Mis Ojos Bonitos

We were conducting earthquake drills in the building today.  For those uninitiated, this is where someone gets on the PA system and makes an announcement to pretend the building is shaking and to take cover under your desk while everyone else crawls around on the floor grumbling about it.  When and where I grew up, we conducted tornado drills, which are remarkably similar except we were to run out into the school hallway, sit with our back to the walls, heads in our laps and with a text book over our necks to protect us.  Traditionally, we have conducted two Earthquake drills a year, one in April and one in October.  This time around, however, my fearless leader decided that we  needed to do two in one day… Call it an aftershock drill.  The second drill was to be conducted at 2:00 in the afternoon and since I hadn’t yet  had lunch, I slipped out at 1:50 to avoid the second drill and the public outcry that was sure to follow.  Surprisingly, it did not.  This is not the point of my story.

I had decided that Wendy’s sounded good and I wanted to try the new Asian boneless chicken wings.  I guess they’re still new.  Either way, this was the first time I’d had them.  So after I had placed my order and was waiting for my food, I stepped to the side and was watching the  goings-on behind the counter.  As the cashier was preparing my drink, she turned to one of the other workers and told them to get my small frosty (I can’t go to Wendy’s and not get a frosty, just like I can’t go to Arby’s and not get a Jamocha shake. I don’t go to either restaurant  often for this reason.)  As that worker walked away to get my frosty, another walked over to the counter and placed the bag with the food in  front of me.  I looked up and said, “Thank you.”  The young lady locked eyes with me for a moment and then walked away.

As she did so, I heard her say something in Spanish to the cashier.  The only word I understood, in fact the only word I even heard clearly was ojos, eyes, and then she tossed her head toward me.  The cashier looked up from what she was doing, looked at me, then looked at the girl, then looked back at me.

I immediately found myself on the defensive.  You see, I’m a plain, average looking, white guy who they presumed didn’t speak the language, and for the most part they are correct.  My first thought was that she was saying something bad about me.

Actually, I have to take a step back here.  You see, at the end of July, after I returned to California from my extended trip, I decided to  experiment with something I had wanted to try but had been too afraid to risk.  I began experimenting with “guy-liner”, which is of course just a trendy way of saying a guy wearing eye liner.  I figured if I was going to begin something like that, the best time to do it was fresh after an extended absence from work.  While I was surprised to find that more people seemed to notice than I thought (hoped) would, not one person from work has said a thing about it.  This is also not the point of my story.

I’ve seen many guys with eye-liner.  Obviously, many of them were gay, but it’s not “a gay thing”.  The whole purpose of eye-liner is to add  some definition, to attract attention to one’s eyes.  I have been complemented many times on my eyes and know that they are one of my  better attributes.  I think a lot of guys are attractive with eye-liner, so I decided to try it and the truth is I think it works for me. The one friend that I discussed it with said she agreed, so I try very hard not to be self-conscious about it.  I think I’ve figured out how to do a decent job of it and I’m becoming more comfortable with it… except that I’m not.

I have a long standing fear that was ground into me from a very young age.  The fear is that people will see me, recognize something in me  and decided that it must mean I’m gay.  I’ve lived the majority of my life afraid that people would think I was gay.  And now, now that I have  admitted it to myself and to a few people around me, and I’m not really afraid of it anymore, I’m even more tormented.  I go back and forth between being afraid people are going to recognize that I am gay and being afraid that they won’t.

So there I was standing at the counter at Wendy’s waiting for my frosty to come, and I heard the woman say the words “ojos” and thrust her chin toward me.  I saw the other woman look up at me, and then at her and back again.  I walked away from the counter to grab napkins,  straw and spoon from the napkin/straw/spoon counter and as I did, I said to myself, “I actually speak a bit of Spanish honey, I know what  Ojos means.  What about my eyes?!?” I was mad.  I was mad that she would say anything derogatory about me and I was mad that she  would so brazenly say something derogatory about me, within my earshot, but in a language she assumed I couldn’t understand.

I walked back to the counter where all of my food was now waiting for me and as I unwrapped my straw to poke through the hole in the lid of  my Large Diet Coke, the third girl, the one who had gone for my frosty, looked at me, looked me in the eyes and smiled.  And that’s when she said it.  She pointed at the young lady who spoke of my ojos and said, “She says you have beautiful eyes.”

I was surprised.  I smiled and looked at both of them and said, “Thank you.”  I never heard the word bonito, beautiful, but I have to admit I know so little Spanish that I could easily have missed one of who knows how many other words with similar meaning.

I smiled at the lady’s, picked up my cups and bag and walked out the door to return to my car and as I did so, I had a rush of thoughts pass through my addled brain.  “It never occurred to me that she might have been saying nice things about me.  Of course, I never heard her say bonito.  Maybe she didn’t really say that I had beautiful eyes.  Maybe the third lady was just covering up what she had really said.  Then again, don’t know enough Spanish to say she didn’t say it.  Who cares what she thinks anyway?”

And it was as simple as that.  Only it’s not simple at all.  Why is it so hard to accept a compliment?  And why is it so difficult to be confident?  OK, so, yes, I wear eye-liner.  And yes, someone who is actually paying attention when they’re up close to me would probably  see that.  And yes, there are going to be people in this world who will make fun or judge or criticize.  So what? Really, why does that matter?  And yes, there are people in this world who will lie to you, who will tell you they like something when they don’t and unless those people are  friends or family members, someone you’re supposed to be close to, who cares if they do?

Why is it that the moment the young lady drew attention to my ojos, I automatically reverted to the scared child that I’ve been most of my life afraid that she saw the make-up, automatically assumed I was gay and had a negative opinion about it.  And, why did I care what she  thought?

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And They All Lived…

Once upon a time, there was a man and the man had a job.  The man hated his job and the environment in which he worked, but he made a  decent salary.  At that job, the man had a friend.

The man’s friend was a difficult person.  She was cranky and verbose.  She frequently verbalized negative feelings for the entire office to hear  and she seemed married to those negative feelings unwilling to part with them in favor of happier possibilities.  The man didn’t enjoy this  characteristic of the friend, but when the friend wasn’t behaving in this unpleasant manner she was a decent friend.

But the man had a problem (or a few) and his job was becoming more and more difficult to tolerate.  The customers became harder to deal  with and his office mates were growing increasingly nasty.  The man began to withdraw himself from the environment around him and focus on his own responsibilities leaving the rest to deal with their own issues.  As time progressed the man found it harder and harder to deal with  what was happening around him at work.

One day the man’s friend came into his office and sat down, uninvited, in his guest chair.  This was not a new occurrence, however, in the past that man had been able to guard himself against the assault of anger and negativity the friend would spew.  On this day, however, that man was feeling weak and tender and was unable to guard himself.  To make matters worse, the friend began to spew her venom upon a  subject that while about another, was a sore spot for the man.  The man asked a question that happened to oppose the friend’s spewification  and was immediately bitch slapped for having such audacity!  Upon realizing the direction this rant would take, the man shut his mouth, tried to shut his ears, and held on tight for the bumpy ride.

Soon the friend gave up and left, allowing the man to try to decompress from the hellacious onslaught, unlikely though it was.  The next morning the man read a post upon the friend’s blog in which, with much passive aggression, the friend ripped the man a new one for being  such a bad friend, worse than the friend who always sitteth and listeneth to the man when he venteth his woes to her.

The man was taken aback, in part by the anger contained in ye old post, but also by the utter and complete lack of understanding the friend was showing for the man’s plight.  The man knew the friend to be a regular reader of his own blog and thought sure, she could understand  from reading the likes of Volcano, Slaying the Beast and I’m OK that he had all the burden he could bare already resting upon his weary  shoulders.  Alas, she did not perceive the pain and discomfiture the man already endured, nor the harm being inflicted upon his distressed and aching heart.

The man pondered the friends words for some time and began to feel a similarity between the friends words and actions, and the actions of so many others and so he did what he always does when there are feelings to express and no one to express them to, he wrote about them.  He spoke in generalities about a characteristic of mankind, about the hurtful selfish actions of so many and about the pain he was in and how it  was compounded by those actions.  The man knew the friend would read these words.  He did not write these words about the friend.  The words were inspired by, but not directed at, the friend and yet, when the friend read the words, she did as she always does.  She took them personally.  The friend decided that the words were aimed directly at her.  She decided that the words were an assault on her own person.

Disregarding the true sentiment of the words she’d read, the generalized commentary on society at large, the friend determined that the words were directed toward her and that they were in some way deprecative of her worth as a human being.  And so the friend did what she does  when she feels this way; she wrote another passive aggression filled blog post, in which she told the man that he was right about her being a bad person and a bad friend and that they could no longer be friends.  She wrote that the man was apparently a Eunuch as he was unable to convey his feelings about her to her and that now she understood where things stand such that going forward the only interaction the man and the friend would have would be of a “professional” work related manner.

The man was a little bit ashamed to admit that a great sense of relief came with those words.  It is always unfortunate when a friendship ends, especially when the reasons are unfounded, but the man quickly realized that a lot of energy had gone into his attempts to maintain his  relationship with the friend and he simply could not spare the energy any longer.

Quickly, the man realized, he was better off without the draw on his resources and that the friend was the one who would be at a loss.

It is the common assumption that a fairy tale such as this is to end with “And they all lived happily ever after”, but somehow, I doubt that to be true for those involved in this story.  At best we can hope for, “And they all lived with a little less anger, hurt and despair, ever after.”

The End.