If you’ve seen my stand-up routine, then you’ve already heard me talk about people’s confusion with my race. It’s a recurring theme in my life. I get so many variations of, “What are you?” it’s become quite a joke (hello, The Differences Between Black Girls and White Girls at the Gym!). But I totally forgot that Eric isn’t used to the awkward questions I get asked at the most inopportune times…and so I was so excited when he got to witness it for the first time last week!
This was a pretty good one to start with too.
We were at Specs and were checking out when the very nice, sorta Wal-Mart woman working there looked at me and cocked her head to the side.
“You have such beautiful skin!” she said in her Southern accent.
“Oh, thank you!” I responded. I just took the compliment; I totally forgot that that’s how this always begins.
Her head had been cocked, but then she began to turn it even further, sort of like a dog hearing one of those high-pitched whistles that are inaudible to humans.
“Where are you from?” she said.
I opened my mouth to answer, but then I realized what she was asking me. I blushed with the realization and I was trying not to smile but I was so excited Eric was going to see one of my public WTF RACE ARE YOU? moments in action. He realized it at the same time I did — that she definitely did not want to hear “Michigan.” She wanted to hear the most exotic combination of locales imaginable. AH! What next? Would she ask if I was Chaldean? Perhaps Dominican today? Would she insist — insist! — that I’m Indian? Or would she say something totally racist, but kind of awesomely so? The excitement was killing me; Eric and I didn’t even look at each other; we both just stood there biting our lips in pure joy.
I should have indulged her fantasies and told her I was some sort of rare nearly-extinct race, but as always, I was truthful.
“Oh, I’m just black and white!”
“Really!” She said it as if I’d let her in on an amazing secret that she had never known. She was genuinely surprised, but at the same time, sort of delighted to be learning this new fun fact. I was just batting my eyelashes, trying not to laugh.
“Really!” she said. “I didn’t know blacks and whites could…look like that!”
It was like all the slot machines in Vegas started pouring coins into my lap. I live for these kind of responses. I felt like I was in “The Office.”
I just love how poorly she phrased it. She really was implying was “I didn’t know blacks and whites could make something that looks like that!” but she didn’t want to flat-out say that.
I know she didn’t mean any harm so I really wasn’t offended. I mean, she was trying to compliment me, and besides, it’s better to surprise people with the information that blacks and whites can, in fact, look like this than to get accused for twenty minutes of being a race you definitely are not.
I just grinned and said, “Thanks!” and then headed out with my beer and my white boyfriend, both of us just relishing in the awkwardness of the whole thing.
“I told you,” I said when we got outside. “I told you, but now you get to see it in action! There’s going to be so much more of this too!”
Eric said that next time, he’s just going to turn it into a game. He’s going to answer for me and then I just have to go with it and create a total back story based on whatever he says is true. I’m always down for a good improv game, especially when it allows me to mock people.
Still…joke is going to be on him when his first son is asking him about getting a jheri curl.