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The Woman Who Came to Dinner
Nov. 27, 2016

         Well. Let me tell you a little about my
lovely Thanksgiving dinner! My spousal unit and I found a not-crowded hotel that offered a decent, inexpensive repast, which is no more miraculous than finding a person under fifty without an iPhone. We figured on a quiet, modest supper, and then home. We figured wrong. Dumbass (that's me) got it in his head that wife's lonely friend, Norine (not her real name), might wish to join the proceedings.
           Now, Norine is in her late fifties, from Taiwan, and has lived here most of her life. A bright lady, accomplished, unmarried, she happened to reside close to the hotel. "Invite her to walk over and join us," I said magnanimously. And invite a couple of rabid monkeys.
           Never mind that this woman several years ago had so relentlessly lectured me about trying Reiki for chronic stomach acid that I was left with no choice but to shout, and I mean shout, "I don't believe in Reiki! I keep telling you this, but you ignore me! Have you no respect for my opinion? Stop lecturing me! Enough!" It takes a lot---a lot---to provoke me to such bluntness. So at that point, I stopped joining her and my wife in their infrequent dinner-and-drink get-togethers. Over the years, however, Norine has repeatedly urged that I rejoin, so I thought, what better occasion than a nice holiday dinner!
          (Pardon me a moment while I kick myself in the ass for being such a chump.)
           Norine arrived, chipper and loud, fresh from viewing "Dr. Strange." She fussed and fussed with two waiters about every kind of beer available on planet Earth, and whether they had them (they didn't), and what she would disappointingly settle for. She actually frowned as she ordered.
          When that little display ran its course, we politely asked how the movie was. This was no bigger mistake than asking an engineer to explain, well, anything. Norine spoke non-stop for under a half-hour, recounting every dreary, stupid aspect of this dreary, stupid movie-product. It's a good thing I had nothing to say or ask, as there was no getting a word in edgewise, which is usually the case with Norine. I had forgotten this. I found myself wolfing my dinner, nodding compulsively, while she held forth about such damnable idiocy as Dr. Strange's "dark side," yawn, scream, runforyourlife. At last, she changed the subject to the one topic that any sane person should avoid at holiday dinners: Trump.

 I very politely and quietly attempted to turn the situation into what used to be known as a "thoughtful conversation," back before social media destroyed this concept.

          Now, as I said, she is bright, and her observations about the overall political catastrophe in the country are informed and, I believe, accurate. I'd had enough of her goddamned movie monologue, especially considering that she speaks in a shrill, insistent tone not unlike a police siren. So it was with some relief that I quietly attempted to turn the situation into what used to be known as a "thoughtful conversation," back before social media destroyed this concept. I offered not mere opinion, but information she had not heard, and so on.
           I should explain that this was nearly heroic on my part, because there is seldom more than a micro-pause in this woman's speech. Think: the time equivalent of a caterpillar hair. What's more, if you so much as breathe between the words you are attempting to expel, she blurts something out, usually unrelated---never mind you have not even finished making your point. No, that is too polite---she interrupts like an ADHD yokel on crystal meth.
           To say that this was annoying would be a wee generous. Yet I put up with it. After all, it was just innocuous conversation, wasn't it, and it was a holiday dinner, wasn't it, and she's such a lonely person. Well, lonely person continued to interrupt me---and by that, I mean talking over me in that squealing voice until I shut up---no more than 40 or 50 times in about a half-hour. Call me callous, but I began having second thoughts about my compassionate decision to have invited her to dinner.
           Eventually Norine began declaiming about white people this and white people that, in disgust and dismay over the rise of Trump. I share her disgust and dismay over these matters, but you see, I live in No Man's Land. Really. Send me a letter, address it to "Rip Rense, No Man's Land," and it will reach me. That is to say, I despise both the right wing extremists and the left-wing extremists. "Political correctness," ethnocentric attitudes, the scapegoating of all so-called white people as racist, well, these things are anathema to me. As is the drooling, gap-toothed racism of Trump supporters. "Why?" Norine kept saying. "Why has this happened?"
           So Chump here good-naturedly attempted to answer her, explaining softly and in detached fashion, how the "whitelash" was partly just plain vicious racism, and also partly a reaction to decades and decades of reactionary leftists vilifying all whites and exalting anything minority or gay---in popular culture, much "news" media, universities, etc. You may argue an opposing view with me on this point, but it will be for naught. Still, I was just trying to explain some of the mechanics of the "whitelash"---not advocate a  point of view. 

To quote the phrase often used to describe classic horror/science fiction movie plots, it was "Look out, boys, the monster's loose!"

          If you have guessed that Norine interrupted me, you would be very canny. It wasn't bad, though, as she cut into each attempted sentence no more than two or three times. At one point, she hysterically shouted, "Every action movie has white man as hero and all minorities die!" I calmly and correctly attempted to point out that this is simply not true. How did I do this? I spoke these words: "That is not true." Pretty inflammatory, eh? She shot back that it is true, and interrupted me again when I tried to respond. Loudly.
          If you have guessed that my blood pressure was rising, you would be just so shrewd.
          I said again, "That is not true," and she insisted in a tone no more irritating than a chicken about to have its throat cut (I've heard this horrible sound) that it is true. I upped the bidding. "No. You are wrong," I said, and attempted to add, "and let me explain." Didn't get anywhere. At this point this crazy bitch---I'm sorry, this fine lady---made the mistake of angrily raising her voice at me, blurting, "IT IS TRUE!"
          That was it. Happy Goddamn Thanksgiving. To quote the phrase often used to describe classic horror/science fiction movie plots, it was "Look out, boys, the monster's loose!" Here is roughly what I said, in a voice that made all heads in the restaurant turn and stare in fear.
          "What gives you the right to be so fucking rude? You are so fucking rude! Fuck you! All you do is interrupt and interrupt! Why don't you just shut the fuck up and listen once in a while? Who the fuck do you think you are? You are just so goddamned rude! Just fuck off!"
          At which fucking point I absented myself from the otherwise festive fucking proceedings.
           I repaired to the car, attempting to repair myself with a good portion of "Joe Cocker and Mad Dogs and Englishmen" at life-threatening volume. It sounded grand after Norine the Noisome. When my wife showed up, she was very apologetic, though she bore no fault in the matter. "Norine said that in her entire life," she informed, "no one ever said 'fuck you' to her before."
          Well. Now the little lady has something new to be thankful for.

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