verbal patchouli

Saturday, mar. 15, 2008   |   0 comments
The very first thing she said to me was, "Your hair looks good bleached out like that...much better than it does on those N-I-G-G-E-R-S." She actually spelled it out, just like my mother used to with O-V-A-L-T-I-N-E so as not to get me prematurely riled about upcoming chocolatey libations.

Of course the woman's like ninety, so she has senility and/or that "from another era" thing to offer up as an excuse. Whatever.

But the thing I found particularly amazing about this crazily racist comment (other than the fact that she managed to work it into the conversation within ten scant seconds, and she did it with a topic as innocuous as hair) was the manner in which she said it to me. The cutesy, shared secret way she spelled out that naughty word (careful! negroes might be about!) and the use of the word "those," gave the comment a real "us versus them" feel. Like she was sure she was preaching to the converted, even though she had launched into her thing before I had a chance to say word one.

That may just be the M.O. of a truly racist person: She's so sure she's in the right, she doesn't wait to see if I'm like minded before she launches into her poisonous rhetoric. Even so, I took it as a complete insult that she thought I was the kind of person who was down with that shit.

It's just like patchouli wearers. They love the way that stuff smells so much, that they can't possibly conceive of a person not liking it.

One once came to a party at my house (not someone I had invited, obviously, but a friend of a friend). At some point, we unthinkingly let her use our phone. And from that point forward, it reeked, to the point of "let's walk to 7-11 and use their payphone," for an entire week. Right then and there, we implemented a policy where all patchouli wearers had to obtain permission, in writing, at least two weeks before entering our home. Luckily, since I tend to give patchoulies a wide berth, I never really got close enough to another one to actually put our regulation to the test.

I always imagine patchouli lovers starting of by dabbing a reasonable amount (as if there were really such a thing, but no mind) behind their ears, maybe on their knee backs, and then just as they're heading out the door, they stop. "You know, out in the fresh air and all, I can hardly smell my oil! And really, when a scent comes as close to heaven/sex/world-peace as patchouli does, there's just no room for subtlety." So they dash back to their be-tapestried lair and just pour the whole fucking bottle right over their heads. Or maybe, like drunks looking to "maintain the buzz," they keep going back for just a little bit more, a little bit more, until it's way, way too late (or like, in the words of a comedienne I once saw, beauty pageant contestants: "what, do they get their teeth capped, forget, and then get them capped AGAIN?"). Whatever the thinking that gets them there, they all end up wearing enough of the stuff to fell someone really tall, yet it's obvious that these Patchouli People think they're spreading the wealth with their pungent odor. But really it's just nose rape.

This very "what I love, the world must love" thinking is exactly what that racist spelling bee was dishing out. I've also noticed that many cab drivers I encounter tend to have this very same verbal patchouli problem. "Frisco's a beautiful place," a driver said to me once, "if only it weren't for all the lesbians." Or when I asked another cab man how he was holding up, he said, "fine, except all the blacks and mexicans keep stiffing me."



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