Saturday, August 01, 2009

Dealing With the Repercussions of Preconceptions

I had an old customer come in the bike shop a while back. He bought a new road bike from me about nine years ago and became a regular customer. Well, regular in so far as he always has me tune or at least check out his bike every year. And he will come in a few times over the course of our all too short summer for tubes or some other odd bike related product or service. He is a quiet man of about oh, 60 years old or so. I do not think he has ever been married. He has that I lived with Mom my whole life air about him. I always thought he was gay. Or at the least gayish. Definitely effeminate.

Well. Don't ever ask me to evaluate or give my opinion about someone based on the stupidity I can come up with after only dealing with someone regarding their biking habits or how they carry themselves. I am more often wrong than right. You would think I would stop trying to guess.

His recent visit happened to coincide with Maine's Legislature signing off on Gay Marriage. He asked me what I thought of that.

I am usually pretty careful about keeping my opinions on such flash point issues like gay marriage, abortion, illegal immigrants, etc close to my chest when dealing with the public in my bike shop. I am especially careful when dealing with customers I do not know very well. I have learned that politics and taking folks money don't mix unless you happen to be a politician. And I am definitely not a politician. Speaking out of both sides of my mouth is just too awkward a skill for me to master.

Common Sense lost the battle quickly and I blurted out that I had no problem with it. Folks should be able to marry whoever the Hell they want to, provided of course, both are in agreement and of a mature age and coherent enough mental state to make the decision. I went on to say the issue was pissing me off because the government has no business dictating this.

I then went on a tear about marriage in general and how the hallowed institution in this country is a hollowed sham of what it should be. Heteros in the US don't give it the respect it deserves, what with their divorcing at the drop of a hat, their stepping out on each other, and their all too frequent use of their children as pawns in their failed relationship. I didn't think we had any moral high ground to claim here. Saying God doesn't like it just doesn't work for me. Nobody has a clue what God likes. But they sure think they do.

The whole time I figure I am preaching to the choir. Remember I had nine years of assumptions built up about this guy.

The customer looked at me as I ranted. I should have noticed the subtle rise in his eyebrows when I spewed my opinion about how the government should stay the Hell out of it. And I really should have caught on when he squared his shoulders as I talked about us being clueless regarding God's likes and dislikes.

I then asked what I should have asked before I stepped off the edge. "So what do you think?"

It turns out he feels Homosexuals are nothing but perverts who want their sinful perversions sanctioned by the State. Marriage is meant to only be between a man and a woman.

Wow. I never saw that one coming.

That I even write about this weeks after it happened indicates the incident bothered me. I have chewed on the encounter off and on for quite awhile now. I have not been able to understand why it bothered me so. It definitely was not that someone else might disagree with me. That happens all the time. I love disagreement. Oftentimes, I have to disagree first before I can come to a point of agreement. I think what eats at me is that I made assumptions about someone. I pigeonholed them based not on facts but appearance and demeanor. It is not that I thought he was Gay, but that I even used that trait to evaluate him. I have always contended being Gay means no more to me than being Straight, yet I chose to place a label on this guy. I never look at someone and think, "Oh they must be Straight".

Anyway, it is no big deal in scheme of the overall plan the Universe has for me. But it did cause me some moments of introspection that well, ended up here as the drivel you have just read.

BTW and because I am trying not to poach from starving artists - The image above, "Introspection" is by Stephen Georgeson and was for sale as of 2008 at

And the image at the top of the post is by someone somewhere and I hope they do not mind me using it. It is also entitled "Introspection" I think.




Nan said...

Look on the bright side. You made it really clear to the fellow that not everyone shares his prejudices. If you'd trod a little more carefully, you might not have been as impassioned in your explanation.

Gary ("Old Dude") said...

I agree with Nan, ----I concur with your thinking on the subject----I might add however, the vast majority of those with a "Gay" outlook, do not appear with feminine characteristics.

Dawn on MDI said...

Mike, you are a wonderful man. Thank you. The guy asked your opinion and you gave it, fully, and honestly. Good for you.

And you know what? You might be right about the guy being gay. Lots of very homophobic people are closet cases - perfect examples of reaction-formation: that which I fear/loathe about myself I shall denounce and hate in others. It is only when we all feel safe that the rest of that shame and fear will fall away and people will feel free enough to express themselves without fear of blame, shame, judgment or violence.

You done good, mister. Thanks.

A Midnight Rider said...

I wonder if your first impression was right and he was playing you?
Could happen.....

robin andrea said...

Part of me wishes you had said, after he told you his view on things, "Wow, I always thought you were gay." But only if you wouldn't mind losing him as a customer.