Rasma Says

Musings, deliberations, flashes of unaccounted for brilliance…

Anonymous or conspicuous?

I call my daughter’s school and ask to speak with her. I give the secretary her name and class and so forth. We chat a bit and decide the secretary will go down to the classroom and fetch Bia so she can call me back from the school office. A few minutes go by. No call. A few more minutes. I’m beginning to wonder. Then the phone rings and instead of my daughter on the other end of the line it’s the secretary. What was your daughter’s name again? It’s a small school. She knows all the students by name. But because I speak Norwegian with a foreign accent she had gone and gotten the wrong girl. She had fetched a recent immigrant, probably a war refugee, and had been trying to convince the poor girl that her mother had called from my home phone number. The girl had balked. She didn’t know the number. Maybe she had no mother, who knows, but in the end the secretary called me herself to check.

“Oh!” she laughed when I told her my daughter’s name again. “Oh, Bia, of course! I thought you wanted one of our non-native language students.” I was about to say that Bia is a non-native language student when she laughed again and said that she should have known my daughter wasn’t a recent war refugee, because my Norwegian was quite excellent.


Is there something about me that makes certain important details irrelevant to people who notice something else about me, my accent, my name, my Arab nose, which then gives them all the information they think they need?

It reminds me of when my high school guidance counselor reported my college plans to the local yocal (and here we’re talking very small town) newspaper based on his interpretation of my SAT scores.

Or the teacher who insisted on calling me “Rosemary” because he was sure that with my Southern accent I was just slurring the pronunciation of Rosemary so it sounded like Rasma.

Or the time my parents came to eat lunch with me in 6th grade, and walked up to another girl who was standing with her back to them, thinking it was me. “But she had the same long beautiful hair!” they explained.

Or the Baptist summer camp counselor who took me aside and gave me a heart-to-heart talk about Jesus being Jewish. Based on my profile I was, of course, also Jewish.

Unusual hair, nose, name, intelligence, accent… I’d think all these features would serve to make me more distinct. The features are distinct, people notice them right away, but behind them I remain, at times, quite anonymous.


This entry was posted on 01/11/2007 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , .


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