So tonight I went to a small, rural Nebraska town to speak to a group of Anglo, Lutheran women. I ate lots of delicious Anglo, Lutheran women salads, main ingredients for the salads being mayo and pasta. The women at my table discussed how Obama released his birth certificate today, and it was clear that they were skeptical and didn't like him one bit. I did my best to point out the facts and may have been mildly successful, but I know there wouldn't be any significant changing the minds.
One woman had the most hideous hair, straight out of the 80s; bad perm, big bangs and all. She kept talking about her teenage son, Jose. Apparently, he just had a birthday that he invited half the town to, and he really likes deviled eggs. She made 2 dozen for his party.
They were very friendly and maybe a little awkward, because almost no one asked me any questions about myself or my job. I felt like a foreigner. While sitting there, I thought to myself, "I'd probably be more at home in a refugee camp than I am here." Though I used the same tactics there as I use in cross-cultural settings, mainly keeping a close eye on how every one else behaves so I know I should also behave; patiently waiting until someone does what I would like to do, so I can do it like they do, as not to stick out or offend. They were VERY attentive during my presentation, though, and their initial feedback indicated they found it very interesting and learned a lot, which I always like to hear.
Either way, I got to thinking about stereotypes. I wonder if they were looking at me and thinking, "Oh, it's one of those city types. I bet she goes to the gym and listens to NPR and indie bands with funny names and buys those funny light bulbs for her house." And they would be pretty much spot on in their assessment, except I don't always buy those funny lightbulbs because they have mercury in them and I don't know how to properly dispose of them.
It's easy for us to think we're special and unique and get stuck in our little rut with our narrow perspective that what we think is correct. It's easy for us to think we can answer the questions of the world, because we can probably best answer the big questions of our own little narrow world. I felt that when I stepped into their little world and stepped out of mine. I forgot how easy it can be to stereotyped myself. I forgot how easily I can fall into a category. Yes, to some extent I am special and unique, and to some extent, I'm not. To some extent, I fall into a particular category where the TV stations and Facebook know how to target advertising to me and I buy what they expect me to (Arcade Fire tickets, pants from New York & Company, Taco Bell's $5 meals, membership to Snap Fitness) (except I typically watch shows out of my demographic...Law & Order is totally targeted to people who need Lipitor, Viagra, and Depends, Family Guy is targeted to people who play violent video games, use Old Spice, and eat fast food). Anyway, I think it's good to remember sometimes that we do fall into a category and that it's okay. It's also important to remember that we are more than the category we fall into.