Imagine you’re sitting in a restaurant enjoying a good soup and sandwich when you make a disturbing discovery. There in the soup that you’ve taken several spoonfuls of already is a hair. A long one. By its colour you know it’s not yours. It’s so disgusting, which… Hold on… You’d made this discovery after taking a bite of BLT. You’ve been chewing for several seconds and now you feel like there’s a hair in that part of your meal as well. And not in the uneaten part. You can feel that hair between your teeth! What do you do?
I’m pretty sure I know the answer that any and all of you would give: Tell the waiter and expect 1) an apology, 2) a new sandwich and bowl of soup, and 3) a free meal. And you can be sure that the staff at that particular restaurant will be falling all over themselves apologizing for the follicle fall-out. (Good one eh?)
I’ll get back to the meal, but for now, let’s take a look at the movie Big (1988). In it we find a young teenage boy experiencing a completely different perspective: overnight he becomes a grown adult man. None of us could possibly know what that would be like, but Penny Marshall, Tom Hanks, and others used their wild imaginations to show us what it might be like. And in real life, to understand each other we need to use our imaginations too. We can’t know what it would be like to step into the shoes of someone different from ourselves, but we can try.
Just one more rabbit trail and I’ll come back to the hair in the soup. For a second let’s consider people who are activists. For some reason, most of us do not like the word “activist.” We might even be afraid of the word. We don’t want to be called one, and we tend to think those who do consider themselves as such to be a little (or in some cases, a lot) on the whacky side. Let’s consider a few. The Black Lives Matter movement. Those activists are claiming that police are killing black people, especially their young men. They’re saying that the problem of racism has not gone away and something must be done. Feminism and the Me Too movement. They are saying that “toxic masculinity” is still a problem and it impinges on the happiness and success of women everywhere. The environmentalists. They are saying our bad habits are slowly destroying our planet and that it will be millions of innocent people generations from now who will suffer the most from it. Now, considering our aversion to the word activism, we would probably rather acknowledge there is “some truth” to what each is saying. However, we might add that “Not all policemen are racist.” “There’s nothing wrong with masculinity. Not all men are like that.” “Yes, let’s try to not be so wasteful, but I’m not a tree-hugger. People lose their minds about this stuff!”
Well, maybe we can try understanding them. We all know that’s not the most comfortable thing to do, but we can use that Penny Marshall brain of ours and step into their shoes. Which brings me back to the soup and sandwich story.
I don’t have to convince any of you reading this that finding hair in your meal at a restaurant is unsettling, regardless of how harmless it may be. So we find the first hair floating in the minestrone. Then the second in our bite of BLT. We call on the waiter and he says, “Um, just pull the hairs out of your food,” and walks away. You ask to see the manager. She shows up and after hearing your complaint she rolls her eyes and says, “Look at your soup. That hair is laying at the very top. Most of the soup hasn’t even touched it.”
“I don’t care,” you protest. “I want a new bowl of soup!” She sits down and looks you in the eyes. “Hey, just because one part of your soup had a hair in it doesn’t mean the whole bowl is bad. And your sandwich is fine. You’ve spit out what was in your mouth into a napkin, and now the problem is gone. You act like your whole sandwich is ruined now. Let’s not get fanatical.”
She takes you to the kitchen and shows you the big soup pot. She reaches down to the bottom with a pair of tongs and pulls up enough hair to make a wig. You feel like throwing up, but she thinks you’re overreacting. “It’s all at the bottom! The rest is fine you entitled crybaby!”
We can say all we want that the police are mostly all the finest people in our society—and they are—but if there’s a small percentage that are racist and/or unnecessarily violent, we can’t be ok with that. And the same goes for the other groups. Maybe they aren’t just sensitive. Maybe having just a bit of sexists or racists or irresponsible people is worse than finding hair in our food. And maybe our reaction to those problems should at least be bigger than our reaction to hair in our food.
Congratulations Penny Marshall and Big. This is your week. You and everyone else we lost in 2018 will be missed greatly.
And the Oscar goes to…
Best Actress: Margot Kidder as Lois Lane in Superman.
Best Actor: Burt Reynolds as Lewis in Deliverance.
Best Quote: “Mini Me? Where are you? Could someone put a fricken bell on him or something?” — Mike Myers as Dr. Evil in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.
It’s Oscar season everyone! I’ve watched 4 of the 8 best picture nominees and hoping to see the other 4 before the awards take place. I’m not sure I’ll make it, but it’s fun trying!