Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pride and Prejudices

Home ownership comes with pride, or is it the other way around? Home ownership also comes with responsibility.

I recently went through a big home improvement project. I had my yard professionally landscaped. 

Back yard
At the end of June, the landscape designer came to the house to see what the project entailed and what my ideas were. I found myself clearly articulating what I wanted (something I had not really learned to do before); I wanted mostly California native/drought tolerant plants and I had a couple specifics in mind, Kangaroo's Paws and a couple Manzanita bushes. Then I waited for his proposed plant list and costs.

Then I met with the installer who would actually oversee the other parts of the project; the pruning of my existing plants and the actual planting and development of the finished garden. All went well here, too. I told him what I wanted, he pointed out what he felt was necessary, and then left. A few days later I received his budget proposal. I eliminated what I couldn't afford at this time and we settled on the final costs.

Then the anxiety set in-could I truly afford this? When will it start? How long will it take and will I need to take time from work? And ultimately, will I like it?

After a few delays, mostly due to a few hard-to-find plants, I was notified when the planting would begin. And ultimately, G-day (Garden day) arrived. The delivery arrived unannounced prior to G-day, fortunately I was home! The crew arrived bright and early (7:00am!) two days later and I felt a bit of anxiety. 
Front, left

I am not a prejudiced man, yet the make-up of the crew gave rise to the anxiety; one Anglo and four Latinos. I'd met the Anglo before as he was the installer and owner of the company the Latinos worked for.  My anxiety came from my own homophobia and my perceived prejudices around Latinos and their views on homosexuality. 

I tried to be as inconspicuous as possible to stay out of their way, yet intrigued by what was happening in my own yard, I kept wandering out to watch. I tried to eavesdrop on the conversations but the various Spanish accents I was hearing gave me a bit of trouble. I dropped a few common phrases here and there until, in order to make myself more understood, I said something completely in Spanish. The men looked at me puzzled looks on all of their faces, and one of them asked, "¿Habla Ud. Español?"

"Sí," I replied and suddenly we were best friends, almost. As it turns out they were more intrigued by how this gringo learned to speak Spanish so clearly, so I explained that I had studied for a few years before spending part of my Junior year of High School in Mexico as an exchange student living with two different families.

"Muy impresionante," they said.
Front, right side
On the second day as I was talking with the crew chief, a bearish man in his mid-40s, he started telling me about his uncles. And I couldn't figure out why. His wife had uncles, too. Oh, and an aunt. And it hit me when he said, "And we all knew, but no one said anything." He was opening up to me. He was telling me these relatives were gay, but closeted.

In his gentle-mannered way, he hit every stereotype, "I love watching you guys dance!", "Whatever you do, you do it with such energy, to the best you can.", and "I love the colors of your flag!" He gestured towards the rainbow windsock hanging behind me from the eaves of my house.

But, my favorite comment was when he asked, "What do you guys like to be called?" 

"Gay," I said. 

"Bueno," he said. 

It was very relieving to me to be talking this calmly with a stranger about what once used to be, though sometimes still is, a taboo subject. I never heard any derogatory words from the rest of the crew, either day. It wasn't until later it hit me, I had been the one with the prejudices. They may have had their prejudices, but they were nothing but professional with me. 

And that's as it should be.

I just have something to work on.


Back yard

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