The scene: the checkout desk at our local library.

It's two minutes 'til closing. We're the last people in line to get our books.

We step up to the counter. There are two librarians working; one is Native American, one is African-American. (This point is shortly to become salient.) We know both women by sight, since we're at the library two or three times a week.

One of the librarians is checking us out; the other is checking in a large stack of returned books and videos.

FISHER (loudly, as he says all things): Those are all kinds of cats, aren't they?

ME (distracted, dealing with toppling heap of books): What are all kinds of cats, honey?

FISHER: Toms… Coons… I don't know about Mammies, though?

ME (whipping head around with an audible snap): WHAT?

FISHER (pointing at book on return pile, titled Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films): See, like a tomcat, and like a Coon cat…

ME (feeling the eyes of the librarians, and everyone else in the vicinity, hot upon me): Uh Fisher those are names that were derogatory names for black people, you know, in history, that people used to use as insults, and now most people know that it's not OK to use those words, and uh…

FISHER: But it's like a Maine Coon, right?

ME: (honestly, I don't remember what I said at this point… my main objective was to get out of the library before I had to explain what a Mammy was)

So obviously what I said/did was probably what not what I would have said/done if I hadn't been embarrassed and flustered… but I guess I should be happy that Fisher had no idea that any of those were racially-related words, right?

Awk. Freakin. Ward.

About Molly Newman

Writer, cook and trivia/spelling bee hostess, living it up in North Portland.
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12 Responses to Awkward

  1. Helena says:

    Oh boy. Yeah, that would be awkward all right!

  2. Katherine says:

    You know that scene in Amilie where she sees her love object and turns into a glass of water and splashes all across the floor? Awkward like that, but without the love part. Yes, you should be proud of him and this ignorance. I’m sure you handled it well and said the right things. Your truth undoubtedly shined through. Even as felt you were leaking onto the floor…

  3. Summer says:

    I would have laughed so hard….I’m sorry, I know that’s terrible but oh, that would have made me laugh. Just for the record, I think you handled it very well. Like Katherine said, be proud that he has no clue what all that means in a derrogatory sense. I’m afraid for Caden what with him being exposed to Mike’s shows he writes, The show Mike writes is meant for Parody, but of course a 3 year old isn’t going to recognize the subtle nuances of toungue and cheek.

  4. Herm says:

    I’m sorry, Herm; how horribly embarrassing, and yet: hahahahahahahaha. Reason #798 I love children, especially those to whom I am related. They keep us…humble. I guess Augie’s equivalent is how he’s always biting his best friends. Gulp.

  5. Stephanie T. says:

    Greg’s sister, age 3 or 4, in line at the grocery check-out “Look mommy! That lady is made outa chocolate!”
    The innocence of children…Wouldn’t the world be a better place if, as adults, we could maintain this innocence…Nice job mom…He’s one awesome kid.

  6. Stephanie T. says:

    Greg’s sister, age 3 or 4, in line at the grocery check-out “Look mommy! That lady is made outa chocolate!”
    The innocence of children…Wouldn’t the world be a better place if, as adults, we could maintain this innocence…
    Nice job mom…Awkward as it might have been…He’s one awesome kid.

  7. You could not have made this up. If you’d put it in a piece of fiction, readers would have found it contrived. You have now made my day.

  8. Mimi says:

    Oh yes, been there, done that. Blush.

  9. Magpie Ima says:

    Definitely awkward. Ouch.

  10. Yeah, well, a little awkward… but so cool because Fisher didn’t have a clue. 🙂
    And I love Katherine’s comparison with the Amelie movie. I love that movie. 🙂

  11. azureavian says:

    i’m interested in how the ladies reacted? …to his explaination and yours.

  12. Karan says:

    Yeah Molly! You should be absolutely freakin’ proud (and I don’t say it lightly) that your son had no freakin’ idea what those words were used for years before. Hurray! (Although, I can imagine the scene to be more than awkward for all adults involved.) Go Fish!

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