acting on it, I immediately went into conflict-avoidance mode. I gave the briefest of shrugs before agressively burying my nose in my Newsweek, saying not one word more. She left. With steam pouring out of my ears, I quickly grabbed a pen to write what she'd said on the back of the magazine so I would remember it exactly when I told it to you.

I was, and am, so annoyed it's hard to pick just one aspect that bothered me the most. Her sheer homophobia. Her annoyance at a movie about homosexuality being not only widely accepted but honored. Her belief that this type of remark is acceptable small talk. Her unspoken assertation that a movie about homosexuality shouldn't win Best Picture, but a movie dealing with strong themes of racism and prejudice is ok. Her expectation that her view is so normal and common that I would share it.

Why did I shut down instead of calling her on it? I admit, I avoided a conflict. I saw nothing to be gained by calling her a homophobe and starting a fight, so I didn't. Screaming at people who are clearly ensconced in their views rarely has any effect.

My car was finished shortly and I left. I spent the ride home going over and over in my head what I should have said or done, and then when I got home I related the whole story to my husband, which was the first way to sort it through. The second way is to talk it over with you, fans and friends.

With the perspective of hindsight, I realize what I should have done was clearly, calmly state that it's sad that she feels that way, and gone back to my magazine to end the discussion. Not be confrontational, just simply articulate that it's a shame. Because it is. She's entitled to her views, I guess; but I could have made her aware that others don't necessarily share them, and maybe given her the idea that homophobia is not accepted by many, certainly not by me.

I wish I'd had the presence of mind to do that. Instead, I blew it. I was furious silently and just ignored her. Maybe that got the message across; I don't know. I wish I'd been able to be calm and strong and say what I should have said.


Bob said...

Your hindsight is sane, it's OK not to say anything, or much, maybe steam for a while, & let it go. Or said something almost completely from the outside, like: "Yes, but did you hear Gore Vidal's recent remarks about Truman Capote?"

Rob S. said...

True, if you'd watched the Oscars you could've thrown Phillip Seymour Hoffman's "Capote" win at her. Me, I probably would've done the same as you. But in and Ideal world, I would've agreed with her on the surface, adding "I don't know why they have to stick all that cowboy stuff into what should be a good, all-american gay love story! Hollywood's always 'cowboy this" and 'cowboy that," and I'm just sick of having all these cowboys crammed down my throat."

"So to speak."

Rob S. said...

(Oh, and credit where credit's due -- upon reflection, I realized I adapted some of that joke from a Daily Show bit.)

Jeri said...

How awful of her to make you feel so uncomfortable. Besides the general hatefulness of her comment, it was unprofessional to offer opinions like that to a customer. Since she left after you didn't encourage her, she probably got the message loud and clear.

I would have either done the same thing as you, which would have ruined my day; or I would've called her an ignorant douchebag, which could have ruined my car if she were feeling spiteful.

Another tactic with people like that is to crease your forehead in confusion and keep asking, "Why?" as if it never occurred to you that someone would feel that way. Eventually their answers boil down to pure prejudice, and when they realize that, they get uncomfortable and shut up.

The key is to make them feel bad without making yourself look bad. And then go home and fix up a new voodoo doll.

Sharon GR said...

I could've thrown Tom Hanks' Philadelphia win years ago at her too, or George Clooney's remarks about Hollywood being ahead of the social curve. Unfortunately, I couldn't see clearly, I was so floored.

Dave said...

Call people on their religious views when they make asinine statements like that.

So-called Christians are some of the most hateful people I come across in my daily life.

Jesus (if he/He existed), would surely weep that those who claim to follow his/His teachings would act in such a way.