Good Grief

posted in: Uncategorized | 10

DaisyWinnefred, of Animated Stardust relates a hilarious experience with an off kilter heterosexual. Her grace and humor in an intolerable encounter certainly are lessons in humility and kindness. I wish I could be so charming and tolerant. But, I guess, what else can you do in such a situation?

Reminds me of a story my mother told me of when I was a baby in Hannover, Germany. This was back in 1960 when Hannover harbored precious few dark-skinned creatures and just seeing a black or Asian was as rare as flamingos in the Black Forest. My father is a Filipino/black American while my mother is a cream-skinned German. The resulting cocktail is an olive-skinned mutt who can pass off as Mexican, Nepali, Turkish, Iraqi, Brazilian, Italian, Indian, Spanish, even Portuguese (all of which I have been mistaken for). Suffice it to say that in Germany, in the small city of Hannover, in 1960, I was pretty much an organic representation of an exclamation mark.

Anyway, my mother told me, she and I were taking our leisure in the hallowed walls of the hospital where I was born, waiting for my checkup. There were a few tables lined up against the wall for mothers to attend to their babies and my mother stood beside one, changing my diapers. Another mother with her little, curlicue-haired, blonde baby was changing his diapers, so that he and I could begin our first jaunt into urinal bathroom comparison rivalry. I’m not sure if I initiated any undue cause for attention, but the woman leaned toward my white mother, gave her a rundown with her eyes, switched headlights toward me, this swaddled muffin, lightly browned, gave me the once down, glanced back at my mother, then me again, all in head-cocking appraisal, before standing up straight and inquiring, in all earnestness:

“Please, tell me. How did you manage to get that particular shade of skin tone? My son’s skin remains as pink as when he was born. What do you do? Feed him carrots? Do the carrots make a great difference?”

It wasn’t my fault! I do happen to like carrots. I often wonder now if my affliction could have been prevented with a bit more forethought on my part. A bit more whole milk, perhaps. Or maybe tubs of yoghurt. Marshmallows? Or how about Cool Whip?

10 Responses

  1. Ooooh, you’ve got me laughing with tears flowing from my eyes!

    “organic representation of an exclamation mark”, carrots, marshmallows, Coolwhip??? What a riot!

    Thanks for the laughs – they really cheered me up tonight!

  2. Ah, now I realise what the ‘problem’ is in this household….my culinary life revolves around the humble carrot!

  3. Thanks for sharing Daisy’s story. And your own. It reminded me of my experiences being “the other,” when I took my dear Dad to an AA meeting, the better for him to understand my younger sister’s compulsive drinking. He looked like Bush in the headlights after 9/11. He won a Big Book at the meeting, and threw it at me like it was a hot potato, and after the meeting, went home and told my mother who was at the meeting, forgetting about the Anonymous part of the program.

    And just this past week, while visiting him and my stepmother in Maine, she threw out at me all her resentments that she has been collecting all these years. One was that my sister Dot and I were talking about my Aunt and her companion of fifty years, and we used the word Lesbian–but not in a perjorative sense at all–just that no one told us when we were children, instead, parents called my aunt’s companion “That woman.” But now my stepmother let it out that she was appalled and horrified that we used that word to describe my aunt. My aunt was a loving, kind, generous woman, and her companion was an innovative, strong presence, and they lived happy lives. I have reacted to my stepmother’s intolerances for many years, from the “colored people” in Florida to the French canadians in Maine–there is always someone who is the “other.” I used to have to say something, but now I just try not to react. It never changed anything, just get me really hot under the collar. What gets me is the church-going, self-righteous attitudes, speaking Jesus on the one hand and hatred on the other. These minor examples of intolerance can not compare with a sense of being threatened the way Daisy described, though, but that’s what came up in me.

  4. That was hilarious. You won’t believe this but truly, many people in the tiny village I live in still watch people with a dark skin tone as if they are aliens.

    I remember how, when my half Haitian ex-fiance visited The Netherlands, we took a walk with the dog. So many people turned their head or gave us a long, astonished stare, that we just burst out in laughter. We couldn’t stop, even now after all these years when we are on the phone we giggle about them.

    I am not sure what ‘Cool Whip’ is, but I say opt for more carrots :)

  5. Hi Anne. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I guess laughing at all the ridiculousness is the only cure.

    Cool Whip is an American standby “instant” whip cream that comes in a can. You shake it and then spray it onto whatever you want to lather up. Unfortunately it tastes like sweetened shaving foam. But it holds up well. You can use it to reshape your physical parameters and then join Mission Impossible for any scenes requiring incognito operations.

  6. Hahahaha yak that sounds awful. It sounds almost as horrific as the birthday cakes I have tasted in California, with neon colour topping that makes your tongue blue and green and fire-truck-red..

  7. No more toasting marshmallows around the campfire!

  8. I’ve really missed you. Oh, you haven’t been gone? Guess that means it’s been ME that’s been lax about coming around, then, huh? Well, tonight I popped in, and wouldn’t you know I’d find something that not only made my eyes squint in that squishy-squirrelly way that happens when I smile a bit too much, but right dead center in the middle of that smile was a hollow pain because of the truth that carries the foundation for this cleverly told tale. Surprised she didn’t ask if your mother bathed you in coffee lattes, or sweetened tea. An exclamation point, indeed!

  9. ntexas99, I was seriously debating whether to stop the blog or not, but, after thinking about both the community that has developed, and the joy I have in creating what I can here, I decided to continue, albeit with a bit more discipline concerning time. I’m still working out the way I want to continue. I’m thinking of, as one person suggested, posting on certain days with certain scheduled topics. Since I’m also thinking of moving the blog over to WordPress, redesigning the whole site, and adding certain subsections (including a Japanese page for my Japanese readers, who understandably feel overwhelmed by all this difficult English), this is taking a bit of time.

    But, yes. I’m still here. I expect to be for a good bit of time.

    Hey, stop smiling! This is SERIOUS writing here!

  10. Oh, this made me laugh so much too. I’m glad you’re here, Miguel, even for us irregulars who stop by every once in a while — I’m late to the party as always :-)

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