America: &%$# Yeah!

img_0021Ashley and I are currently back in Silicon Valley for a quick trip to visit with friends and attend MacWorld. It’s kind of weird to be back – has it already been a year since we left? The time back in Vancouver has given me an opportunity to get a little perspective on the time we spent in the US, and come to conclusions about what I like and dislike about each. But that’s something for a different post – this post is all about the things I missed about the US:

  • Crazy products: It’s an historic time in the US – with the election of Barack Obama, change is in the air, and it’s time to celebrate…with a sweet collectible commemorative plate! Only $20! Comes with a certificate of authenticity! And a warning that you shouldn’t use it to serve food!
  • Sweet tea: There’s iced tea and then there’s sweet tea. Sweet tea is sugar held in suspension by the minimum amount of water possible. It makes my teeth hurt just thinking about it. Two gallons for $5, this week only at Walgreen’s.
  • Carnitas: Technically not an American thing, but I’m not about to travel to Mexico just to get a decent taco. If eating fried pork is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.
  • Bumper sticker politics: Why bother to articulate your thoughts carefully through public speaking or other political discourse when you can say it all with a humorous yet topical bumper sticker? Tell the world how you support John Kerry in 2004!

Ginger Pride

Following on the heels of the “National Kick a Ginger Day” outrage last week, I had two people in as many hours ask me if I’d been affected (specifically, had I been kicked). I responded, if a little curtly, that I had not been affected because I was a 33-year-old man, not some child attending elementary school.

Looking at some of the public commentary on the “National Kick a Ginger Day”, I have to wonder: doesn’t anyone remember getting teased as a kid? It’s all part of growing up – kids need to learn to deal with it. It’s not like the kids were being held at knifepoint and forced to snort meth. Society’s insistence on wrapping children in bubble-wrap these days is getting a bit annoying. A little perspective is required.

Sure, as a red-haired child I had my share of teasing as a kid – but, in all honesty I can’t really remember any of the insults. Carrot-top? That’s about as specific as I can get. I do, however, recall one hilarious/embarrassing episode of my childhood in which the color of my hair figured prominently.

In grade five, I had a particularly stern teacher, Mr. Leschuitta. He was a real hardass, the kind of guy that would given you push-ups as punishment. Truly, he missed his calling in the military. This was, of course, the last guy you want teaching sex-ed. I think you can see where this is going…

The day of sex-ed, the boys were separated from the girls, with the boys going with Mr. Leschuitta to watch a film strip that inevitably raised more questions than it answered (for those of you who don’t know: I went to a Catholic elementary school – enlightening children on fornication isn’t really their forté, unless you count the priests). In the Q&A following the film strip, one of my friends, Ian Colgur, timidly raised his hand and bravely asked a question on the topic of pubic hair:

Ian: So, uhm, is all pubic hair black?

Mr. Lescuitta: No, generally your pubic hair is the same color as the hair on your head, although in some cases it may be darker…

For a moment, this answer satisfied the class. And then, you could almost hear the implication of this pubic revelation snapping into place for the class. And all eyes in the classes swivelled to focus on me. After an awkward pause, the entire class burst into laughter, myself included.

Sigh. Good times.

The teasing aside, I’ve always viewed being a ginger (rhymes with ‘singer’) as something unique, something that made me special. When you’re part of a class of students with three different kids named Chad, two kids named Robert, a girl and a boy both named Chris, being different didn’t really seem like a bad thing to me. Plus, there were cool ginger role models, my personal favorite being Tintin.

It’s all in how you look at it.

Not a few days before the whole “National Kick a Ginger Day”, a VP of Development from a local software company asked me how I might handle a C-level executive who may view me as a snot-nosed 25-year-old. A friend later attributed this misjudgment of my age to my red hair. In the conversation with the VP of Development, I ignored the slight, choosing to instead attribute his misjudgment to my youthful looks.

I suggest everyone do the same with this silly outrage over this incident. Ignore it. Worry about the things that are really doing damage to kids instead of nonsense like this.