Sunday, March 29, 2015
Some people will tell you that they always have music playing in the background. Whether they are commuting to work with an ipod and headphones or doing things around the house with a CD playing, they will always be listening to music. Some people tell you that as they get ready to leave their home in the morning, and when they return later in the day, they will always have the radio tuned to public radio. I am neither. Though I like music, and I like public radio, I hardly ever listen to either. With the later, when I donated my car in 2009, I almost completely eliminated radio from my life. The only time I'd ever listen was when I drove around town.
Nowadays, if I listen to either the radio or to music, it's only if I've rented a car. Last weekend, my wife and I rented a car for a trip to Wisconsin. On the trip to and from Chicago, we listened to public radio. It was probably the first time I listened to public radio since the last time we rented a car, over Thanksgiving Break in 2014. On Sunday, on the way back from Wisconsin, we listened to This American Life, the hour long program that is broadcast on hundreds of stations across the country. Last week's episode, episode number 551 of the program, was called "Good Guys." One segment within the episode resonated strongly with me. A comedian named Mike Birbiglia shared a story about riding the bus in New York. Besides Birbiglia, there was just one other passenger on the bus. At some point, an attractive woman boards the bus Birbiglia looks at the woman, then quickly forces his gaze down to his feet to avoid staring at her. However, the other passenger openly gawks at the woman. The other man makes no attempt to shield his stare. In the segment, which is a comedy bit, Birbiglia asserts that the difference between himself and the other passenger is a line that separates acceptable behavior from creepy behavior.
As a dwarf, I get stared at a lot. That's why the "This American Life" story resonated with me. Though I'd like to think that I share some kind of bond with attractive people who suffer through the stares of others, there are significant differences between the stares generated by dwarfs, even attractive dwarfs, and those generated by attractive people in general. The differences aren't just about the motivation behind a stare. There is also a difference within the consequences of those who stare. In his routine, Birbiglia looked away from the woman because he knew it was wrong to stare. He talked about the dividing line between acceptable behavior and creepy behavior. In my opinion, that line exists because attractive people are held in more esteem than others. They hold power over others. With dwarfs, that line doesn't exist, at least not to the same extent as it does with attractive people. If it does exist, it exists in a space that is farther away from acceptable behavior, which allows the average person to stare much longer before crossing over the line of creepiness or rudeness. Dwarfs do not hold the same esteem as the average person. No matter economic or social class, must any average stature person assumes he or she has power over a dwarf, which gives the average stature person justification to stare without crossing the imaginary line about which Birbiglia joked.
That's the best thing about radio, public radio in particular. It's full of programming that makes one think. Whether or not what I have to say makes any sense, I recommend the "Good Guys" episode on "This American Life." There are plenty of good segments on it. Some are funny. Some are sad. Each is thoughtful.