Sunday, September 16, 2012

Who knew music could be so divisive part two: Coffee Shop (Mis)Adventures

The following is as close a recounting of true events, and an excuse as to why I couldn't get my work done this afternoon and will now be forced into a possible all-nighter.

So I’m trying really, really, hard to do my reading for the week . However, there is this table of young (probably sorority) women studying and one has their laptop practically blasting music of her—and the groups—persuasion. After gnashing my teeth about it for forty-five minutes or so, I finally—after repeatedly going over the variety nicest possible ways to ask without coming off as upset—ask the young woman if she could either pop in her headphones or turn down or off her music altogether, mentioning that it was really distracting to my studies (and a gentleman behind the studytable in question quietly chimed his agreement) .  Her response: “If you say please”. So I did in an oozing manner, all the while smiling. She shut off her music, I said my thanks and went back to my table to continue reading. But my focus drifted off to the fact that once again I am too slow on the snappy comebacks.

 “If you say please?” Did you ask any of us if we wanted to listen to your music in the first place?

“If you say please?” Were we even a consideration before you started blasting your tunes for everyone to hear?

“If you say please?” Excuse me, but do not imply that I am the one without the manners here. You were the one that didn’t even ask anyone if you could play your music loud in the first place.

“If you say please?” Yeah, I realize how uncivil I was for not saying please, but do you realize how uncivil you were for not even asking?

But I’m the one in the wrong for not saying please? If equivalent exchange is the issue, then the correct reaction would have been to go right up to her laptop and shut her music off, since that is the same level of respect she accorded the others and myself.  Politics of politeness is interesting in a given context. I couldn’t help but feel like the typical minority, the person who has to go out of her way to be polite when it is my space that is being forcibly infringed upon. Reads a lot like much of the history of most colonized folks. Being regarded as a child who must oblige the unjust adult is just humiliating. Dignity continually torn to shreds at the thought of similar scenarios.

 Being the passive one doesn’t help, yet I knew that being confrontational with comebacks would have blown up the situation and all I wanted to do was study. Instead I look like a fool and am stuck wondering about that fact and this muffed up scenario for the rest of the day. Study time was officially ruined, and I had tons of shizz to do.

When pondering the ways in which I could ask this woman to shut off the tunes, I was also pondering the dissertation titles, “The Politics of playing Music in Public Spaces: Music as a form of post-colonization” and “Would you please turn that down/off?: Politics and Post-Colonization of Space”.  I was also fantasizing about being uncivil for reals. Forget my fantasy pal Louie Ville, the slugger and him chomping on some knee caps. Nah, I was ready to introduce AK-47, whom would initially be pointed at “Miss Please” before totally decimating her precious Mac, after I said “No” in response to her mandate “If you say please”.  How’s that for civility? The idea of bustin caps was in need of an upgrade anyway. Now I just need to make these little misadventures and violent-yet-comical fantasy responses into a comic.

 Only a passive-aggressive person would think of such a thing as a release. Of course there’s the matter of not being considered a danger to society, unlike the folks who get away with making all sorts of violent films and shows that desensitize us to erroneous acts of violence on a daily basis.

Note: Racial and gendered undertones of this response are implied. Most of you will know what I’m getting at.

Until next time…

Monday, September 3, 2012

Who knew music could be so divisive?: Yet another visit from an unwelcome friend

The following is my debrief about a rather troubling event that largely involves not being a member of a majority culture and making people uncomfortable because of it. Basically I'm fuming.

At the request of the groom (and not so much the bride), I brought my vinyl and turntables to share some tunes with everyone for the after wedding party. I was given permission to play my own stylings after giving disclaimer after disclaimer about my stylings (old and new funk, soul, reggae, latin breaks). My apprehension stemmed from knowing the couple enjoyed bluegrass, some electronic stuff, some popular stuff, and some old soul tunes.

Needless to say it did not go over well. It did in the begining but after a while, folks wanted to hear what they wanted to hear. People are more comfortable with what they're familiar with after all, not new things that are comparable to what they are used to. Nonetheless, while I got a few nods of appreciation, I got twice as many fake nods of appreciation followed by requests to either, put on more uptempo stuff, or play crappy 90s dance music (someone actually was on the verge of tears yelling at me to play this stuff).

I hadn't been drinking (since that's not my thing) but boy was I starting to fume. Most of it was from humiliation and knowing that my lack of acceptance was evident at that moment. Still, thanks to stubborn pride, I played on (hey, I didn't bring four bags of records for nothing!).  Since I tend to communicate through my selections for the most part, I started playing an awkward down tempo  love song with the main line of "here's my love" (I usually start my sets with proclamations of love as well) an expression of my humiliation.

After a while people interrupted my set by plugging in their ipods/iphones to play their own playlists. This just in, the tempo wasn't the issue because it was about the same as what I was playing. The style however was. You see, from my perspective, it was the stuff of hipsters who believe to know what real music is and should sound like. Down-tempo in its own special hipster-y way. In fact two ipods/phones happened to have one song in common on their playlist. Talk about awkward (cause hipsters seem to think they're rather unique). Some of the stuff I heard made me think of "Stuff White People Like" instantly, especially the one about hip-hop.

In any case I was and still am angry about this. Especially since the morning after (we stayed the night on a campsite hosted by the wedding party), none of those people would even make eye contact with me, not even the bride and groom! By the way, I got no help from them in regards to support. Only a relative stranger offered sincere words of encouragement of play what you feel when the going got rough (I should have played "Stepping Razor" just to shut up the hecklers). Needless to say, I could not wait to get out of there and I felt something pretty close to hatred for hipsters for a while.

Why be so upset about this? Because I wrongly stereotyped hipsters as being liberal and thus open-minded. The worst kind of liberals it turns out are those who think they are but really are far from it and will reject anyone and anything on a moment's notice. Did I mention there were hardly any people of color there? Of the friends that were close to the bride and groom, all were white.

Yes, yes, I know my judgments are a bit harsh. That often does not lead me to reject people however because I also know that these people are good and possibly awesome people, much like my friend through which I am associated with the bride and groom. And besides that I know what rejection feels like and do not care to perpetuate it.

Still some of my harshness comes from my sensitivity. And internalizing of yet another failure at fitting in with new, seemingly cool folks. I just wonder again, and again, what is it about me that makes me so easy to cast aside? Every time I assert myself, attempt to stand up for myself (as misguided as it may be to do so), I end up being in the wrong for it! WHY AM I WRONG FOR DOING THIS? I feel the constant burns of being othered in one way or another. And I couldn't feel more alienated because of this. The worst of it is that people were trying to be nice when telling me I was basically doing them a disservice by not playing what they wanted to hear (you're doing great but... how affirming of them).

Anyways my anger wasn't apparent  to  the others, which is probably why they felt okay with stepping to me as much as they did. I mean it was all I could do not to hope that a mistakenly spilled glass of water would somehow destroy the PA system  and the ipods that were connected to it. But then I remembered that that PA system belonged to my super awesome friend whose friendship I in no way want to loose and I reversed those negative thoughts and tried to clean up the mess. Once again I am the othered doormat and my soul burns from the shame of knowing that being me is not acceptable to just about everyone...even hipsters.

Until next time...