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September 12, 2011 / Mir Plemmons

Towel-head

I have learned something interesting as I’ve gone about my life these last months with a wrapping hat on my head.

Some people put it together with the cane and figure out the cancer thing, because a number of people wear various turbans to deal w/ hairless cold heads… but there’s another group that connects the dots differently, and has given me an interesting glimpse into Pacific Northwest “polite” prejudice.

Do you know the thin-lipped, disapproving stare you give someone who’s just broken your social rules – you think to yourself that you’re not willing to start a fight or say something rude but you’ll sure express your opinion of whatever misdeed you’re commenting on? I do. The teens that are dropping f-bombs in a grocery, when toddlers can hear them (or discussing what they think they know of intimate relations). The person who shoves in front of an overburdened mother in line.

It turns out that this same expression is used to tell members of some group the bestower disapproves of that they’re not tolerated, and not welcome. The bestower will just settle for giving the look until the disapproved-of person is out of the aisle, or whatever other range seems appropriate.

I notice this a fair bit in SE King County – and I’m noticing it pointed at me. I seriously doubt it’s the cane that’s doing it. It also doesn’t come when I’m wearing my very Cherokee jeans jacket. But if I dress up just a bit, and go into the local Safeway or down the street, I’ll be labeled, condemned and told I’m not welcome. Not once, but several times.

We, the unseeing, undercut by the unknowing…

Fine. Give me the towel-head glare. You’re as wrong about me as you are about the Sikhs, East Indians, and (few) Muslims you *think* you are making unwelcome.

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4 Comments

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  1. kateshrewsday / Sep 12 2011 2:27 pm

    The unknowing are the worst of all. Great post.

  2. Mir Plemmons / Sep 12 2011 10:14 pm

    I was just reminded of being last off the Clipper on the way home from Victoria that the ship’s officer was quite rude about letting the slow-moving person w/ cane use the restroom now that I could get *to* it – I thought it was that he was tired, but maybe it was the turban… funny, but the Cherokee and Chocktaw who’ve seen me are *tickled* that I’m wearing a wrapping hat!

  3. Neil/Gosfrei / Sep 12 2011 10:25 pm

    My Beloved was tempted to wear a hijab for a while when she had no hair during chemo. She ended up wearing a couple of silk scarves pirate-style. When she told a Muslim lady what she might have done if she didn’t feel like she was intruding on their customs, the woman assured her that it wouldn’t have been considered at all improper by them.

    *I* wore my SCA cloak in the modern world to get used to it, then wore it during me Beloved’s chemo because it made her happy that I liked her handiwork so much. Then I wore because it helped me stay warm at -40º! I got comments – oh yes! ALL the ladies who commented thought it was wonderful, and ALL the guys but one who commented were usually in their early twenties, and almost exclusively in the passenger seat of passing cars. I never got a chance to explain to the kids that I was wearing it to honour my wife, but I ALWAYS thanked the ladies, and explained why I was wearing it if there was time.

    Let the ill-mannered stare; or ask ’em if there’s something wrong with your hat. Maybe doff it as you greet them politely. Oh, wouldn’t THAT would make them uncomfortable!?!

  4. Dave Smith / Sep 13 2011 12:49 am

    Those who get all bent about headgear, hair length, etc, need to soak their heads in alum.

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