Mistaken Identity

There have been many instances in which people have made assumptions about me that weren’t true. I always find these experiences extremely disconcerting. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve. I think of myself as someone who is pretty easy to read. But of course, I shouldn’t assume that total strangers know how to read me.

Once, I was shopping for a purse and my hands were full, so I put all my stuff on the floor and picked up a purse and looked inside to see if it had well designed compartments (as you do), and suddenly this store detective grabbed me rather forcefully by my arm. I looked at him and said, “What the hell?” and he apologized and walked off. He thought I was trying to steal the purse.

That reminded me of the many times I was followed by detectives in stores as a teenager. Yes, I was quite visibly poor, but that didn’t mean I was a thief. I’ve never stolen so much as a stick of gum in my entire life. (Well, that’s not true. I have walked off with my fair share of ball point pens. But I swear to you that it’s never intentional.)

Then there was the time when my greyhound ripped up my couch at 3 in the morning and gashed his leg wide open on the springs. I rushed him to the 24 hour emergency vet. The vet was hostile and uncooperative. I was freaked out and still in my pajamas, but that didn’t mean I was neglectful or abusive to my dog. He changed his attitude when I gave him the long list of very expensive medications that dog was on. Suddenly he looked at me in a completely different light. “Wow, maybe she does care about her dog.” That really pissed me off, because this was an emergency, for crying out loud. I didn’t have time to justify my character while my dog was bleeding out in the waiting room.

Once, while traveling in Turkey, I decided to rent a car for a portion of the journey. Simply because I was female, they wouldn’t rent the car to me unless I test drove it with them. They made it clear that they’d have felt much better if it had been my boyfriend driving. I found that quite amusing, since he’d been in no less than 7 car accidents, all of which were his fault. That’s why I did all the driving in that relationship.

I can’t count the number of times 911 operators have assumed I was a crank caller. I’ve also been accused of cheating when I hadn’t (big shout out to one of my ex’s entire freakin’ loser family), lying when I wasn’t, and being part of a bigger conspiracy when I couldn’t have cared less. I’ve also been told that I really must want children when I don’t, and that there’s something strange about me because I don’t want to dress sexy every waking moment of my life. Don’t even get me started on the innumerable times I have been considered less intelligent than I am.

There’s nothing more frustrating to me than being misunderstood. This makes me realize, though, that I get to hide behind my white privilege quite a bit. Most people assume I’m harmless, which means these negative situations crop up rarely enough to cause me outrage when they do. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a minority and have to contend with this bs every single day.

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Think of Horses

Here’s a quote that’s often used in the medical profession:

“When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses, not zebras.” – Dr. Theodore Woodward

In other words, don’t assume some exotic medical malady first, when it is much more likely to be something quite common. A child is much more likely to have a bladder infection than maple syrup urine disease.

But I think this quote can and should be applied to a lot more areas of life than just medicine. One of the reasons that I tend to look askance at most conspiracy theories is the simple, basic fact that the vast majority of people cannot keep secrets. And trying to get a large number of people to agree, let alone march in lockstep toward one common, corrupt goal, is next to impossible. If something nefarious is going on, chances are it’s one person at the heart of it, maybe two at most. Not an entire organization.

I know a woman who thinks zebras all the time. For example, she saw a dog hair on the counter at her place of work, and rather than assuming it fell off someone’s clothing, she instantly concluded that someone was sneaking his or her dog to work on her days off. Seriously?

And when you try to do something helpful for this woman, she automatically believes you must be out to get her. It has got to be exhausting, always running with the zebras like that. And because she trusts no one, no one trusts her. That’s kind of sad.

I genuinely believe that the simple explanation is most often the right one. That’s how I choose to live my life. Yup, sometimes I’m wrong, but I’m also a lot less stressed out.

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It makes me tired just watching.

That Place Beyond Logic

There ought to be a word for people who irrationally cling to their beliefs way beyond the point where they could possibly make any sense to anyone, including themselves. Some of these people are simply desperately stupid. Others are just so stubborn that they refuse to change their stance even when they themselves must realize that they look like fools.

Here’s an actual conversation I once had with an ex-boyfriend. Not only does it illustrate my point but it explains one of the many reasons he is an ex.

Him: “Anyone who has ever had alcohol is an alcoholic.”

Me: “Er… what?”

Him: “It’s true. Any alcohol of any kind means you’re an alcoholic.”

Me: “So the woman who has one cold beer a week to celebrate the weekend is an alcoholic?”

Him: “Yes.”

Me: “Even if she has never been drunk in her life.”

Him: “Yes.”

Me: “Even if during hard times she can’t afford that one beer and that doesn’t particularly bother her.”

Him: “Yes.”

Me: “How about your amazing Aunt Linda, who has only had the occasional glass of champagne at New Year’s?

Him: “She’s an alcoholic, too.”

Me: “She would be as stunned as I am to hear that, I’m sure. How about someone who partied pretty hard in college because that was the thing to do, but who outgrew it by the time he was 23, and hasn’t had a drink of any kind in the past 50 years?”

Him: “Alcoholic.”

Me: “Seriously? And someone who has never consciously partaken, but has had Nyquil, which contains alcohol, when suffering from a bad head cold?”

Him: “He’s an alcoholic, too.”

Me: “Nothing but communion wine about once a month?

Him: “Alcoholic.”

Me: “How about a fundamentalist (insert any religion here) who has avoided alcohol of all kinds since birth, but one day accidentally takes a sip of vodka, thinking it’s water, and immediately spits it out, but one evil drop manages to slide down her throat?

Him: “Yes, her too.”

Me: “What a scary world you live in. Every single person on the planet is an alcoholic. How about you? You had one drink your entire life, a glass of wine as we rode a gondola through the canals of Venice. Are you an alcoholic?”

Him: “I am.”

Me (after a long pause): “Do you have any idea how insane you sound right now?”

Defying logic is the worst kind of stupidity. I just realized that there is a word for this type of person: idiot. Or maybe it’s republican. Or maybe both.

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Sealed Without Your Consent–Mormon Ordinances by Proxy

The LDS Church performs a wide variety of ordinances, some of which are called saving ordinances, which they believe are required for salvation. One such ordinance is called sealing, and it seals you to spouses and other family members for all eternity. Fine and dandy and more power to them, I say. Everyone is entitled to their own sacred beliefs, and that is one of theirs. Even as someone who is outside their faith, I can respect that.

But wait. Hold on. It turns out that a whole group of my ancestors in Denmark have been sealed. And they passed away before the LDS even existed. How is that possible? It turns out that there’s this loophole called an ordinance by proxy.

According to Wikipedia,

“After Latter-day Saints enter the temple and receive temple ordinances for themselves, they may return and perform the saving ordinances on behalf of their deceased ancestors. These are performed vicariously or by “proxy” on behalf of the dead, and Latter-day Saints believe that it is up to the deceased to accept or reject the offered ordinance in the spirit world. Only saving ordinances are performed on behalf of deceased persons.

“Ordinances on behalf of the dead may be performed only when a deceased person’s genealogical information has been submitted to a temple. Latter-day Saints complete genealogical work for deceased persons and if it is determined an individual has not received some or all of the saving ordinances, the individual’s name is submitted to the temple to receive these ordinances by proxy. Optimally, the proxy who stands in will be a descendant of the deceased person, but the ordinance proxy may also be an unrelated volunteer.”

Well, that certainly explains why the Mormons have the best, most detailed genealogical records in the world. They want to save as many people as they possibly can. That can’t be a bad thing, can it? Rumor has it they’ve even sealed Adolf Hitler, Anne Frank, and Mother Teresa. That’s a load off, knowing that their places in eternity are assured, because their actions in life didn’t already seal their fate for better or for worse, right? [Heavy sarcasm alert.]

But when I heard about this happening to my relatives I was disgusted, and my cousin and my late sister could not understand why. Here’s why. I take my spirituality very seriously. It has been hard won and required a great deal of soul searching. The thought that when I die some future relative who is a total stranger to me can perform this ordinance on my behalf, against my will, is offensive. If I wanted to be sealed, I’d do it while I was alive.

I suppose I could petition that my relatives to be “un-sealed”, but I feel I don’t have the right to do so for the same reason that the proxy sealer didn’t have the right to seal them in the first place. I have no idea what their wishes would have been, so I can’t in good conscience make that type of choice on their behalf.

My sister said, “But why do you care if you’re sealed? You’ll be dead.” I care, dammit, because we’re talking about my legacy. We’re talking about what other future family members will read about me and believe about my choices. Unless they make an effort to do their homework, they’d most likely assume that the choice was mine, and I’d hate to think that perceived choice might influence theirs. I don’t want my legacy, my hard won philosophy about this life and the next,  to be usurped and altered, no matter how well-intentioned the person who chooses to perform this rite may be.

It’s a certainty that I won’t completely agree, religiously, with the majority of my future relatives. Heaven knows I don’t agree with all my living ones. And, oh, by the way, there are some relatives that I’d rather not be sealed to for all eternity, thankyouverymuch. There. I’ve said it.

My sister also said, “What would it hurt to have all your bases covered?” To which I replied, “And what if one of those bases happened to be related to the Satanic Church? How would you feel then?”

I sincerely believe that every person has their own spiritual path to walk upon. I don’t want some “one size fits all” type of divine insurance policy. Not only does it lack sincerity, commitment and dedication, but it would deprive me of my free will. If that means I’ll be burning in hell, so be it.

So if any future ancestors are reading this and thinking of having an ordinance by proxy performed on me, thanks, but no thanks. Even if I were truly given the opportunity to accept or reject it in the spirit world, I plan on being busy, and will not want to be disturbed.

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The Judgment Trend

Lately I’ve seen a lot of stories about people who try to force their beliefs on others by attempting to punish them in some way. People leaving nasty notes instead of tips, saying they can’t tip someone because they don’t approve of their lifestyle, or leaving them a religious tract instead of a tip.

Yeah, that’s a great recruitment strategy. Show that you’re cheap and intolerant. That’ll make someone want to be just like you.

Many years ago, when a family friend’s children were very young, they were traveling through my state and decided to come to visit me. I was looking forward to having a nice old fashioned sleep over with the kids, whom I love very much. Movies, popcorn, the works. But their mother informed me, at the last minute, that they’d be staying in a hotel. Why? Because I lived with my boyfriend, and she didn’t want to teach her kids that living in sin was okay.

Just to clarify, I had been living with said boyfriend for 12 years, and this woman, who felt she had the moral high ground, had been married three times. One marriage had lasted less than a year, and she had started seeing the latest one while he was still married to someone else.

So I counted to ten, slowly. And I said to her, “It is very important to teach your children right from wrong. I agree. But I can’t participate in teaching them that if you disapprove of someone’s lifestyle you should shun them. I can’t participate in teaching them intolerance. I can’t participate in teaching them that if someone disagrees with you, they cannot be accepted. This is a rapidly changing world, and they are going to run into all kinds of people during the course of their lives. So feel free to tell them that you disapprove of living together without being married if you wish, tell them you think I’m going straight to hell if you must, but if they’re not allowed in my house, then what you are teaching them is how to be prejudiced and inflexible and closed minded, and that any and all experiences that don’t fit with their belief system are to be avoided, and that, to me, is tragic and unacceptable.”

We had a very enjoyable sleep over.

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Traditions

Despite the overwhelming weight of traditions as described in Fiddler on the Roof, I’ve always admired people who have them. Whether they be national or religious or cultural or simply family traditions, these customs help to bind each of us to a greater whole.

Coming from a fairly nomadic and rootless family, I don’t have very many of these habits to fall back on. But we do have a few. For example, we always shake the milk before pouring it. This came about because my grandfather was a dairy farmer. If you get raw milk directly from the cow, the cream tends to separate if you don’t shake it back up. So we shake the milk to this day even though it no longer needs it.

When we go to the movies, we always whisper “Previews are my favorite part” at the very beginning. I don’t know why, and it isn’t even always true, but we do it nonetheless.

And when traveling long distances by car, when we get close to our destination we say, “Smell the salt?” That’s because when my mother was a child they’d take family trips to Long Island, and they knew they were almost there when they started smelling the salt water.

And I’ve invented a few traditions of my own. Each year I’ll buy a Christmas ornament that reminds me of something from the past year. And I always make red, white and blue fruit salad (strawberries, green grapes, and blueberries) to eat while watching the Independence Day fireworks. And one I particularly like is the one where I blow all my worries and concerns over my shoulder whenever I cross a state line when I travel. Leave that stuff behind. Don’t take it on your trip. Like it or not, you can always pick it back up when you get home.

Customs. Habits, Rituals. Beliefs. They’re what connect us and define us. If you don’t have them, then make the effort to create your own and define yourself.

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