I was explaining the dynamics of my condo association to someone recently. Aside from it sounding like some sort of dysfunctional Melrose Place, I realized I was describing everyone using labels. Namely:
- The Frat Boys
- The Sorority Girls
- The Old “insert C-word here”
- The Lesbian
- The Drunk (although it appears there’s been an intervention and we may have to come up with a new name)
- The New People
- The Stripper
- The Black Lady
There also used to be The Gay Guys (technically they were probably The Other Gay Guys), but they moved to Burly, ID. Who does that??
The last one on the list really bothers me. And, while I’ve been thinking about it for a while, I’ve really gone back and forth on the appropriateness of writing about it.
I’m not entirely sure why I am bothered by it so much. The labels are all related to some defining characteristic. And, let’s face it…being Black in Utah is pretty damn defining. So, does referring to that characteristic make me racist? At the very least, am I demonstrating some level of racist behavior? I’m not so sure.
In all fairness, when I finally learned her name (Betty), I began referring to her as such. But, whenever I do, someone always looks at me like I’m a dumbass and the following conversation ensues:
Me: The Black Lady
Them: (with a nod of sudden understanding) Oh, yeah. Why didn’t you say so?
I blame this all on my mom. Growing up, a family down the street was known in our household as: The Mexicans. Nevermind that their name was Moran. Or, that they were from El Salvador. I guess the fact they spoke Spanish was all that mattered. Nowadays they’re known as Marguerite and Julio. It only took 25 years for that to happen.
I’m not sure what other label I can assign Betty to describe her. The Older Lady on the First Floor doesn’t work…there’s two of those, and I know the next question would be, “The White one or the Black one?” The Weird Cat Lady won’t work…there’s at least four of those in the building (yes, Amanda, you’re one of them). I’ve tried just referring to unit numbers, but the numbering scheme in this building has everyone confused and the conversation grinds to a halt while everyone tries to count off in their heads and figure out which unit I’m talking about.
Short of taking Betty around to everyone in the building and introducing her, I’m not sure what I can do differently. Any suggestions?
No, wait…I really don’t think we should be talking about this.