Fashion is more than fabric. It may reflect our world view. What we choose to drape our bodies with speaks volumes, sometimes subtly, sometimes roaring loudly. We can take note of what our fellow planetary dwellers are wearing and store the information away. We can use it as a launch pad for conversation. We can make it a measure of our thoughts about that person.
I go to the gym several times a week. It is my haven, my ashram, my temple and in the past six months or so, my classroom. The latter began when I noticed a car in the parking lot covered with pro-Trump bumper stickers. I cringed as I walked by with a Pavlovian response that has been part of my experience since Election Day 2016. I know I’m not alone. I glanced at the front of the car and saw what I thought was a scowling old man in the passenger seat. He didn’t flinch when I nodded in his direction. When I walked into the building and prepared for my workout, I saw a middle-aged man with a braid down his back and a long beard draping down his chest; not long enough to cover his t-shirt that cheered on the current administration and encouraging four more years. On his head was the tell-tale red baseball cap with four letters above the brim. A visceral chill ran through me and I wanted to be as far away from this man as I could be. He didn’t notice me. I finished my workout and walked back to my car, passing his once again and this time, at closer inspection, saw that the ‘person’ in the passenger seat was only a cut out of the face of the current occupant of the Oval Office taped to the headrest. I laughed out loud at the absurdity and the metaphor of how people claim that God is their co-pilot. With #45 at his side, it is quite a ride.
The next time I encountered the car, the driver was sitting in it. When I walked by, I shook my head and my finger in his direction. He did the same and then I blew him a (sarcastic) kiss. We still didn’t speak in the building. Each time I see him, his attire is the same and I wonder what his life is like and what shaped his choices. I have not yet mustered the courage to speak to him. Part of the reluctance is fueled by fear. If he is that blatant about his political stance, (I know a few Trump supporters who made their choices based solely on financial justification as single-issue voters), imagination tells me that this dude is against everything I am for and for everything I am against.
The other, surprisingly so is that I may find some things in common with him. I want to keep him at arm’s length (or farther) so that I don’t have to like him. Paradoxical for this way left of center, free hugging tree, hugging crunchy granola hippie social worker. If I find common humanity, I may even like him. What if he has some fine qualities that my peacemonger sensibilities may even admire? Each time I see him, I get closer to finding out. I almost spoke with him yesterday.
I wonder if he heads out into the world thinking about the reaction of people who see it. Does he imagine that many will nod approvingly? Is it his way of testing the waters? I wonder too if he has a whole wardrobe of red hats and pro-Trump t-shirts. My equivalent that broadcasts my beliefs is a Fresh Air (the long-running NPR show, hosted by the iconic Terry Gross) baseball cap, and t-shirts that feature ‘Free Mom Hugs,’ that declare ‘Life is Good’ and shout to the world, ‘I Love You’. When people see that they may roll their eyes at the sappiness of them, but I don’t imagine they evoke a sense of fear.
Yesterday, I saw him once again and this time two other members of the gym that is known for its tagline, identifying it as the ‘Judgment Free Zone,’ were speaking with him, one referring to him as ‘Bro,’ as they did a fist bump greeting. I wondered if he agreed with him in his world view or if he could look past it. Am I capable of overcoming my preconceived notions about who this man is based on his appearance? I justify my judgments based on the association his allegiances hold. If he is that blatantly in alliance with the policies of this administration, my perception is that he is one of the ‘bad guys’. He may view me as a ‘libtard snowflake’ whose views are threatening to his way of life. If we don’t speak, we may never know. The silly part of this whole thing is that he is likely not spending time engaged in this type of mental meandering while he is taking up a whole lot of space in my head. Wishing I could extract it as easily as doffing the headwear and stripping off the t-shirt after my workout.
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