Tuesday, June 26, 2007

man on the street

I was walking up Broadway this morning, minding my own business, when an older gentleman, gray-haired and slightly portly, walking in the opposite direction, said good morning. I smiled, said good morning. He stopped, turned back towards me, and said, "What's your haircut about? Are you in a play? Or is it for the every day? Do your kids prefer it this way? Are you a lesbian? Or is it just for the summer? Is it medical? Did you just get sick and tired of having long hair? What's it for?" I, stunned, mumbled something about preferring short hair and saving money on shampoo. He said, "Oh okay then," and continued on his merry way, greeting the next person with a hearty good morning. I paused, wondering if he would let fly with a string of questions for this new person, but no, it must have been my crew cut that did it. And it's funny, because I was telling a coworker about this odd little interaction when I got to the library, and this coworker was aghast at the inappropriateness and intrusiveness of the older gentleman. But I wasn't. I don't think he was trying to be offensive or rude or anything. He just seemed genuinely curious, and not very well socialized, perhaps even slightly insane, but not offensive or hurtful in any way. And I realized this is another reason to love this city. In a small town, it seems, my choice of hair style, or lack thereof, either draws curious, if subtle, stares or glares, or is studiously ignored for fear of giving offense. But here in this great city, every so often you come across a person who isn't afraid to ask a question, to satiate his curiosity about a thing that intrigues or confuses him. And all you can do is take it in stride, take it in the manner it was intended, not to hurt or to denigrate or to minimize or to criticize, but to maybe just learn a little something, and then move on through your day.

1 comment:

Michael said...

That's an excellent way to look this encounter, and it's actually what jumped into my head as I was reading about it. The city exposes you to all sorts of people--elegant, well-spoken ones, and people for whom you may be the first human contact they've had in weeks. In the latter cases, what they say is unlikely to be a personal attack, when they might by definition, lack the very sense to know what such an attack IS. So how're those kids doin'? ;-)