Frame of Mind

When Renée Zellweger was researching her role for Bridget Jones’ Diary, she worked at a book publishing company, with the name Bridget Cavendish, doing office-y things. She was dating Jim Carrey at the time, and kept a photo of him on her desk, which confused her co-workers who had no idea who she was. I love that story, and have been thinking about doing something similar at the office, but I couldn’t think of a good person to have on my desk.

In honour of his recent departure, I had a photo of Adam West printed, and it now sits in the place of honour on my desk at work. Nobody has asked about it yet, but I’ll give it a few more weeks.

It got me thinking about whether people would know it was him or assume it was MrFodder. Nobody from my new team has met MrFodder in person, so they have no idea what he looks like. A few of them know what his name is, but not many, as I usually refer to him as “my husband” or “my partner” rather than by his first name.

That got me thinking about what kind of assumptions people tend to make when they see other people together. I am Asian, and look Asian. MrFodder is not, and does not. There have been some times in the past where people have assumed we’re just friends / roommates. It isn’t just MrFodder though, I’ve noticed that when I spend time with darkpast (Asian) compared to when I spend time with Graham (not Asian), I feel like more people assume that darkpast and I are dating than think Graham and I are dating, despite the fact that I don’t think my body language is all that different with either of them.

A and I have this thing where we come up with experiments to try and show that people are innately racist. His current experiment involves eating yum cha. He tends to do this a lot with non-Asian people, and he’ll often be the only Asian person at the table. So he’s trying to see how things change depending on where he sits at the table. Usually he’ll sit on the side where the people serving the food tend to go past, but lately, he’s positioning himself in inconvenient locations, and trying to see whether the staff try talking to him first, or just talk to whoever happens to be the closest. I’m not sure what his results are so far.

It was at a lunch with MrBrioche (Asian) and Michael (not Asian) that I had a thought – if I asked one of the staff members which of the three of us they thought was married to each other, who would they guess? MrBrioche and I are both Asian, however, he is older than me. Michael and I are obviously of different nationalities (he is Caucasian), but we are both the same age. Would they play the race card, and assume MrBrioche and I are together, or play the age card, and assume Michael and I are together? Or would they go completely left-field and assume that MrBrioche and Michael are together?

I asked MrBrioche how old he is, and unfortunately, I don’t think the age gap is enough to be obvious. I asked someone else I had worked with, who is twenty years older than me, and found another non-Asian person to do the lunch experiment.

I brought it up with Jal, as I thought he would make a good “control group”. He is non-Asian, and my age, and there’s another person we work with who is Asian and also our age. So I figure we can eliminate the age factor and see if the affect is still there. However, he brought up another potential confound.

When you are a group of 3, the table seating results in two people seated next to each other, and one person seated across from the other two. He believes that couples tend to sit next to each other, whereas I believe couples tend to sit across from each other (so you can look at each other). Lacking any data to support one over the other, it means there will have to be more experiments with all of the different seating configurations. I don’t know if my experiment budget can handle this.

At least I have an excuse to get people to eat lunch with me, who normally never would have considered it.

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