Quiet Anthem

Honest Faith :: Bold Vulnerability

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rules for Driving: No Stereotyping

Driving styles, much like fashion, vary according to person: the girl who wears Prada may also like to text or apply mascara behind the wheel; the man who is keen on loafers may prefer driving slowly in the left lane. With both driving and fashion, others deem it totally normal—acceptable, even—to assess stereotypes upon the driver or fashionite. To be fair, I know plenty of Prada lovers who wouldn't dare text while driving (I also know several who would); likewise, although I don’t know a tremendous amount of people who wear loafers, I do know people who wear sneakers and stilettos who dawdle in the fast lane. 

Stereotypes—or narrow-minded assumptions, as I like to call themmay feel true, but judging others results only in our missing out on what's deeper within another person. 

This afternoon, my colleagues and I were talking about this subject, swapping stories about how we typecast others while driving. I shared how a boy I dated for about ten minutes (too long) in college would follow any complaint he had with a driver with, “Probably a Korean.” He felt justified in being childish because three of his long-term ex-girlfriends had been Korean. 

One of my co-workers admitted that her husband, when he sees a bad driver ahead, sometimes says, “Probably a woman.” She said she cringes every time it is a woman. She followed this with a story of how she, an aggressive driver, once made a blunder and had a man yell out to her: “You’re old enough to know better!” After her initial indignation toward him, she realized that she should have known better. “It gave me pause for thought,” she said.  

Come again? Just because my co-worker is visibly middle-aged doesn’t mean she has been driving for the past forty years. Maybe she just moved here from Saudi Arabia. Or, perhaps, she as an assertive driver was behaving aggressively because that’s her nature. I suppose we could go around launching you-should-have-known-betters more often. I’m sure Bill Clinton or Lindsay Lohan or Charlie Sheen would have benefitted greatly from such admonitions.

The first time I rode in a car with Greg, when we were just friends, I was terrified by his haphazard, slow-to-break but fast-to-launch driving (picture the fashion equivalent of a 6-year-old boy in Underoos). In fabulous ironical fate, I told myself that if this guy were ever going to have children, his wife would have to sort out his driving. She did. In retrospect, what I know to be true about my husband is that his driving behavior reflected something deep in his character: passion. It’s the quality about him I admire most.

Our personas can be displayed by driving habits or wardrobe choices, but they aren’t necessarily determined by ethnicity or gender or age. The luxurious freedom of being alive during this moment in history and in this country is our ability to choose Prada slides or Lauren loafers, a mini Cooper or a mini-van. The rest of us ought to recognize this and deal with bad drivers without assessing judgments: pass in the right lane, slow down, politely honk.

After all, aren’t we too cultured, too liberated, and too mature a people to stereotype others?


John Apt said...

It really is funny, except that it's not. We all steriotype others while admonishiing those who we catch doing the same. After seeing pictures of me with a tilaka mark on my forehead and a Hindu prayer shawl wrapped in a turban around my head, one facebook friend asked if I'm now a buddha while a passerby at the Occupy Phoenix demonstration asked if that was al quada I was wearing on my head. Yes. I am a buddha, in fact The Buddha, reincarnate. I am in fact wearing al quada ON MY HEAD. The whole terrorist movement is encapsulated in my turban. How funny that you nailed it on the head.

Fact is, even if I wore my values on my sleeve, it would take a serious inquiry to understand who, or what, I am. I'm still figuring that out myself. What exactly do you call someone who finds truth in the sacrifice of Jesus, the archetypes of Hindu demigods and incarnations of God, and doesn't like the current rules of government? Heathen? Hindu? Leftist? Confused? I am all, and none, of these things.

Fact is, I have been wearing a turban made out of a Ganesha prayer shawl, because....it's the only piece of fabric I own that works as a turban, it keeps the sweat out of my face when I'm outside in 100+ degree Phoenix temperatures, I identify with the archetype of the Hindu incarnation of God known as Ganesha, and frankly, I think it looks cool. I get that many people don't approve of how I choose to worship God, that wearing a turban of any kind isn't accepted amongst many westerners, and frankly... I don't care. I don't get the kids who wear the UBER tight jeans, but I don't assume I know a thing about them based on the odd, uncomfortable fashion they choose.

Our first mistake is in thinking we can make assumptions about others and thinking those impressions are accurate. Our second mistake is in assuming our own style and image are somehow exclusive of the opinions of others. If you think something is cool, or expected, it is because you are assuming the expectations of others and trying to be what you see them to be. Just like in assuming a Christian would be critical of my spiritual path, I would be stereotyping that person as dogmatic and unacception. Let down the walls you have built around your heart, people, and understand that you barely know a thing about anyone else...much less your own self.

Renee Ronika Klug said...


You write: "Our first mistake is in thinking we can make assumptions about others and thinking those impressions are accurate. Our second mistake is in assuming our own style and image are somehow exclusive of the opinions of others." 

Yes, yes, yes. Exactly.

Thank you for your thoughts. 

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