“Not Pretty…But Harmless”

Subtitle:  Drinking with white people, part deux.  Went to a new hairdresser today.  Turns out — I know this will come as a shock — he’s gay. [**] Within the first few minutes of our conversation, I learned that he had a husband to whom he’d gotten married in Vegas.  Awesome!  I’m a huge fan of marriage equality!  We had a grand ol time discussing the California Prop 8 case, how cool it was that he got married, what it was like to work with your husband (something we had in common), the comparative virtues of Lady Gaga’s meat outfit vs. Bjork’s swan outfit, and his penchant for (another surprise!) decorating.  Little did I know, my drinking-with-white-people experience had begun.  I learned about his fantastic historic house, in his fantastic historic neighborhood right downtown, where he and his husband could walk to many incredible restaurants.

But!  They were going to turn the historic property across the street into a 40 bed alcohol rehab facility!  Luckily he and his neighbors got together and raised hell, so they rejected it.  (Still not clear who the “theys” were.)  I weighed the pros and cons of explaining the Fair Housing Act and NIMBYism* at this point, but honestly I really liked the haircut and … well this is the sort of compromises you make when you really like the haircut but the stylist is an asshole.

Then it got worse.  Of course, he said, there are already two of them in the neighborhood.  Two facilities.  One is for, you know, mentally challenged people.

“You know, not pretty… but harmless.”

At this point, thank God, he was through cutting and was putting some sort of styling glop in my hair.  I rubbed my eyes and explained that I was a civil rights lawyer, that we did fair housing cases, and that all of these people and facilities had just as much right as he and his husband did to live there.  Of course, he sighed, you know we take them food at Christmas.

I guess I’m especially bummed because I’m guessing this guy has been on the receiving end of prejudice in his life but still could not see past his own prejudices.  This is, of course, not uncommon, but every damn time it depresses the hell out of me.

And I really did like the haircut.

Update:  I guess I should be clear on what was implicit in the last sentence.  NFW am I going back to that stylist or salon.  Oh well.

*Not In My BackYard.

** Update:  A friend quite properly pointed out that this sentence itself — in its attempt at humor — is pretty stereotyped, like saying “I know this will come as a shock” that my banker is Jewish or an African-American is a good athlete.  All I can say is: yup.  I screwed that one up.  In the tradition of blogging (funny to have a tradition for something that has only about ten years of history), I’m not deleting it.  Rather in my own tradition, I’ll just go forward feeling stupid about it.

3 thoughts on ““Not Pretty…But Harmless”

  1. Sporcupine


    While shuddering at the story, I so appreciate you sharing.

    I’m thinking that the missing virtue in that story was the habit of recognizing others as part of yourself and their wellbeing as part of your own. I think “solidarity” is a pretty good word for that habit (but not instantly understood to meant that without discussion).

    My working hypothesis is that we all develop that habit mainly through caring about a person and then learning from that person’s stories. I was once asked by a reporter how we could close Kentucky’s black-white achievement gap, and the words that came out of my mouth were “The first thing we’ve got to do is make a whole lot of white ladies cry.” I’d been on the phone for the previous 90 minutes with an African-American parent/agitator, and the question reached me when the group that was most me was “people who want success for students who haven’t counted until now” rather than my own gender and race.

    As a fellow Coates blog reader, I’m haunted by a comment there from rikyrah (spelling?) something like “that’s why I no longer educate white people.” If I understood that (and maybe I didn’t at all) it’s about the exhaustion that comes with endlessly explaining to people who don’t get it and don’t have to and don’t hesitate to claim they’ve already learned all they need to know about lives they haven’t lived.

    And yet, telling the stories and letting other people encounter your world through you is the only thing that gives them (us, me) a chance to grow out of being oblivious.

    So, again, thank you. Also, in solidarity, I’d like to say: YUCK!

    P.S. Do you send TNC an e-mail when you work off of his work?



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