"ignore the story. see the soul. remember to love. you will never regret it" --- Seane Corn

"ignore the story. see the soul. remember to love. you will never regret it" --- Seane Corn
it's a jungle out there

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cultural Sensitivity: A three part series

We have one grocery store in our town. It pretty much sucks. Its a Key Food.
In NYC, Key Food=ghetto grocery. Over priced and poorly stocked, it has stayed in business because they accepted WIC and food stamps. For several years, I'd do small shopping there instead of driving 15 minutes for a quart of half n half and a loaf of bread.
I always hoped it would come under new management and get an extreme grocery makeover.

And lo and behold, it did.

I guess it was bought by a family or maybe friends/business partners. A bunch of men.
I noticed better produce. I noticed more variety and organic stuff. I noticed the place was way cleaner.
They put in new freezer cases and more pleasant lighting.
The change was noticeable.

I also noticed the new owners. Middle Easterners. Just keeping it real, folks.
Could be Saudi. Could be Iraqi or Iranian. Could be Jordanian or Palestinian.
How do I know? And, honestly, why would I care?

I wouldn't. I don't.

I had noticed women assumedly wives and children coming into the store.
The women wore traditional dress. Heads covered. Arms and legs covered.
They drove minivans.


Like I said. It didn't make a damn difference to me.
Until one Sunday evening a few months ago when I unexpectedly got my period.

The 2 drugstores in our town were already closed. Key Food was the only place open.
I looked up and down the aisles. No tampons.
There was a section filled with every brand, size, and absorbency of pad manufactured, but no tampons


No tampons. No douches. No squirt up the hoo-ha stuff for yeast infections
I bought a package of pads and let a rant loose on Bruce

Chica, maybe they're just sold out
No way Bruce they don't sell them cause they think only one thing should be up there and it's not a tampon
Chica. I can't believe you just said that

I blame part of my rant on hormones. Some. Not all. I said it cause obviously I think it.

Last week Mia said mommy what does stereotype mean?
I tried to explain. She didn't get it

On Thursday she and I stopped at Key Food to get stuff for dinner.
Right at the front of the store, we saw a Big Middle Eastern Key Food Meathead Guy with his big paw around the neck of one of the Key Food cashiers. He was whispering right up in her face and wagging his left index finger and I could see the fingers of his right hand digging into her left cheek.
She was looking down at the ground, not moving a muscle.

If anyone local is reading, she's the super competent one with the pretty eyes and the Cindy Crawford mole

You know when you witness something so outrageously out of place that it takes a minute for it to register? We walked right past them and my brain refused to accept what I was seeing

It started to click when I felt the tension coming off the chick who was ringing us up. She visibly relaxed as soon as Middle Eastern Meathead Guy let Cindy loose.
The whole thing happened so damn fast. Mia and I took 2 steps out of the store and I looked at her and said
that didn't look right, did it?

No mommy. Not at all. how awesome is she?

I put the groceries in the car. Mia got in. I stood there in the parking lot.
Big Middle Eastern Meathead Guy came out of the store to collect grocery carts.
Is that him? Mia nodded yes. I still stood there

Mommy... What are you thinking? You have that look on your face. What are you going to do?

I'm not sure honey.

So what do you do? If I had intervened at the time, would she get the shit beaten out of her later? Would she get the shit beaten out of her regardless? I assume they have a relationship beyond employer/employee. If they don't can I go to the police? Do I boycott Key Food? What good would that do? Absolutely none.

I looked at Mia. For a million and one reasons I couldn't let her see me walk away as though what we saw was ok.

We forgot something.
Mommy, we didn't forget anything.
Ketchup. We forgot ketchup. You can't have meatloaf without ketchup.
Mommy. We HAVE ketchup.
I know we do honey. We can always use more.

We went back inside.
Cindy was in the little plexiglass kiosk with the cigarettes and lotto tickets.

Knock knock
Hi can I help you?
Are you ok?
Smile. Puzzled. Yeah I'm fine
She looks at Mia and looks back at me and reddens.
I'm ok
You sure?
Yeah. I'm sure

I have my own first hand experience with verbal and emotional abuse.
My guess is some of you know how lonely and isolating abusive relationships are.
I sure do.

Sometimes, most of the time, the loneliness was the worst part.

There wasn't much I could do. But I wanted Cindy to know that I saw and that it's not OK.

So I was am biased. I don't think that being Middle Eastern makes a man more likely to be abusive. At least I don't think I think that. Why would I think that?
Because "their" women are all covered up? Because they won't sell tampons?
Because what the fuck do I know?

The guy I allowed to abuse me was not Middle Eastern.

I know nothing.

It's all just an opportunity to try and figure out what the fuck is going on around here.

Tune in tomorrow for Part II

and I still hate Blogger cause I can't get the font size right


  1. I grant ya: Blogger? Imperfect. Still, without Blogger I would not have added you to the list of sisters in my life and I would have been POORER for that, sweet pea. I love it here. Maybe you couldn't change anything for the woman in the store, but you sure changed things for your kid, who will change things for other kids, and...it ain't bad work, Michelle. xoxoxo

  2. I'm with Angela.

    And everything else you said -- wow.

    Aren't you a mandated reporter?

  3. I've never been Middle Eastern but I have been a Clark. And I stayed a Clark until someone I did not know at all expressed outrage. 8 1/2 yrs of that life and then someone happened to open up my rusty cage.

    You did good. At least, I think you did but I guess I need to wait for parts 2 and 3 to make a final decision.

  4. I know that feeling- that feeling beneath the breast bone that makes you swell up to four times your normal size that makes you walk to the place you need to be, open your mouth, say the things that need to be said, even if they are quiet things, almost a whisper or if they are loud things- HOW DARE YOU?
    Well. Each situation requires a different voice, a different font size but what is definitely required are the words.
    You did so good, my sister.

  5. I would have totally *wanted* to take her to a woman's shelter.

  6. I hung on every word of this--can't wait to read the rest.

    Damn. I probably wouldn't have said anything, but if I had a little one watching me with me, I'd have done the exact same thing you did (or at least, I hope I would have been brave enough to do that).

    Its all just a damn mess sometimes. Makes me want to go find another world sometimes, but this is the world we've got and sometimes, its right down the street from our homes.

  7. Good for you. You rock. Looking forward to Part II. xoxo

  8. grrrr.

    a few things...

    none of my guys have been middle-eastern, either.

    the loneliness does suck. right now.

    all that matters is mia.

    i too, must wait for parts 2 and 3.

    when we walk into our middle eastern grocer's and hem and haw(tampons and pads are behind the counter) the (male) cashier says 'please. i have a mother, you have a mother, everyone has a mother. do you want regular, super, or super-plus?'.

    perhaps he's saudi.

    i wish it weren't too late to call you.

  9. You inspire me. Truly. I have not been in such a situation, but I hope and pray I find my voice when I do.

    And, God, Mia is so awesome.

  10. Good for you. Bring on part 2.

  11. You rock. My ass is ready for part 2. Bring it on, sister!

  12. This was very compelling. And disturbing; I'm all tense now.


so... wadaya think?

Your fairy is called Columbine Icedancer
She is a bone chilling bringer of justice for the vulnerable.
She lives in mushroom fields and quiet meadows.
She is only seen when the bees swarm and the crickets chirrup.
She wears lilac and purple like columbine flowers. She has icy blue butterfly wings.