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Scenario Post, Explained

23 October 2008

“I’m going to ask my blog readers what they think.” And so I did. And you answered.

***

Okay, okay — I’ll start a bit earlier in the evening.

The girls and I were in the kitchen, cleaning up, or preparing food, or something. Impera replied, in a good-humored way, to some comment, “Don’t be hatin’ on me, Mom!”

And that was the segue I hadn’t known I was looking for into a conversation about how she and her friends talk to each other.

***

But that requires me to go even futher back. A few weeks ago Impera had two of her girlfriends sleep over, and I noticed that they would go through these riffs of gangsta speak. Now, Impera and her friends love the diversity of their school and of our neighborhood, and this wasn’t being done in a disrespectful way of someone else’s speech patterns. But it sounded awkward to me to hear these absolutely non-gangsta white girls talking like this.

***

Back to the kitchen, I told Impera of my concerns. She told me that when they do that, they are laughing at themselves, how silly they sound, not how silly other people sound (in the same vein as Offspring’s Pretty Fly (For a White Guy). She also mentioned that when they were in 7th grade helping a teacher after school, another student was in there finishing up a poster project he (she?) hadn’t completed on time (hence, had to stay after to finish it). The student said, “It’s done!” The teacher replied, “Oh, no, it isn’t.” The student shot back (good-naturedly), “What do you mean? — It’s gansta-licous!” and Impera and her friends thought this term was hilarious (just as the student expected them to think). It’s become a tag-phrase for them.

I don’t question their motives (Impera is fiercely anti-racist and anti-classist), but I asked her to think about how this might sound to an outsider, someone who just happened to pass by them in the school halls, or at a local store, or on a neighborhood sidewalk. These strangers don’t know how proud these girls are of the diversity of their neighborhood and schools. They can’t hear the difference between a laugh directed at oneself and a laugh directed at another group — none of us can! I told her that it made me cringe when I heard them, because it sounded rude and there might be misunderstanding.

***

Sort of like with our friend Cecil, with his smart-ass sense of humor. And here we go even further back in time, to when the Consort and I lived in California, pre-kids: We’d be waiting in a line in a public place, and Cecil would be talking about something, say, international affairs — maybe discussing something that was happening in the Middle East — and he’d finish his piece by saying, nice and loud, “Damn Jews!”

I could just feel the temperature in the line drop, as the people ahead and behind us heard his rude proclamation. It was pretty clear to them that there was one of those bigoted conservatives right here in their midst. How rude!

I would cringe, wondering if I could turn to the people around us and explain, “Wait — he’s not being rude, he’s being funny! See, Cecil is Jewish — he feels he has every right to make these sorts of jokes … Ha ha. He’s got a crazy sense of humor that way. Get it? …. Ha …. ha … Ermm, ha?”

***

I don’t know if Impera saw my point of view, because she changed tack on me. (We’re back to the other night, now, if the asterisks had gotten you lost at this point.) She mentioned that although maybe that sort of miscommunication felt rude to me, well, there were plenty of times where my choice of conversation felt rude to her: Case in point, the conversation provided as Scenario 1. She couldn’t believe that I would be so rude to the waitress. That if the waitress said they couldn’t have egg on the side, then I shouldn’t press her on it (and I admit, there was “tone” when I spoke it. My tone of voice wasn’t haughty as much as disbelieving, and it certainly implied that I thought the waitress was being lazy, not wanting to ask the kitchen for the eggs to be put on the side.)

I tried to explain that I feel that waitstaff should try to accomodate simple requests like ours, especially since we are paying customers, and that I am not one of those people who would go to a restaurant and ask for things like changing the trout for salmon, oh, and can I have it grilled instead of pan-fried, and can the chorizo be taken out of the chorizo and peppers pasta, etc., etc. (And by the way, when the Pad Thai came, it had egg in it! Now, this request wasn’t for us, it was for our dinner companions, who are vegan. I told them we should send it back and they just said they’d eat the other plates we had ordered, instead, no problem. But it was a problem, I thought. I would have had that fixed.)

She didn’t agree. And throughout all this Trixie came in as Impera’s personal cheerleader. So it was two against one. I needed to even out the odds.

“I’m going to ask my blog readers what they think.”

***

And there you have it.

I should mention that Impera did not at all like how I crafted Scenario 2. “We don’t talk like that” — and I agree. I put in way too many bits into a short scenario, and I’m sure I used some of the slang incorrectly. But you all got the idea. And I told her I wished she’d just comment on the blog post, but she prefers to just read and tell me what she thinks of my shoddy reportage.

By the way, I love how there were so many interpretations as to what exactly was the rudeness in each exchange. It all boils down to a lack of clarity on my part, but it was entertaining to read the comments.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. 23 October 2008 5:31 pm

    OK, so I commented down below that I hadn’t honed in on the fact that there was some mimicry going on with the teens. I think Impera probably just didn’t understand how it might look from the outside. Her intentions are pure–I have no doubt of that at all! There’s a difference between using one word (Gangstalicious) and doing longer riffs, though. For me at least, the former is OK, while the latter isn’t, so much.

    I can see how she’d be uncomfortable with your behavior, also. As a young person I was mortified by things that I now see as merely assertive.

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