I SAW A WHITE GUY TODAY

It’s impossible for me to explain what it’s like to be around me. Because I’ve never been around me. I’m always inside me. Deep inside. 

My coworkers could probably explain what it’s like to be around me. They endure me every weekday. They expect me to derail meetings. They work around my incompetencies.

And then, sometimes, they let me in on their thoughts about me.

A woman I work with, who’s name literally translates to GoodTimes, looked at me in the electric forest one morning and said “You remind me of Jim Gaffigan.”

What?!

I erupted. “Why? Because I’m white?”

I felt personally assailed, yet oddly above it. There was a distance. I realized it wasn’t about me. It was bigger than me. It was about all white guys looking the same. It was an identity issue. A racial issue. A chasm opened between me and GoodTimes while a voiceover narrated all of this back to me.

It’s not about you. It’s bigger than you. It’s about all white guys looking the same. It’s an identity issue. A racial issue.

The voice sounded like Tim Allen or maybe it was Patrick Stewart. Or maybe Joe Biden. Really doesn’t matter, all white guys sound the same.

Then another voice began breaking through. This one was closer, and real. A voice trying to rise above the rage ringing in my ears. This voice belonged to GoodTimes.  I picked up her words midstream:

“. . . how you look–it’s how you act! You say things that are similar to the things Jim Gaffigan says and you deliver your jokes the same way Jim Gaffigan does and that just struck me that you seemed to be slightly similar to Jim Gaffigan. That’s all!’

I heard her. And yet all I heard was this white girl saying that all white guys look the same. And that you can’t talk about Jim Gaffigan without using his full name. And that my words might as well belong to Jim Gaffigan and I owned nothing because I didn’t own my body or my whiteness or my being.

And out of nowhere a realization snapped into place: her name was also the name of a televised show back when television was written by writers with heart and character. A show that featured a predominantly black cast. One of television’s great character-driven shows: Good Times. 

And I didn’t know how to process all of this. A white girl named after a black TV show casting all white men into a vanilla pile of white noise.

“BUT I DIDN’T!”

So I took to my keyboard and expressed the tumult of emotions the only way my white maleness allowed. I banged out a poem. I call it Mirror Tears

MIRROR TEARS

I saw a white guy today

He wasn’t me

Me wasn’t he

But we were we

Him and me

 

I saw a white guy today

He had two ears

And unshed tears

and unspoken fears

Just like mine

 

I saw a white guy today

I laughed as he passed

He smiled at me–at last

But it was gone so fast.

I was alone.

I sent it around. But got silence.

“OH MY GOD WE ALL TOLD YOU IT WAS GOOD!”

That’s ok. I didn’t need their validation. I went and got a PSL and reflected on the fact that GoodTimes works for Kirsten who previously tried to deny my access to PSLs to maintain some gender-normative social standards. It made the PSL sweeter.

“OH don’t you dare drag me into this! AND I was totally misrepresented in that PSL post!”

You were not.

I hope we can all heal.

7 Comments

  1. You can be a real pain in the ass sometimes, can’t you?

  2. The tags are hilarious! Can we get some more pics of the white guy in the electric forest? Those are funny.

    • jeffandjill

      09/17/2015 at 8:20 am

      I have a draft in here all about the electric forest. But before I click publish I want to make sureI do it justice.

  3. Can not wait for electric forest piece.

    • jeffandjill

      09/17/2015 at 12:55 pm

      When the electric forest tells me it is ready, then I will share the ef with the world.

  4. You walk a hard road. Yes, I said hard. Care to make something of it? Don’t be that white guy!

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