Monday, November 19, 2012

When You See Stereotypes in Real Life

Stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason: they're exaggerated caricatures of a race or subculture or sexuality or what have you that don't exist. Stereotypes are painting something with a broad brush. So when I see one in real life, a person actually embodying a stereotype so ridiculous that I thought it was the proverbial black astronaut, I'm taken aback.

I've been waiting forever to use this reference here

So here's two tales of my encountering actual living stereotypes in real life.

The sway-backed gay
So I don't have a graphic for this, because I have only seen this elusive creature once, and Google image searches have come up with less than satisfactory results. Several years ago I went to a gay club in Portland (Maine, for those of you who think the only Portland is in Oregon) with a couple of friends, one gay, one so Catholic and straight she was uncomfortable. We went in, ordered drinks (they made really good Midori sours) and stuck to the emptier back room away from the DJ booth out front. The back room was one that had a mirrored back wall with a tiny bit of staging. There was a fledgling queen in a very bad wig dancing with her reflection back there, a few random people, not crowded at all. We settled on a couch to chat.

Then he pranced by. Skinny jeans, tight T-shirt. He wasn't with anyone, dancing by himself from one room to the other. We continued our conversation, got more drinks. He pranced by again, back swayed, lifting his shirt to show his skinny boy not-abs. He was in his own world, just dancing and being the gayest man I'd ever seen. Even my gay friend was like "wow, what a fag." The third time he pranced by (yes, he pranced. Pranced.) he had worked his shirt up over his head but still hooked on his arms so he didn't have to take it all the way off. And he was prancing for all he was worth. I actually thought his back was going to snap, or spasm, with how arched it was.

I have a lot of gay male friends. Never, never, have they looked like this stereotype. It was almost like someone projected anti-gay propaganda into the club or something, with how stereotypical this guy was.

The Unwashed Geek
 Okay. I know the kid in the picture to the left. When Google was being fail, I remembered him from college and looked him up on Facebook. No I won't use his name here, and yes I'm a horrible person. This story isn't about him, but in retrospect, he fits this profile. No, this story is from... last week? John and I went to the video store (I know, right? There still are some, hanging on) to see if there was anything worth seeing. We started at one end of new releases (which they should just name "anything that has come out in the last 12 months") and we noticed that there was Jeepers Creepers number 267 or something. I was commenting on this when the clerk stocking things just interjects and starts talking about how great the first one was while I was in the middle of saying "they should have given up with the first movie" (I have feelings about horror movies). Then I gave him my "why are you talking?" look and there he was: greasy, uneven hair cut, no chin with stubble and acne. Mouth breathing. Since I don't make eye contact with strangers, I didn't see if he had a googly eye. But the only other person I'd ever know to meet the stereotype of the unwashed gee was  that fellow in the picture there. And that damn video store, there were two of them.

None of my geek friends are unwashed, unkepmt, Cheeto-dust covered nasties. Socially-awkward, yes, sometimes. Sometimes neck beards grow; I try to look past that. But they are clean.  I must emphasize, friends, that these two clerks were not hygienic in appearance whatsoever. And I've been in gaming shops.

My mind always reels, when I see these walking stereotypes, so these memories stick. I'm a people watcher by nature, but the stereotypes sneak up on you, when you're not paying attention. Like, when I walked out The Great Hungry Bear in Portland and came face to face with actual hipsters. That took me by complete surprise so much that I talked to John about it on the way to the car like we were tourists and had just seen an attraction. I can't wait to run into my next walking stereotype.

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