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August 2002 Cover
August 2002 Cover

 Speaking Out (of his mind!) Speaking Out Archive  
August 2002 Email this to a friend
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Please Stop Advertising
By Lester R. Grubé

It's shocking how insensitive and inconsiderate some people can be. Let me explain. My mother recently turned 70. I decided to mark the occasion by hosting a small party in her honor to which I invited various friends and neighbors.

Being a very broadminded person, I happen to include among my acquaintances a small number of Catholic, Jews, and Negroes. My mother is of the old school. She still expects people to meet minimum social standards. Understandably, she is not particularly comfortable around certain types of people. Although I don't always agree with all of Mother's opinions, I certainly respect her right to hold them, and whenever possible I try to accommodate them.

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suppose the easiest solution would simply have been not to invite the sort of people who might by their presence give Mom offense. But neither did I want to run the risk of offending any of these minority groups by excluding them from what I knew was going to he a lovely evening.

Of course, I should know by now that when you try lo be nice to certain types of people, they don't appreciate it and just turn on you. Naturally, I assumed that since in most cases it really wasn't the individual's fault that he was a member of an unfortunate group, he would be relieved to know I had come up with some helpful ways for him to camouflage his undesirable identity. After all, it's one thing to be quietly Catholic, Jewish, or Negro. It's quite another to advertise these characteristics.

First, I approached Francis Xavier and Mary Cecilia Sullivan, a married couple who lived down the hall. I said, "May I be frank? Perhaps you are unaware of this, but your names reek of Catholicism. So if you don't mind, when I introduce you to my mother at her birthday celebration, I'm going to call you Olaf and Helga. That way no one need be any the wiser." Get this, instead of appreciating my ingenuity, they said rather curtly, "Don't bother, we won't be there."

Next I spoke with Marvin Grunewald, who, believe me, could pass for gentile in every respect save one-- he always wears one of those Hebrew-type caps on his head. I explained to him how I was sure he didn't want to force his Jewishness upon my mother, but that his head gear was like a neon sign advertising Jew, Jew, Jew, Jew, Jew everywhere he went, so to save everyone discomfort, I'd appreciate it if he came to the party without the beanie. Well, from his reaction you'd have thought I'd asked him to come without his pants. The upshot of his rather irrational and lengthy reply was to tell me that he wasn't coming. Nevermind, I thought. He's the big loser. It'll just mean more spareribs, ham, and shrimp for the rest of us.

The Johnsons, being Negro, posed a more challenging problem. Helping them not to advertise would be difficult. But then I remembered hearing somebody explain how Disneyland solved a similar predicament. Realizing that most of their patrons would prefer not to see a lot of black people running around as part of the park staff, but also being under pressure to hire minorities, they found a way to meet both concerns. They dressed all the black people as Disney characters. Hidden inside that Mickey Mouse or Dumbo or Goofy costume was actually a Negro.

I explained to the Johnsons that if they were to come to the party dressed in "Black Face," I'd tell Mom that they had to appear in a minstrel show right afterwards and wouldn't have time to put on their make-up and costumes later. The beauty of this plan was that the Johnsons could both then just relax and act as Negro as they wanted and Mom would just think they were doing part of their act.

Believe it or not, the Johnsons said they found my suggestion "insulting" and that they were not interested in attending that or any other party I was giving.

I was really beginning to lose faith in human nature till I approached some of my gay friends. Now understand, I've always avoided the militant-homosexual type like the plague. My gay friends at least have always been the soul of discretion. They immediately understood and accepted the necessity of not advertising their particular minority status. Unlike these other thoughtless people, they wouldn't dream of giving my mother offense.

I wish people would just stop for a moment and think about their actions. Imagine the kind of society we would have if other minorities would only follow the example of these considerate gay and lesbian people and not constantly insist on advertising who they are.

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