Continuing with the grouchy theme. I’m a little tired of dealing with ethnocentric people. Given that I live in a small town, there’s a lot of them. The only thing more annoying than the people who refuse to even contemplate that there is life outside the United States, are those who have some inkling of it, and presume that now they know it all and can tell you all about it. Usually I tend to give people a lot of leeway and make excuses for them, especially if I know that it’s just ignorance and not intentional. But lately, the ignorance has begun to really grate on me and I find myself being a little short. There are a couple of older men in my department who consider themselves very knowledgeable about India because they have read a few articles. Oh and a few have spent a month or two in India, which naturally, makes them experts. We have these ridiculous conversations about my upcoming wedding because they want to talk about the ‘crazy circus’ that is the Indian Wedding. I’ll be the first to admit that they can get a little out of hand, but I refuse to go along with ‘Hyuk, Hyuk, what a ridiculous set of ceremonies’ conversations. Which leads to a lot of awkward silences. And I am ashamed to say that I have often resorted to using The ToneTM. You know, the one where you remove all hint of inflection, emotion, or anything that would even remotely suggest that the words are being spoken by a human being; thus allowing the true subtext ( YOU ARE ACTING LIKE A COMPLETE IDIOT) to shine through.

I’ve been feeling particularly guilty because I used The ToneTM on a very sweet couple who I am very fond of. Here’s a recent conversation between Sweet Old Man (SOM), his wife and me at a recent social gathering:

SOM: So, you’re getting married in January? Are you going to march around the fire 7 times? Now look here, how much of this Hindu stuff are you going to do?

Me (annoyed): Umm, I am Hindu, so I’m going to do a lot of it.

SOM (to his credit he picked up on the edge in my voice): Oh, of course. Are you going to have a shamiana?

Me: I’m not sure – if the weather requires it, yes we will.

SOM’s wife (very excited): Oooh, is it going to be in the street?

Me: (In horror). Is what going to be in the street?

SOM’s wife (still excited and completely oblivious to my horror): Your wedding!! Your shamiana!!

Me (using The ToneTM ): No. It will not be in the street.

SOM’S wife (sad and confused because her stereotype is not being met): Oh.

SOM’s wife (cheering up because she just thought of another stereotpye): And yes! Everyone will be eating and drinking while your ceremony is going on.

Me (trying, trying, trying to go to my happy place): Well, some weddings are structured like that, but if you’re religious you tend to focus on the ceremony and then eat later.

SOM: Yes, yes, I’ve been to some of those. Probably the only time everybody wasn’t completely drunk

Me (La, la, la, I’m in my happy place, you can’t touch me): hmmm.

At this point Mr. CC joins the party.

SOM (catching sight of Mr. CC yells across the room): “Hey! It’s elephant man!”

Me (looking pathetically at MrCC): Hi, honey!

MrCC doesn’t skip a beat, says hello to SOM, and gives me The LookTM – you know, the one where you remove all hint of inflection and emotion; thus allowing the true subtext ( YOU BROUGHT THIS ON YOURSELF WITH YOUR FUCKWITTED BEHAVIOR SO DON’T EXPECT ANY SYMPATHY FROM ME) to shine through.

See, MrCC was privy to a prior conversation between SOM and me. He asked me a few days ago if MrCC would be arriving on a horse. I said that he might arrive on an elephant. Now, this may or may not happen (This depends on another sweet old man, my father, whose thoughts on this wedding will be the subject of another post). But after a while I begin to get mean and just can’t resist that temptation to start playing into the stereotypes. Like the time in undergrad when a woman asked me if we rode camels to school. I had her convinced that every morning, a camel with a sign that said ‘School Bus’ stuck to it’s head, came up to my door and took me to school. Yes, I know it doesn’t help when I do things like this, but come on, can’t I have some fun ?? Isn’t it funny how people expect things to be strange but not too strange – We are different enough to ride on camels, but everyone in the world goes to school in something with the word ‘School Bus’ on it. I digress.

I admit I deserved that last statement. But this is not going to be the last of it I’m sure. Some of Mr. CCs family will be at the wedding in India, and they are wonderful people, just a little insular. I will have to behave myself.