Thursday, 5 March 2009

Swivel Hips, Softhands, and Fat Wanker

What you see isn't always what you get. People make assumptions all the time about others based on external factors. For example, at my salsa class I have come up with nicknames for many of the regulars: Softhands, a nice, soft-spoken young man with -- you got it -- soft hands; Swivel Hips, another nice young man who is a funky dancer; BT2, a woman blessed (?) with big tits and big teeth who can't seem to find T-shirts that fit her; Paul the Pillock, enough said; Big Mustache and Small Mustache, two jolly guys with, um, mustaches, though Big Mustache doesn't go anymore and Small Mustache seems to have ditched his wife; Smelly Man, who fortunately doesn't go anymore; Curvy Girl, who likes to shake that booty.

I don't know much about these people beyond twirling around, with, and among them for an hour once a week or so. Softhands could be a right bastard; Paul the Pillock could be a saint. I have made assumptions and judgments based on these assumptions.

I'm not alone. Others have done the same to me, particularly after I moved to the UK. I became The American, with all the connotations -- negative and positive -- that might have. I am also Blonde. I am also a Stay-At-Home Mother. Put all those together, and you might have a very negative view of me indeed.

Even people who have known me for quite a few years can't seem to get beyond these labels. Such as -- dare I mention their name -- the Frenemies. Yes, I should dump them, but it's difficult because our kids are friends and I actually like two out of the five couples. One couple I'm neutral about, and two I can't stand. Anyway, we were having dinner at the home of one of the couples I like on Saturday. Frenemy's husband and the fat, balding know-it-all wanker of a husband of another one were talking about George Chakiris, he of West Side Story fame. I piped up that he had been in White Christmas. Frenemy's husband and Fat Wanker scoffed at me. They fancy themselves Trivia Kings because they've actually been on TV quiz shows. But I know my White Christmas and I held my ground. Fat Wanker said he couldn't possibly have been because White Christmas came out in the 40s. No, I replied, it came out in 1954 or 1956 (you can tell from the clothes and hairstyles). Fat Wanker and I made a £10 wager. Fat Wanker's wife looked it up on her Blackberry on the internet. Guess who won? Guess who didn't get her £10?

They made assumptions and judgments about me and were wrong. In that case, at least.

It's occurred to me that this has happened to Barack Obama his whole life. Assumptions have been made about the color of his skin, his name, his parentage, where he's lived. And yet look at what a cool person he is. No chips on his shoulders.

We label people because that makes it easier to categorize them in our brains. And we humans generally like to categorize. It helps us cope with the unknown, probably a throwback to Neanderthal Man. But we must remember to look outside the assumptions and judgments. These can be wrong. Just ask Fat Wanker.

15 comments:

Dave said...

A very funny post.. I like your descriptions of people!
I have to admit, I made an assumption of you. I thought, based upon your profile, that you must be a Blackpool lass or from somewhere around there. I did not know you were an American living in the UK. Now that I re-read your older posts I see it now in your writing style. I am pleased to see you have adopted much loved terms such as Wanker, Pillock etc. Very useful words!
I do understand what you are saying though. Now that I am an Englishman living in a very non-cosmopolitan part of the USA I find that people make assumptions about me - and even voice them to me - based upon what they perceive the English character to be rather than what their senses should be telling them. Funnily enough I joined a Salsa class too and labelled people with names as well. The funniest to observe was Johnny Comb-Over - then I learned he was a highly decorated cop!

ChrisB said...

I love all your names, had me laughing. The wager should be honoured and the fact that it wasn't means he's aptly named :)

softinthehead said...

Well I had to read a post with that title - great read - I could visual all your dance partners, sounds like an interesting class.

Kaycie said...

Sometimes I think you're much nicer than I am, Coffee. I'd call Fat Wanker something else -- Arrogant Prick.

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

I feel for you mixing with such twats. I put up with some horrid people because my husband liked them - one of the women was a real bitch that through drink started to take me apart. Now I am no shrinking violet and stupid enough to let her away with it but for ages I did and she was inconsistent - ie, not always beligerent so I would fall into a false sense of security. But being the pisshead that she is she became more and more frequently nasty and so I cames armed as it were and started to subtly take her apart. The trouble is we don't think like these people which is why they catch us off guard. Anyway, bitchiepooh as I call her is now history as she left the most horrendous message on my blog six months ago - everyone knew it was her and she is mortified for showing herself up so badly! She thought she was really clever and that I was too stupid to see what she was up to! Sneak. She creeps past my house with her dogs with a face like thuder - there is a God you know and he lets nature take its course - what goes around comes around! Hopefully the follicly challenged fat wanker will get his soon but when you think of it, he already has being a fat, baldy, obnoxious wanker! Tough eh!

Flowerpot said...

I ahve to say I've been guilty of making assumptions in the past as well. I try not to so much now. But I am SO impressed at your doing salsa - wow!

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

Dave: I love Johnny Comb-Over, the name at least. I bet you do come across some characters, but I also bet they treat you better than some Brits have treated me. But I'm making an assumption here. Blackpool lass? I couldn't be farther from that if I tried!

ChrisB: Yeah, he didn't get that nickname for no reason.

softinthehead: It is such fun. I highly recommend it to everyone. I'm total crap but I always leave smiling.

kaycie: Yeah, that's his other name.

MOB: Why are people like that? Because she is jealous of you, as Frenemy is of me. It's not even worth playing that game with them. They'll win every time because that's all they're good at.

Flowerpot: Don't be so impressed. You haven't seen me dance.

Fire Byrd said...

And the first time I saw you coming into Cafe Rouge, although I knew it was you, I was amazed how glamorous you were.... and of course still are!
xx

Dave said...

You are correct, Wakeup. I rarely get treated badly here in the US. Although there are a lot of great people in the UK there are also a lot of ignorant wankers that decide because they don't like GW Bush then they don't like any Americans - or any other ill informed reason they can think of. I was very sensitive to this when still in the UK and American friends would visit. Unfortunately the wankers outshine the good ones.

Trixie said...

Must of felt so good getting one over the fat wanker! Is he a banker by chance?

Expat mum said...

Hang on. Why didn't you get your tenner? I have taken, from your post, that you were right (and he thought you knew nothing). Or did I get the wrong end of the stick. (I am blonde and live up to the stereotype from time to time even tho' I have a law degree. In fact, I'm really what's her face from Legally Blonde.)

Reasons to be Cheerful 1,2,3 said...

Love the word Frenemies - know exactly what you mean. Have them, hate them, can't avoid them.

I am just learning to judge less at the age of 43. I didn't think i did before but now when I see people I'd would before have assumed to be too old, boring, beautiful or whatever, I try to stop myself jumping to conclusions about them and I'm finding it very suprising and strangely relaxing actually.

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

Fire Byrd: You're too kind. But keep it up!

Dave: The negative always seems to make more of an impression. If all Brits were the same, I wouldn't be here. Fortunately, they're not. You meet good and bad ones wherever you go.

Trixie: No, he's in IT. 'Nuff said.

Expat Mum: I can see the resemblance to Reese Witherspoon. Do you have a little dog? I didn't get my tenner because he's a Fat Wanker.

Reasons to be Cheerful: It is freeing, isn't it? But hard not make judgments. I'm as guilty as anyone.

DogLover said...

In my youth in the UK, I sat behind a committee of important men in an important institution, taking notes of the meetings for the Secretary General.

One member of the committee, a tall distinguished looking man of about 60, sat scowling throughout each meeting. He looks a foul man, I thought. Then the day came when I had to be secretary to a small sub-committee. Wouldn't you know it: that man was to be the chairman.

He came over to me and said "Let's discuss how we are going to run the sub-committee meetings, Doglover". "Yes, Sir," I said, "We can have them in Room B". He scowled at me and I thought "This is going to be difficult".

"My boy," he said "I'm glad you're going to be secretary, but you'll have to speak up - I'm very deaf. I usually have to read your minutes to find what I've been listening to!" and he gave me an enormous smile.

He was a lovely man, kind and generous and he always had time for me. Sadly, he's long since gone. I learned the same lesson as you did, Stay at Home Mother.

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

Doglover: What a great story! And I suspect there are quite a few of us out there who are hard of hearing.