A couple of weeks ago I popped in to a local salon for a little laser hair removal. After filling out my personal info, I was whisked down a damasked hallway and left alone (thank God) to make the necessary preparations, clamber ever so gracefully onto the be-papered table and try to assume some kind of natural-looking position to greet the woman who would soon be shooting me with lasers (technology blows my mind a little).
She walked in, handed me some protective sunglasses and declared, “So you’re Italian.”
“Oh! Ah. No, no. I’m just kind of a furry Canadian.”
She looked at me over her glasses. “Right, but your family is Italian.”
“Haha. Well no, not a one, actually. They trace mostly back to Ireland, Scotland and England.”
She shook her head as I turned over so she could get the backs of my legs.
“I don’t care what your last name is. You’re Italian.”
“OK…but, I’m…not, though…” I trailed off.
“Blood doesn’t lie.”
I craned my neck around to see that she was not, in fact, taking my blood, and decided to let the subject drop. After all, I didn’t particularly care what she thought about my genes or cultural background, so long as she was steady-handed with the laser beaming.
I’m always a little uneasy when someone asks me the “background” question. Not because I have anything particularly undesirable in my ancestery. I’m pretty sure I’m not a direct descendant of orcs or anything, and even if I was, who’s to say I’d be anything like them? And it’s not that I find the question offensive, per se, I’m just never quite sure what people are trying to figure out when they ask or why it should matter. I like to throw them off by telling them I have a background in journalism.
I do get my back up a little when I feel like someone is trying to size me up for a convenient little box, in the same way that I always squint suspiciously at forms that wish to know my marital status, or heck, even gender with no obvious relevance to anything.
Why do you need to know if I’m married for me to enter a draw to win free shoes, you know?
These just aren’t things I’m particularly comfortable being defined by, I suppose.
What do you guys think? Do you get asked this? Or are you someone who asks, and if so, why?