Sunday, October 4, 2015

Check your judgment at the door

My boyfriend and I love crazy adventures just as much as sitting at home binge watching TV or back-to-back football games. I only partially envy couples who have regular date nights, because I enjoy all my time with my love, even if it doesn't look and feel like a formal date. Nevertheless, I aspired to have a date night at Music in the Gardens this year, so we picked the event and did it. And it was nice, a change of pace for us, enjoying the almost-not-terribly-hot weather after sun down, and getting a taste of a wealthier, more mature lifestyle. Indeed, we were definitely the youngest people there by at least 10 years I'd say. Which brings me to a small rant I must get off my chest.

I thought arriving five minutes prior to the concert start would be sufficient, but actually we were probably in the last 1% to walk through the door. The garden was packed with no open tables in sight. A staff member encouraged us to ask to sit with someone who only was using two of the four seats at their table. So I found two nice looking ladies and politely asked if we could join them at the table. They welcomed us and we chatted a bit - they too were from a Chicago, and yes, I like the White Sox better than the Cubs. After finishing our meals and drinks, I offered to go get another round for Jaiman and myself. I opened my phone case (which doubles as my wallet - and I was not carrying a purse so this should be fairly obvious) to pull out my cash. And then I was smacked with ignorant, uncalled for judgement.

"Oh, I'm so glad you guys aren't texting to each other."

Now hold on there rich bitch. We may be the youngest ones here, but we have done NOTHING to merit being treated like children. I am NOT falling over drunk, that would be the wasted female embodiment of a mid-life crisis behind us. I am NOT inappropriately dressed, that would be the woman who seemed to have borrowed a dress from her granddaughter in junior high school, because I saw her butt cheeks. Twice. I am NOT dancing around like a crazy person, that would be the older lady in a hippie dress with the tiniest of straps holding back her nudity. And we are NOT disturbing those around us by talking loudly, that would be the plastered guy trying to get with the wasted mid life crisis behind us who fell out of her chair earlier. Oh, and just so we're clear, I'm NOT the one who felt an immediate need to take crappy digitally zoomed pictures and vertical videos of the band on my phone the minute I sat down - that was YOU old lady, along with a number of other men and women around us.

So before you go passing judgment on me because I don't have gray hair and I'm not with a guy in beach shorts and a completely unnecessary, ridiculously  wide-brimmed hat (did I mention the sun was down from the start?), look around and put my actions into context with yourself and the rest of your peers. Taking money out of my phone case does not imply I communicate solely via text. Clearly - I mean we just spent 20 minutes engaged in polite small talk.

As for me, I'm glad people got to enjoy live blues in their own unique ways; I fear for our society whenever I hear about music and arts programs being cut. I enjoyed the music, the ambiance, the food and drinks, the cacti, the quiet, the temporary separation from technology, as well as the people watching. Sure I make assumptions about the people I observe, everybody does, it's a shortcut our brains developed through evolution to allow us to make quick fight-or-flight decisions. But I keep them to myself or between me and my companion. And I'm not outright judging so much as creating a fictional persona in my head based on the few clues I've picked up - from what they're wearing, how they hold themselves, from their actions and their words. What you just did, old lady, is called discrimination.

The problem with discrimination is that it is blind. By putting someone in a category by age, race or gender, you are making assumptions about an individual that are not based on observations of that individual.  I believe in giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, no matter what color, age, or gender they are.  People have to prove to me that they are awful, I don't expect it or anticipate it.  Guess what?  When you make an ignorant, judgmental, discriminatory comment like that, I have now bucketed you as an ignorant bigot.  You have proven to me that your opinions are of no value because they are not based on fact or observation, but on blind and naive stereotyping.  My respect for you instantly goes from neutral to absolute disrespect.  All you had to do was keep your mouth shut, and we'd be fine, but by uttering just a simple statement, you revealed your idiocy, your lack of respectability (as well as lack of respect and human decency), and your snobbery.  

My favorite part of all this was that the woman who made the comment was playing on her phone much more than my boyfriend and I combined, so not only did I consider her an ignorant ageist, she also proved to be a hypocrite.  Look, I don't expect people to tiptoe around opinions or analyze everything they say before saying it; I just think people should learn that the quick judgments our brains automatically calculate are different than the stereotyping, discriminatory judgments that are completely uncalled for.  And if you choose to believe something discriminatory, for goodness sake, do not verbalize it!  At best, you will lose your listeners' respect, but it could get you in a lot more trouble than that.  

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