Ever since I was a little kid, I had always heard the saying, “Opposites Attract.” It was meant for folks who have different tastes. Different likes and dislikes; such as – He likes Chocolate Ice Cream and she like vanilla. She likes her steak done well and he likes his red and bloody. He likes Star Trek and she likes Star Search. That type of thing. However, when I was a kid, I thought it meant White people like black people and Chinese people like Japanese people – and so on. Therefore, I had always wondered why there was nothing but white couples and black couples depicted on television or movies. I would always think, “Why didn’t they find an opposite. To a 9-year-old, that’s what opposite meant to me. I asked my cousin about this and he said, “White people can’t marry black people.” When I asked him why not he said, “I dunno. You just can’t” Forty-One years later I’m married to a black woman. My sister has been with a black man for the past nine years and my other sister dated mostly black men throughout her 20’s and 30’s.
My siblings and I grew up with some old fashioned parents. They were strict and they were very hard on us as we grew up; however, they were also understanding and loving. They taught us to always follow our heart and most important – “Judge a man by his character. Not his color.” and I’ve done my best to adhere to those words all my life. If there are people I do not like – it’s not because of their skin color or any external factor. It’s because they’ve done me wrong and it’s very hard for me to forgive. “Fool me once – shame on you. Fool me twice – shame on me!” Very, very rarely will I shame myself by giving someone the opportunity to do so.
I’ve been at my current job for a number of years and when I first started there was this guy who was quite friendly with me. He’s originally from Jersey and I’m from New York so we had the same mind set, (as most east coasties). For years he would stop at my office door and we’d talk sports and it was pleasant. However, one day I overheard him complaining about me to our manager. I went to her door to give her a message when I noticed him in there talking. As I stepped back to walk away I overheard him complaining that I was “too difficult to work with.” I was floored! Just moments ago he was laughing in my office and talking about the Mets and suddenly – he was in my manager’s office saying all these horrible things. I quick paced back to my office and waited for him. Every time I heard a door open, I’d run out and look up the hall; however, her door would still be closed. After nearly a half an hour of this, I decided I would ask him why he felt as he did. Instead, my manager showed up at my office. I looked past her for Mr. New Jersey; however, he was no where in sight. When I turned my attention back to my supervisor she started off by saying, “Can we talk?” Then she closed my door. I knew it was going to be in regards to Jersey Guy being in her office.
As it turned out – he told our manager that I was “difficult to work with” and I was “Unapproachable”. Can you believe that? This guy stopped at my office every morning to chat and laugh and suddenly I’m unapproachable. I didn’t argue, nor did I defend myself. After all, I had nothing to defend. This was his issue, not mine. She made a few silly requests of me, like putting something nice in my emails; instead of being so direct. She asked that I make it a point to be more social. Yeah – forget all the work I have to do on a daily basis. I thought to myself. I racked my brain trying to figure out how I was “unapproachable” to this guy when suddenly it dawned on me. I had just recently gotten married and had a small, framed picture on my desk of me and my wife. Mr. Jersey must have seen the image of my wife and then lost his mind. I’m not going to go so far as to label him a racist; however, I can’t think of any other reason he’d do such a thing.
As I walked down the hallway to his office, I was determined to confront him and find out why he was being such an asshole; however, he was out of the building. It was a few days later and I was headed to my supervisor’s office when suddenly, Mr. New Jersey popped out of his office. When he spotted me, he immediately averted his eyes towards the floor and walked right past me without saying a word. My first instinct was to call out to him but then I thought about it. As curious as I was about the entire ordeal, I wasn’t hurt or brooding over this. I just wanted to know. But to see him so uncomfortable at the mere sight of me made me realize I didn’t need to ask him anything. It was his problem and now he had a bigger problem. He had to deal with seeing me every day and would have to avoid looking at me. I imagined his comfort level would drop significantly every time he saw me or had to walk by my office. And you know what? That was perfectly fine by me. I erased him from my mind and didn’t let it bother me. Instead, he would have to feel this way every time he encountered me. What made it even funnier was the fact that every once in a while he would have to come to me for assistance and that was just awesome to me!
I’ve had plenty of opportunities to speak with him regarding his comments to my supervisor. I had plenty of opportunities to tell him that if he has a problem with me, he should come to me before running off to my supervisor; but the more I thought about it the more I liked the idea of just ignoring him. Now, I have an extra fifteen minutes every morning where I am working and not talking about the Mets or the Yankees.
I’ve been with my wife for quite a number of years and we’ve had to put up with a lot over those years. Family or friends of the family don’t like me or don’t like her because they don’t agree with our marriage and you know – Much like Jersey Guy – it’s their problem. Not mine. So I erase them. I don’t forget them, nor do I forgive them. I just erase them and move on. I’m not going to let their insecurities or prejudices bring me down!
How about you?