After a first day where my trainer thought it was appropriate to refer to our boss as a “cheap jew,” I didn’t think that my job of slicing meats could get much more uncomfortable. Little did I know that my other co-worker would tell me that the reason he had drawn a square divided into quadrants on his hand was to cover up his second swastika tatoo.
I’ve never really felt hated because of my last name or my nose or my love of Woody Allen films, and I didn’t think that moving to Jew York City would be the cause of my first viewings of outward Anti-Semitism. Sure, I went to a middle-school and high-school in rural Maine where calling someone “Jewish” was an accepted insult among some cliques and I once heard a person pass by me in the hall only to say: “I left the party because it was full of kikes, faggots, and nigggers,” but I always chalked that up to ignorance of the unknown. They hadn’t been surrounded in their day to day life by Jews, Homosexuals, or African-Americans so they began to fear what they had never experienced. Working at a place where the customer base is as diverse as metaphorical rainbow sherbert with chocolate sprinkles, I did not expect this kind of hatred and bigotry.
So, my reaction was to show no support of the things they said, but also not explain that I myself had a berg-ian last name. I think it was my Swedish side coming out. I was scared. Not truly scared that they would shiv me in the back when I wasn’t looking, but scared that they would not respect me and make my life even more miserable while I’m getting yelled at by a customer because I’m not cutting salami fast enough.
They don’t know I’m half-Jewish.
My co-worker asked if I was married. I scoffed and said “No, I’m 23.” He then asked without batting an eye if I had any kids. I realized that my explanation was not valid in his world. I wanted to say “I had college and now I want a life before I have kids,” but I realized that that explanation would not be valid either. Yet again, I was scared that my $40,000 a year education would make them not respect me and give them the incentive to make my life a little more unbearable while I was cleaning the frialator from the caked on grease.
They don’t know I went to college.
After frying up the bacon, my trainer asked if I wanted a piece. I took the piece because I’m okay with bacon, but then he offered me ham, which I’m not okay with. The reason is because I grew up a vegetarian and still have remnants of that personality trait left. The only meats I got a taste for were bacon, pepperoni, and chicken because those are the meats that taste most like the fake stuff I grew up on. I respectfully declined by saying “Nah, maybe later.” I didn’t want to explain that I’m a psuedo-vegetarian with parents who owned a healthfood store. I was afraid they’d make my life a little more awful while I was chopping up raw chicken by ripping apart the bones.
They don’t know I’m a grungy-almost-vegetarian.
I’ve never been scared of who I am, and even now I still act like me in front of them. It’s not that me is offensive to them, it’s the shallow personality traits that I have that are offensive to them. The worst part is that I know my life is better, easier, and more fulfilling than theirs so I don’t feel okay ruining any of their prejudices. The fact that my coworker has a swastika tatoo is because he went to jail and was scared of being alone, so he joined the people he looked like. The fact that neither of them would respect my liberal arts education is because they’ve never interacted with a college graduate as a peer. I feel like those reasons are good enough, and who am I to not allow them those prejudices if they help these feebly boring lives exist. So, I just hide my true self in fear.
A new coworker came in today, who I thought might be a little more relatable. He was nerdy and small and laughed a lot, and I thought we might be similar, at least in comparison to my Anti-Semite friends I had met previously. Then our first conversation was about how he fucked his chinese prostitute named Yoyo last night, and he does this once a week.
Fear comes from not relating to your surroundings, and I am scared.