A dude told me not to trust the Jews. Funny thing is, I am one.

28 Oct

Working behind the bar is a weird thing. Sometimes it feels as though going through an average day it work is like walking through a moral minefield. At any moment something might happen, someone might say something, that violates my own personal set of morals and I am left trying to figure out where the line is, trying to figure out when I should step in and say something and when I should just shrug my shoulders and walk away. Or, perhaps better yet, whether the smartest approach of all is simply to pretend like I heard nothing and simply carry along, seemingly unphased, while on the inside my mind is running through all the fucked-up implications of whatever it was that I just witnessed and whether or not my silence makes me complicit in a person’s horribleness. It is positively exhausting.

So I have this customer and generally he is okay. Well, more to the point, I thought he was okay. He has very odd tastes in alcoholic beverages but I won’t judge him for that…much. Other than that he mostly keeps to himself and as long as I keep his glass full he is happy and easy. Well, he was happy and easy until he found out I’m Irish (on my mom’s side) and decided he liked me. Not like liked me, like in middle school when you like people, but just liked me as a person, a bartender and, I guess, an Irish(wo)man. Anyway, so then he started telling me things which, in hindsight, I wish he hadn’t.

Note to self: put skin-toned tape over celtic knot on back; continue to not answer the question “where are you from?” with anything other than “Jersey.”

Okay, so here is a thing to know about me, just as an aside. And this might come as a surprise to some of you but I really dislike it when people use words like “gay” and “retarded” pejoratively. I even wrote a blog about it once. Here, read it. The thing is that it is incredibly important to realize the power of language, and to understand that using words that only further marginalize already marginalized groups does actually have an impact on our lived experience. Like, personally, and n on a lighter note, I need to stop calling people “pussies” unless I want to kind of turn the whole thing on its head and rather than using the word to mean that someone is weak or a coward, I could potentially use it to mean that something is strong and amazing! Like a vagina! I mean, I don’t think I could realistically start a one-woman revolution to redefine the meaning of the word pussy in the English language, so I should just retire it (as I have been trying to do) so that the effect of my using it isn’t to make the comparison, which is ever-so-common, between something that is characteristically feminine and something that is weak. You get me? So, yea, pussy has got to go unless I want to be a shitty feminist. And the words “retarded” and “gay” have to go unless you want to be a shitty person.

The reason I mentioned all of that is that I think language matters and I really don’t like when people say anything disparaging about groups of people in my presence and this guy has a habit of making rather off-color comments but in such a way that there is some room to believe that maybe I am reading into them. He doesn’t use things pejoratively, but he will mention someone and then look at me with a sort of side glance and be like

“you know what I mean?”

And it’s like,

“I think so? But I can’t really tell and if you mean what I think you maybe mean then I think you are an asshole and I do not agree with you at all in fact will you just stop talking to me or better yet, just leave?”

And so I am left in this weird sort of middle area where I want to call him out but then if I do call him out he could backtrack and be like you totally misinterpreted that and then I look like the asshole. He’s wiley. I think he was testing the waters. My basic approach was to just appear as uncomfortable as possible and walk away in the hopes that if he did mean what I thought he probably meant that he would realize I was not going to agree with him and we could go back to our previous relationship: he says very little and I make him drinks. That was hoping too much.

The other day he came in and was feeling a little bit chatty and asked me what my drink of choice is.

Me: Powers on the rocks.
Him: (after screwing his face up to demonstrate that he thinks Powers tastes like gut rot) Oh. How did you get on that?

I would like to add in here that I will tell people that I am Irish by descent if it comes up, but I don’t feel particularly attached to the country. I’m sure it’s a really awesome place but I haven’t ever visited there, I know very little about it, I don’t look Irish at all and it didn’t really play a very prominent role in my upbringing. I have the celtic knot on my back not because it represents my heritage, but because when my Grandma, Mima, went to Ireland for the first time in her life she brought me back a necklace with a simple celtic knot on it that I wore for 10 years until it broke so I got it tattooed on there. It doesn’t represent Ireland, it represents Mima. But this is an Irish guy and he asked if I was also Irish after seeing the knot and rather than go into a whole thing I just said yes, because I am.

Me: Well, I was dating this guy and he always drank Jameson on the rocks and I really liked whisky but I didn’t want to be that couple that drinks the same drink so I started on Powers and just never stopped. Funny thing is last time he sat at my bar he ordered a Powers from me. I felt like the winner.
Him: He’s an Irishman!
Me: Chinese Jamaican, actually.
Him: Jeez, where did you find one of those? What a crazy combination.
Me: (Ignoring the “one of those” comments) well, before him I dated a guy who was Jewish and Cuban! So that’s fun.
Him: A Jew? Oh no. Never trust the Jews.

I feel as though it is important, at this point, to address the fact that I am Jewish. That’s right. An Irish-Russian Jew. Bat Mitzvahed and everything. And at this point there was no way to pretend like he wasn’t being a total bigot. So I jumped in.

Me: Oh? Well that’s funny because you seem to trust me plenty.
Him: (Confusion turns to panic) But you’re Irish!
Me: Yup. Also, Jewish. Crazy, right?
Him: Well, the Irish just cancels the Jewish out.

At this point I was seething. In my brain I was saying,

OH MY GOD WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT YOU BIGOTED PIECE OF SHIT!

But in reality I cocked my head to the side and said, more or less,

It doesn’t work like that. And just so you know, we’re everywhere. Hiding in plain sight.

It was one of those things that I was hoping would sort of scare him, you know, since we are so untrustworthy and all. I mean, I even touched his glass! I handled his money! I might have been swindling him and he would never even know it because he thought that I was a trustworthy Irish person rather than a lying, stealing, cheating Jew!

Anyway, it was crazy. He felt like an asshole and tipped me really well. He didn’t apologize though, or take it back. And I bet every time he sees me now he is always trying to see the (not so visible) Irish in me and ignore the (blatantly obvious) Jewish characteristics. So now I am left feeling like maybe I should have called him out on the earlier, sneakier things rather than wait for him to prove himself to be an actual bigot who was bigoted against me, you know? And, just as another aside, I said to someone recently that whenever someone, or a group of someones, is generally bigoted, they always also hate the Jews. People are always hating the Jews. All through history and shit. And this person was all “nah, people don’t hate the Jews anymore. Not after Hitler and all that” and I was like “um…hello?” And now I wish I could remember who that person was and I would tell them all about this dude and be like,

QED mother fucker. Q. E. D.

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