I left a conversation yesterday wondering how many ways one person can offend another in three minutes. I was outside sweeping my sidewalk when a woman I know slightly grabbed me by the arm. (Offense #1: Assuming she had to hold onto me to get me to listen.)
“I met that new woman,” she said. “She came over and offered me a bottle of wine.” (Offense #2: Referring to our neighbor as “that new woman.” She has a name. And she brought you wine.)
I said I’d met her too, and she seemed nice.
“You have to watch them, you know.” (Offense #3: Lumping people into a shapeless “them” category.)
I’m slow with bigots sometimes, because I can never believe they’re for
real, but I was starting to get it. “Who is them?” I asked.
“Them! You know, the Asians or the Mexicans or whatever she is.” (Offense #4: I’m not explaining this one. If you don’t get it, you’re part of the problem.)
At that point, the best I could do was, “What?”
“Bob says they’re always looking for something. (Offense #5: Letting her husband tell her what to think. Obviously, we feather-headed females can’t figure things out for ourselves.)
“The women find some man who’ll marry them so they can come here," she went on, "and then after a few years they dump him.” (Offense #6: Deploring someone else's "crime" even though they gleefully report how they manipulate the tax system to their advantage. I quote the husband: “Hey, it’s probably legal.”)
Irritated, I give her a chance to soften her bigotry. “Are you sure they all do that?”
“Well, yeah. We knew a woman once who married an American and came here and then she divorced him once she got citizenship. (Offenses #7 & 8: Assuming you know why a married couple splits and generalizing it to every instance.)
That's when I took my arm back and walked away. Some people might have tried to reason with her, but seven decades on this earth has taught me that I’ll never win with someone that dumb, that mean, and that pleased with her own hypocrisy.