Re: InfoD-Cafe: Race and recognition
Tori Egherman <tori.egherman <at> gmail.com>
2005-07-04 04:20:04 GMT
My sister and I look a lot alike when we are not together. (When we
are together, there are clear differences). We both got used to saying
hi to people we did not know who said hi to us. In this way, we saved
both of our reputations from snobbery.
Now I am in Iran where I look really different from 99.9% of the
population. People recognize me all of the time, and I pretend to
recognize them. It's all more pleasant that way. I guess my early
training responding to my sister's acquaintances helps...
On 7/3/05, Mick McAllister <mickmca <at> dancingbadger.com> wrote:
> Recognition is highly contextual as well. I was confronted with a woman in
> a grocery store once who said "Hello" as if we were neighbors. I recognized
> her face with absolute certainty --of course I knew her! -- but had no idea
> who she was or where I knew her from. She was offended, but we worked it
> out. She was the receptionist/factotum at my veterinarian, and I always saw
> her in scrubs behind a counter. I'm sure she was offended because my lack
> of recognition was "snooty." It wasn't, I think. In my own defense, I was
> dressed the way I always dress, so she had a lot more visual cues than I
> did. And since she worked as a receptionist, she could contextualize me
> quickly as a customer. In other words, I was at least slightly in context,
> she was completely out of it.
> Grocery stores are a great place for observing contextuality. The clerks
> are supposed to be "friendly," so they often pretend to recognize people.
> (Sounds cynical? Yesterday when I walking out of Best Buy without making a
> purchase, the greeter said, as per instructions, "Did you find what you
> were looking for?" and I replied, "Not a one." He said, "Great!!" with a
> friendly grin.) However, Americans are wary of encouraging personal contact
> with strangers, so more often the clerk's attitude will be detached unless
> the customer makes a friendly overture of some sort. I tend to shop a
> single market, and I'm a guy, meaning I end up in the grocery store roughly
> every day. I seek out the same clerks when I can: a nice black guy, a
> couple of older women, a pretty younger one, a couple of younger ethnic
> people, an older fellow about my age. Most of them, I would not recognize
> if I ran into them in, say, the library. And yet I know them well enough to
> find them in the market.
> One or two I have actual personal contact with. That is, they know who I
> am, we talk about our lives, they joke about the piles of dog bones in my
> cart. Those two know me in that context, and we would probably recognize
> each other outside of it. One is the black guy. I ran into him once in the
> aisles, in his civvies, and we said hello genuinely as we passed. We knew
> each other. I'm not sure we would at Home Depot.
> Another factor that impinges on all this is "attractiveness," in the sense
> of being a person who is personally interesting. I'm hedging my language
> here, because what I don't mean is "sexy" or "sexually interesting." I'm
> talking about people who fit into that odd category of "potential partner"
> or "opposite sex of my species." We may not have any desire to pursue that
> observation, but for men at least, some women are "interesting," and some
> are not. For me, Britney Spears, Sally Field, Golda Meir, and Thelma Ritter
> are not "interesting." Margaret Atwood, Buffy Ste.-Marie, Indira Gandhi,
> and Sigourney Weaver are. No logic, just intellectual pheremones.
> Case in point. Five or six years ago, in another town, I began taking
> purchases to one specific clerk at my grocery. She was tall and
> Bergmanesque (Ingmar, not Ingrid) and wore her blonde hair in a
> waist-length queue that she usually had coiled on the back of her head. I
> was very aware of her, but certainly not flirting -- at least not
> consciously. She was, paradoxically, "not my type" in a way I won't try to
> examine. For all I knew, she was married and an Aryan Nation cheerleader
> (we were in Idaho). But I enjoyed seeing her occasionally, like a nice sunset.
> One day I ran into her in a Fred Meyers (Wal-Mart clone). I recognized her,
> smiled politely, and she looked right through me. It wasn't a cutting look,
> it was the obliviousness we sometimes given strangers when we are busy, one
> of the behaviors pretty women use to deflect unwanted attention. We passed
> each other two or three times, and she never gave the slightest sign that
> she knew me. I don't think it was an act. And I didn't mind all that much.
> The sunset ignores me, too.
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