Older white women will not leave my husband alone. There is something about him that makes women want him. They want him to find the avocados that are on sale. They would like him to reach something on the top shelf.
My husband looks like everyone else in the supermarket. He wears an old Berkeley sweatshirt and khakis with sneakers. This is pretty much his grocery store uniform. His customer uniform. Not his employee uniform. My husband does not work for a grocery store. Yet nearly every time he goes into one he is asked, "Do you work here?"
Usually he gives the short answer. "No."
Yesterday he said he asked the woman in search of asparagus why she thought he was an employee. He said she looked at him and his Berkeley sweatshirt and stammered something about him looking like he knew what he was doing.
Good save, white lady. We both agreed she tried to get out of it nicely. She even went on to flatter him a bit more. She told him he had a way with thumping the melons and squeezing the lemons. He told me he thanked her and moved on.
There is something a little pathetic about this. This is a fairly diverse neighborhood. Yet inside the grocery store my husband is seen as an employee because of the color of his skin.
I ask him if black women have ever asked "Do you work here?" The answer is a definite "no."
We are getting used to it. On some level it is a little funny. I am not sure who it bothers more. I know that it irritates me. I know that personally I am offended for him. It is the assumption that a black man is the employee even though he is not dressed for the job. He is not wearing a Whole Foods apron or hat.
For all the older white women shopping today in the grocery store, please remember. Every black man is not working there. And if you see the black man in the ratty Berkeley sweatshirt thumping the cantaloupes, please leave him alone. Unless you are just looking for some friendly Saturday morning conversation in the produce department. Then by all means, talk to the man.