Saturday, May 11, 2013

"One Guy, Two Women"

Some people are possessed of a bizarre compulsion to engage strangers in awkward chit chat on the elevator. One of my early posts on this blog details a number of cases of what I call "mistaken identity."  In that post I alluded to an instance on an elevator when a woman I'd never met asked me if I was Justin Bieber.  This kind of thing happens a lot, particularly on elevators - not my being mistaken for Justin Bieber, which for the love of god I hope does not happen again, but strangers trying to make conversation that for whatever reason, seems to frequently relate to gender or age in some way.  I understand that because of my gender presentation, it's normal for me to get "sirred" or for folks to assume I'm a dude.  People also tend to assume I'm young.  What I don't understand is why people can't just make normal chit chat, like commenting on the weather or talking about how painfully slowly the elevator is moving.  Just this morning, my partner, a friend of ours, and I were in a hotel elevator when an elderly heterosexual couple got on.  Out of the blue, the husband glances briefly at us and says, "One guy, two women.  That's the benefit of being young.  When you get older, you'll settle for one."  His wife nodded and said, "You'll only be able to handle one."  I said nothing, since my voice would likely give me away as female, and I wanted, for some inexplicable reason, to spare this poor old man embarrassment.  My partner tried to fill the silence by saying something neutral, without encouraging him to say anything more.  You'd think the whole exchange would have ended at that point, but no - the old man keeps talking (and of course we're all still trapped together on the elevator.  See above re: painfully slow elevator rides).  The man takes stock of the group again and adds, "Good-looking women, too."

We got off at the ground floor, and were still awkwardly stuck with this couple as we all made our way through the lobby, out to the parking lot, and finally, to the safety of our car.  We tried to deconstruct the conversation.  Our friend had not realized the man was referring to me when he said "One guy, two women," and had been extremely confused as a result.  We considered how this man arrived at the decision that his comments were appropriate ones to make to strangers.  Male bonding attempt?  Obviously he had assumed that I was not only male, but also much younger than I actually am - was he joking with me the way one jokes with a teenage nephew or grandson?  Still, we returned each time to the same question I always have in these kinds of situations - no matter what his assumptions about who or what I am, why say anything at all?  What compels people to joke like this with strangers?  Even if I was a teenage (or twenty-something, for that matter) guy, that whole conversation would have still been awkward and uncomfortable.  It's not nice.  It's not particularly funny.  It makes me wonder about people who can't seem to filter their thoughts well in public.  Like the folks who ask interracial families if their kids are adopted in the grocery check-out line (or worse - where they "got" the kids and how much it cost), or the folks who ask strange women if they're pregnant, or the lady who wanted to know if I was Justin Bieber.  It seems that sometimes otherwise mature, grown people just say the first thing that pops into their heads without regard for either logic or boundaries.  How someone else's family was formed is none of your business.  Whether or not a stranger is pregnant is also not your business.  And on what planet would Justin Bieber possibly be riding a random elevator by himself at a conference center outside Orlando, FL while wearing someone else's nametag?  Use.  Some.  Sense.  Common sense.

So, for the record: if you're a random stranger, as follows are the topics I am open to discussing with you:

  1. The weather.
  2. The location of the nearest gas station/restaurant/coffee shop/highway entrance/random landmark
  3. Elevator speed.

I am open to a limited number of topics beyond the above-mentioned so long as they do not relate to any of the following:

  1. My/your/the general public's dating or mating habits.
  2. Justin Bieber.
  3. My age (or your uninformed estimation of such).

Now that we've got that cleared up, I look forward to spending our next elevator ride together deep in blissful conversation about those rain clouds rolling in.

1 comment:

  1. I think the sanity-saving response to most of those improper questions (assuming it is an elevator you do not frequent often) is to make their day as strange as possible. Yes, you are definitely Justin Bieber. You're only with two women because the other seven have the flu. People always say you're so much older than you are, because you're a very precocious (and tall) 9 year old. That way, they spend the rest of their day scratching their head (and perhaps don't ask those questions next time), and you can at least laugh about it.

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