Dude’s Not a Dude!

Today my ex-husband got married, and I didn’t attend the wedding. I was invited, but I just didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of being there. Instead I went to a picnic for the San Jose Japanese Culture Club. It was my first time trying a meetup.com group, and I ended up having a really good time.

This is what I looked like today.

Nezu wearing sunglasses at a picnic

The picnic was held at a Lake Almaden Park in San Jose, where there were several events at reserved picnic areas going on, and lots of parents with little kids playing on the lakeshore and wading in the lake. My hair is usually a pretty big hit with kids, and I’m used to people noticing it.

Actually back up a sec. Back up to last night, when I went to get dinner with a friend, and we accidentally ran into a wine festival in downtown San Mateo. We wanted to go to a Japanese restaurant there, completely unaware that the street would be blocked off and thronged with crowds. While winding our way through wall-to-wall people to get to the shabu shabu place, a lot of people, according to my friend, stared at me and my hair. I’m so accustomed to this that I guess I don’t even notice it anymore.  I did notice the group of late-teenage boys who shouted “Awesome hair!” as we approached, to which I have my customary enthusiastic, “Thanks!” And there was one moment where I got a kind of suspicious side-eye from a different young man who tripped my “are you about to try to start something?” alarm, but he didn’t say anything and the moment passed.

So today at the park a little girl told me she liked my hair and got my grinning “thank you” while her parents tried to decide if it was okay to let a stranger speak to their child. And then later I was walking past a group of late-teens having a barbecue, and thought I heard someone say, “…dude’s got blue hair…” but not actually addressing me. So I kept walking, and then one of the boys shouted, “Dude! Hey, dude! Nice hair! Rock on!” and threw up some horns. So I threw some horns back and grinned and said, “Thanks!” and kept walking, because I was on a mission to find a toilet, after drinking a lot of green tea at the picnic. As I continued I heard the guy mutter a shocked, “Dude’s not a dude!”

Then I got to the toilets, which were not obviously labeled, and I stood outside of them looking for some indication of where the entrance was, and a man who had evidently just come out saw me looking confused and met my gaze. “Are the toilets here?” I asked. And he pointed and said, “Men’s is that way.” I must have looked even more confused, because he looked confused back at me, an added, “Women’s is the other side.” I thanked him and went to use the women’s side, where I got some suspicious looks from a couple of mothers with kids.

But at the picnic everyone unhesitatingly identified me as female. I think. They treated me as female, anyway. It wasn’t until I saw that picture above, taken at the event, that I understood why I got the other reactions I did.

(I also might have flirted a bit with a pretty, femmy, motorcycle-riding woman… But she seemed a little high-strung, and I still suck at telling whether a girl is femmy but straight, or actually femme and potentially interested. We talked about how we both had worked on the No on Prop 8 campaign and the fact I’d be going to San Francisco Pride tomorrow, but she didn’t say she’d be going, and I was too much of a chicken to ask if she was queer or a straight ally. Anyway…)

At one point the group organizers wanted to take a group photo. So we did the usual taller people (including me) in back and shorter people in front arrangement. And then they wanted to put girls on one side and boys on the other, so I stood in the middle, at the edge between boys and girls. And then they wanted girls kneeling in front and boys standing in back. I remained standing, in part because I didn’t want to kneel since my knee is still not 100%, but also because I wasn’t really sure where I fit. A long-haired and to my eyes rather feminine-looking woman complained that she wasn’t “girly enough for this” as she knelt in the front, and I just laughed inside, because man, if she wasn’t girly enough, I really didn’t even come close.

At the end of the event, as I was walking back to my car, I had one more blue-hair episode. I passed in front of a group of adults and children near the lakeshore, with a tent, coolers, beach chairs, and so forth. As I walked by, this big guy sitting in one of the chairs held out a package of mini Oreos and shook them at me kind of insistently. I belatedly realized this was an enthusiastic response to my hair, so I turned and grinned and gave him a wave. He said he liked my hair and offered me an Oreo, and I waved my hand and said, “Nah, thanks, I’m good,” and prepared to keep going to my car, when he stopped me with, “Is it because I’m black?”

Which really threw me, because A) no, and b) I’d have called him Pacific Islander, not black, and C) why would he even think that? plus D) I don’t really like Oreos all that much. So I said, “No, dude, it’s because I’m full and I just ate!” and patted my bulging stomach. To which he replied that he was fatter than me, and they were just mini Oreos, and held them out again. It felt like a challenge. So what to do?

I doubled back, politely took and ate an Oreo, and chatted to him briefly. I learned that his daughter, (or maybe his wife, it wasn’t entirely clear) had had a blue streak in her hair but it had faded to a sickly avocado color because the salon that dyed it had screwed up somehow. And that his mom was a lesbian. And that someone, possibly his wife, but maybe a sister or friend (trust me, the conversation was confusing) had had some sort of hair mishap that caused her to have really short hair, which caused her such grief that she stopped wearing makeup and didn’t want to go out, and some group of people assumed this short-haired woman was a lesbian and kept asking her “Are you butch or femme or what?”

It was a strange story. I said something along the lines, of, “That’s usually something you can kind of tell from appearances,” and laughed, and he persisted in trying to convince me about the sadness of this woman who felt unfeminine  and was misidentified (or correctly identified?) as a lesbian with her short hair and lack of makeup. So I said my mom was getting chemo and her hair had fallen out but she still wore makeup, because I really had no idea what else to say. Fortunately it derailed the topic enough so that he shifted into offering me sympathy about my mom, and I was able to thank him for the cookie (and he in turn thanked me for taking his cookie) and extricate myself from the very strange conversation.

Maybe he recognized me as queer and wanted to make up for the error in calling me racist for not wanting an Oreo, and that’s why the tale of his lesbian mother and the woman who had short hair? It was very strange. What do you think?

(And dudes, look at that picture! I actually looked handsome today. *preens*)

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~ by Nezu on 27 June 2010.

2 Responses to “Dude’s Not a Dude!”

  1. Sounds like a good day

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