Thursday, July 17, 2008

What's that on your head?

Mao demonstrating "the jerkiest dinosaur"
Mao demonstrating "the jerkiest dinosaur"

What the hell is wrong with people?

Ok, how many blog posts have you read that start with that question. Yes. That's why most people have blogs. But this is my first time, so I will ask again: What the hell is wrong with people?
Some old(ish) guy for whom I have just traipsed all over the branch to find his stupid bestseller: I'm dying to ask you a personal question.
Me: [private sigh, public smile] If it's about the hair, go right ahead.
Him: No, nope, won't do it.
Leaving me to scamper to my colleague The Admiral's Daughter: "Robin! Is my skirt tucked into my underwear?" "Do I have a boob hanging out?" "Did I hang my earrings on my glasses instead of my earlobes or something?"

This is arguably not as bad as the ganky guy hanging out in front of the 7-11, who thinks it's ok to say, "Hoo-wee! That is some hair!" which - I don't even know, do I say thank you? Do I agree? "Yes. Yes it is some hair. You also have some hair, but not as much, and it is of a less attractive color and appears not have been washed recently. Also, what is that on the side of your nose?"

And it is certainly not as bad as a certain friend of my mom's. I stopped in during mom's sewing group a couple weeks ago. It was kind of fun for me: most of those ladies are the moms of kids I knew in high school. I showed off my kids, talked about our vacation. I couldn't help calling them all "Mrs. X" and "Mrs. Y", despite the fact that I am now 42.

After I left, the one lady asked my mother, "That's not a real tattoo on her leg, is it?" I don't know how she saw that tattoo, which is quite high up on my thigh - a kind of unseemly place for a polite person to be looking in the first place - and I don't know why it wouldn't be a real tattoo: the large band around my right forearm is unmistakably real - and hard to miss.

Mom verified the tattoo, and then this lady, Miss Manners 1953, pronounced, "Last I saw her she looked so pale. Now she looks better, except for that mark on her leg, of course."

What the motherfucking fuck. If I had spent a while in the hospital sometime recently, verbally scrutinizing my appearance might be acceptable. However, I am in perfect health and have been so, oh, all my life. Also, there is that large forearm tattoo. Do I conclude that the Bronze Age motif on my arm is more palatable than the abbreviated petroglyphs on my leg? Should I be relieved that she didn't see the exploded rose window on my back?

I can't wait til I run into her sons - who, if memory serves, are no prizes in the looks department - so that I can assess their personal appearance and pass it along. "The hair plugs seem to have taken - whew, I bet that was a relief!"

So for all you ganky guys, clueless library patrons, and genteel matrons who ought to know better, I'm going to make it easy, by laying down some rules. With examples.

RULE #1: Unsolicited comments on another's appearance. Compliments Only. I myself tend to keep any comments of this nature confined to apparel and accessories.

"Cute shoes!" is something that you may say to anyone: family, stranger, adult, child.

"What an even tan you have!" is crossing the line. ("Do you have freckles everywhere?" is WAAY over the line, take it from my friend Molly.)

"That shirt makes your boobs look squished" is acceptable only between close friends, and only when the person wearing the shirt asks, and perhaps should only be heard in fitting rooms.

RULE #2: Hair. This goes for haircuts as well as dye jobs. First of all, See RULE #1.

"New haircut? Nice!" is always ok between friends and co-workers.

"I like the haircut. Much better than all that long hair hanging all down your back." is NOT ok. I had a (male, which definitely makes it worse) boss who hit me with that one once. I was like, "You asshole, I had beautiful hair."

Although "Why did you cut off all your beautiful hair?" is also never ok.

The little girls who shyly tell me, "I like your hair..." get a pass from me because it gives me a chance to recommend books to them.

And in my case, friends may offer opinion as to today's hue or saturation (it varies).

Anyone else, if you are not asking for practical instruction, i.e. "Where did you have that done?" "What dye do you use?" stick to RULE #1.

RULE #3: Comments about another person's child's appearance: See RULE #1.

"What a beautiful baby!" Always acceptable.
"What's that on his head?" Not ok.
"Are his eyes going to stay like that?" REALLY not ok.
"So... has that been diagnosed yet?" Grounds for expulsion from the mommy group.

RULE #4: Tattoos. First of all, See RULE #1. Secondly, there is an unspoken fraternity among the tattooed.

If you have visible tattoos, "That is nice work. Where did you get it?" is ok.

"Did the tattoo artist design that?" is ok too. That way, the person with the tattoo can say, "No, I designed it myself." and leave it at that, or go into more detail. "My sister drew it for me: it's the Chinese symbols for 'little sister' and cherry blossoms because I was born in May." (Hey, Stef!)

If you don't have any tattoos, "That's a really nice tattoo," is pretty much as far as I recommend you go. The number of times I have had to try to explain the derivation of this stuff on my forearm is only equalled by the number of times I have sat with a book in a bar and had to hear, "Whatcha reading?"

Otherwise, you run the risk of getting the answer, "Tattoo? No, this is a birthmark. It has caused me great psychic pain and embarrassment all my life. Thanks for pointing it out. Again."

Of course, even I can be surprised. One night this spring, my parents took the kids and gave us a gift certificate for a night in a lovely hotel down on the Harbor. In the morning, as we were blissfully browsing the Continental breakfast bar, a woman approached me and asked, "May I ask you a question?"

I smiled patiently and said, "Of course," thinking she wanted to ask me about my stupid damn hair and thinking seriously about a sticky bun.

And then she said, "Do you know that Jesus loves you? He really does, you know."

Taken aback, I just raised my eyebrows, took a yogurt, and walked away. All I can figure is that she thought I was a prostitute.

But that's a rant for another day.