Sunday, January 6, 2008

Peeve: I Am What I Am

Hardly a week goes by from Fall through Spring that this doesn't happen: I get on a bus downtown. I sit facing sideways at the front of the bus for the sake of the arthritis and the long legs. There's a guy staring at me. Sometimes he's grinning. Sometimes I get some kind of a sign, like an AOK, or he wants to give me five.

I know it can't be because he's read my column and recognized me by the accompanying picture. And sure enough, the first words out of the guys mouth are, "75th Ranger Regiment!" "Who?" I say. "You!" he says. "No, man, it's just a hat," I say.

It's not even a US military design. I picked the black beret I wear to suit Seattle's windy weather, not to resemble something military. If it's a reference to anything it's to my Gaelic heritage. I have a theory that the beret probably got invented in either Ireland or Brittany -- someplace like Seattle, wet and windy, especially windy. It's the ideal head-wear for a man with arthritis who doesn't want to be chasing his Stetson through cow pastures, bogs, or through the streets, every five minutes, dodging traffic.

[Right: I wear a black version of this, adorned with light gray, white, and light brown, cat hairs. It's actually a Basque style beret. Some people say the Basques invented berets. Like Ireland and Brittany, the historic Basque Country faces the Atlantic. Tell me it's not windy.]

Getting back to the peeve. So I explain all this to Mr. Presumptive, and what do you suppose the response is? He says, "No, you're a Ranger alright!"

At which point I'm wanting to kill him with my bare hands. He is in effect calling me a liar. He's saying I'm lying to him about my OWN FUCKING SELF. But I don't kill him with my bare hands because I know that with his last dying breath he'll say, "See, I told you you were a Ranger! If you weren't how could you have done that? --*cough*, *cough*, bleh, feh, FEH, **urk**." I wouldn't want to have to hear that.

The gist of the peeve is, if we're talking solely about me, I'm the authority. Especially if you're a stranger and don't have any experience to go on.

If I say I saw Dr Kildare on TV in 1958, that's not solely about me. You can come back with, "No you didn't, it wasn't on yet," and I can answer, "Not the series -- it was one of the old movie versions," and that could be the start of a fine enjoyable argument.

But if some dunce says, "You're gay," and I say, "No, I'm not," the next words out of the dunce's mouth better not be, "Yes, you are, I can tell." Maybe you CAN tell, but you MAY NOT. You don't have authority in that department. IT'S MY CALL.

It applies to other people. If the woman in front of me looks like a dude but says she's a woman, that's her call, not mine. I'm not the authority on other people's mind-sets, and I can't know how gender identification works because the science doesn't exist yet.

I am what I am, and that goes for everyone else.

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