Mistaken Identity

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Note when you are a victim, observer or guilty of mistaken identity (e.g. mistaking someone's religious, gender, sexual, or ethnic identity) and write about it on the "Mistaken Identity" Buzz blog.

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Carrie P's picture
Carrie P says:

In a recent conversation, a very sweet woman I don't know very well learned that our family homeschools our kids. She said, "OK, I want to ask you one question. Do you think that rising ocean temperatures directly impact your life?" I paused a little, not sure what this had to do with homeschooling, then answered yes, of course. I'm deeply concerned about the impacts of climate change on oceans, and I'm consciously, though imperfectly, working on mitigating my own greenhouse gas emissions.

"It's just that I saw a movie about fundamentalist kids at a Bible camp, and they were all homeschooled," my acquaintance explained. "There was a scene where a mom was 'teaching' the kids about climate change, and her take was that the oceans weren't warming up enough to really affect their lives in any way, so that was the end of the discussion."

So that was why she'd asked me the question. It was a litmus test to find out what kind of homeschooler I was.

It made me realize that by choosing to homeschool, I'm opening myself to people making assumptions about me that directly conflict with how I define my identity. I define myself as deeply involved in my community, but many will assume I want to withdraw from community life because my kids don't attend public school. I define myself spiritually as leaning toward Buddhism and paganism, but many will assume my religious identity would be Christian. I define myself as a feminist, but there are people who think I'm setting back the cause of feminism by staying home with my kids.

To be honest, I think my acquaintance knew I was going to respond with the "right" answer about climate change, from her point-of-view, so the exchange above probably wasn't a mistaken identity encounter. I think my acquaintance had some preconceptions about homeschoolers and wanted to give me a chance to define myself as not in the fundamentalist camp--to reassure her that I was indeed the kind of person she had so far assumed I was, and maybe to allow us to further bond over the fact that we are both people who believe in some of the same things.

This encounter left me strangely unsettled--how would she have responded, I wonder, if I'd said that I didn't think ocean warming was significant for me personally? Where would the conversation have gone from there, I wonder, if she'd had to deal with me as a new person whom she was starting to like, but who had suddenly revealed beliefs very different from hers? And what if I'd asked her a question based on a stereotype about some aspect of her identity, like her South Minneapolis home, her homosexuality, or her job? Would she have felt put on the spot, offended, or would she have just laughed? I wonder.

posted on Tue, 11/01/2011 - 3:41pm
maiken's picture
maiken says:

C.P. thank you for sharing this post. I am sure you're not alone in having to defend your choice to homeschool. On a positive note, it sounds as if you were able to use this discussion to broaden someone's perspective of what or who a homeschool parent can be.
I think this was indeed a case of "Mistaken Identity," in that this acquaintance had never thought of you as a homeschool parent and had a knee jerk reaction with all sorts of negative associations until she found out you were a non-stereotypical feminist, environmentally-conscious, non-Christian, homeschool mom.
Considering the tradition of Minnesota nice, do you think this honest and somewhat confrontational talk was a shock to either of you? Was it the first time you've had to defend your decision to homeschool?
Excellent questions about what her reaction would have been had you thrown out stereotypes about "her type."

Has anyone else made an assumption about a person that they later found was stereotyping, oversimplified or incorrect?

posted on Wed, 11/02/2011 - 10:50am
Carrie P's picture
Carrie P says:

Maiken, in answer to your question, I usually don't have to defend my choice to homeschool--most people respond positively, but often comment, "I could NEVER do that! I just don't have the patience." I suspect they're picturing me sitting at the kitchen table playing taskmaster to my kids all day, another case of mistaken identity, since we mostly learn through doing things we enjoy, and my role with my kids is not so much teacher as it is learning facilitator and support person.

I would say that I can remember at least one instance when I was guilty of some pretty egregious stereotyping (I'm sure there are others, but this one stands out). I was in a writing workshop with a woman collaborating on a memoir with her son, who was in prison. I commented that I'd been surprised by how philosophical and reflective her son's writing voice was, and how I hadn't expected that from an inmate. Her raised eyebrow told me that I'd revealed my own biases and blind spots pretty shamefully. I never forgot that.

I also, funnily enough, made stereotyped assumptions about homeschoolers before I was one. I got a job teaching writing to a group of homeschoolers, and before I met the kids, I felt sorry for them--"Oh, these poor little sheltered hothouse flowers." Then I got to know them. They were definitely NOT sheltered. They performed in plays as professional actors, sang in operas, hosted radio shows about kids' news on community radio, volunteered in their neighborhoods. I never forgot that experience of having my stereotypes blown, either, and it was part of what led to our family homeschooling.

posted on Wed, 11/02/2011 - 7:56pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

well yea you shouldn't make assumptions about people tou reallly don't know. you should give everyone a chance ! muahahahahahahahahahahahahaa lol

posted on Thu, 11/03/2011 - 11:59am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Maiken --

Wait a second. Are you saying that being Christian is a "negative association"? Or being a stay-at-home Mom? I know a few people who might dispute that...

posted on Mon, 11/14/2011 - 12:26pm
maiken's picture
maiken says:

Oh boy Gene, you're going to get me into a world of trouble on that one! I don't think I said that because personally I wish my mom had been a stay at home mom. Also I self-identify as Christian, although a very lackadaisical one.

posted on Mon, 11/14/2011 - 2:26pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

I think her "proxy question" is fascinating. I'm 100% sure that this is a mental shortcut we all take: a way of finding out where someone stands on something without asking the question (for whatever reason) directly.

But now that I've said that, I can't think of examples. Can anyone else?

posted on Wed, 11/02/2011 - 11:01am
Carrie P's picture
Carrie P says:

I don't know about "proxy questions," Liza, but I think we all have internal litmus tests that help us decide if we like and trust other people or not, tests we may not even be aware of until someone passes or fails them. I remember not being sure about whether I wanted to date my future husband until the time we were talking about how he had avoided writing classes like the plague (my field of study), and I had avoided math (his love). He said, "Oh, but numbers tell such great stories, about how things grow, and change, and come together and fall apart!" Ding! I was all his.

posted on Wed, 11/02/2011 - 8:00pm
buffalo_pete's picture
buffalo_pete says:

I found this post extremely interesting. I'm from Buffalo MN, and am well-acquainted with a great many religious fundamentalists, and a great many home schooled people and/or homeschooling parents, and I can verify that the two groups do overlap a great deal. That having been said, I can definitely see how the exchange you described would have been unsettling for you. Very interesting; thanks for sharing.

posted on Wed, 11/02/2011 - 2:01pm
buffalo_pete's picture
buffalo_pete says:

I am a queer-identified man who is constantly assumed to be heterosexual, by people of all ages, genders, and sexual identities.

As a younger guy (in my teens and early twenties) I was much more...effeminate?...in most regards; appearance, mannerisms, interests, verbiage. As I've gotten older (I am now 30), I have drifted much more toward "traditional masculinity" in those regards. My going joke is that I realized I couldn't pull of "pretty boy" anymore, so I had to move to "rugged good looks" ;) I have always dated women more than men; many of my acquaintances have never seen me with another man in a romantic or dating fashion.

So lots of people just assume I'm straight, I guess. I have on more than one occasion found myself coming out to someone that I've known for years. That's a weird feeling. I came out in high school, with a bang. It's not like I ever "went back in the closet," more like the closet in some respects has been rebuilt around me.

I'm sorry if this reads as disjointed; I'm not sure how to describe it, or how to describe how I feel about it. I could probably read and tweak this post for the next several hours, but I'm just going to click the button and let it be. If you'd like any clarification or explanation of any of this, just ask.

posted on Wed, 11/02/2011 - 2:49pm
KelsiDayle's picture
KelsiDayle says:

During a group conversation over lunch, I once asked a male classmate whether he had a girlfriend or not (not quite so bluntly, but that was the gist of it) and he replied along the lines of, "Well, actually I'm gay, but, no, I'm not dating anyone regularly right now." I was pretty embarrassed by my assumption. Thankfully, he was graceful and both the conversation and friendship continued amiably.

posted on Wed, 11/02/2011 - 2:57pm
maiken's picture
maiken says:

K.D. has anyone ever made any assumptions about you? Did you react gracefully?

posted on Sat, 11/05/2011 - 2:27pm
KelsiDayle's picture
KelsiDayle says:

Oh, sure, I've had people make assumptions about me. I'd like to think that most of the time I acted gracefully, but it's probably more realistic to say that mostly I freeze in shocked disbelief at their "error."

For example, upon graduating high school, I was asked by an elderly woman where I was attending college. I shared that I'd been accepted to Carroll University and explained that it was a small, private liberal arts college near Milwaukee. Her response? "Going for your M.R.S. degree then, right?"

I was so surprised that I didn't know what to say. In reality, I was a great student with no intentions of getting married right out of college and every intention of pursuing a graduate degree in science.

posted on Mon, 11/07/2011 - 3:02pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

I'm not seeing a problem here. The vast majority of people in the world are straight; it is not unreasonable to go into a conversation with that assumption. I think your classmate handled it perfectly: corrected your assumption, and moved on. I don't see why you should be embarrassed for not knowing something you had no way of knowing.

As I see it, we have three choices here:

1) Start every conversation by asking a total stranger an intimate question about their sexuality;

2) Never discuss any topic that might in any way offend anybody (which would actually save you quite a bit of time); or

3) Make reasonable assumptions, and if corrected just say, "oh, sorry," and move on. No harm, no foul.

Now, if you treat somebody differently once you learn their true identity, then we have a problem. But I don't see any problem with *learning* a person's identity, even by accident.

posted on Mon, 11/14/2011 - 12:54pm
KelsiDayle's picture
KelsiDayle says:

Fair enough. It wasn't really a big deal for me or my friend overall (Choice 3), and as I stated above, our friendship continues no problem.

My embarrassment didn't so much come from my not knowing something I had no way of knowing or the fact that he was gay, but rather a feeling that:

a) I should have known since we'd been friends for over a year. (Did I forget or miss something?)

b) I should have asked if he had a gender-neutral "partner" as I've previously been trained to do (thank you Resident Assistant training).

posted on Mon, 11/14/2011 - 4:47pm
maiken's picture
maiken says:

Kelsi, I have had many similar experiences to your "I should have known!" response. Oddly enough, most of these surprises have come to light as a result of social media. I learned just last week that my best friend from childhood had his first baby... I found out by seeing a picture of the baby on his mother's Facebook page. I was like, "really! how did I not know that?!?"
While this circumstance doesn't have much to do with "mistaken identity" you really have to wonder, in this age of technology where everyone seems connected- how well do we really know each other?

posted on Tue, 11/15/2011 - 12:25am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

My best friend Bruce moved to LA. I used to go visit him every January. One night he took me to dinner with his buddy Jim. Afterwards, the two of us went to The Brown Derby for drinks. I asked how he met Jim. Bruce said, "we both used to date the same guy." I paused for a minute, then asked, "Bruce, is there something you've been meaning to tell me the past 12 years?" We laughed, and went back to talking about music.

The thing is, I had no idea -- and it didn't matter. We never talked about our relationships, so it never came up. It didn't change who he was, or how we got along.I never got to ask why he waited so long to tell me. But, like I said, there was no difference between pre-coming-out Bruce and post-coming-out Bruce, so it didn't matter.

The point is, we can spend our lives interpreting and reinterpreting and overinterpreting words and actions. Or we can just say, "oh, cool," and move on.

The less said about RAs, the better.

posted on Tue, 11/15/2011 - 9:50pm
maiken's picture
maiken says:

B.P. I really like what you said about "the closet in some respects has been rebuilt around [you.]" I've never heard someone put it that way before but it is a wonderful metaphor for the stereotypes and assumptions that you are experiencing.

I wonder, does your experience affect your feelings towards "effeminate men" or "masculine women" who get labeled as gay when they self-identify as straight?

posted on Wed, 11/02/2011 - 3:17pm
buffalo_pete's picture
buffalo_pete says:

Maiken: Yes, most definitely. And allowing myself to be mistakenly guided by gender role and sexuality stereotypes is definitely a mistake that I've been guilty of in my own life, to my great embarrassment. A side note to this is that I have learned to really question the concept of "gaydar," be it mine or others'.

posted on Wed, 11/02/2011 - 4:16pm
Carrie P's picture
Carrie P says:

A side note related to the posts about sexuality and identity: I remember that when a grad school friend of mine came out, I got to find out what a great sense of humor he had. He had been so guarded before coming out, he had come across as rather stiff and uptight, not funny at all. But after he revealed his sexual identity, so much more of his personality came out that had been hidden before, and I realized he was one of the funniest people I knew.

posted on Wed, 11/02/2011 - 8:02pm
joyousduck's picture
joyousduck says:

What strikes me reading these mistaken identities, is that one assumption is made that all homeschoolers are far outside the social norm, and the other assumption being made is that a man is actually within the social norm of heterosexuallity.
Carrie P, you described an interaction you had with someone outside your self-identified group. Do you feel you have to justify your identity to other homeschool families as well?
Buffalo Pete, you said people of all sexual identities mistake your identity. I am curious to know if you ever take grief from other queer identifying people for the way you present your own sexual identity.

posted on Wed, 11/02/2011 - 10:56pm
buffalo_pete's picture
buffalo_pete says:

Joyousduck: Often, yes. This will range from the playful (from friends, who say such things as it's not that I act like I'm straight, it's that I'm really a lesbian; judging from my CD collection they may be right ;) ) to the not-playful (I have had some mean-spirited things said to me, yes), to the subjective-maybe-I'm-imagining-it (like getting poor service at the bar).

It is a very strange stereotype to live with, the more so because I lived with the opposite stereotype (that of the "femme gay boy") for so many years of my younger life. Strange the way life works out sometimes.

posted on Thu, 11/03/2011 - 11:18am
Carrie P's picture
Carrie P says:

I have a split personality when it comes to "justifying" my homeschool identity. As a writer, communicating through essays/articles and on Facebook and forums like this, I tend to be more positive and boosterish about my homeschooling choices; I play an advocate role and come across, I suspect, as fairly confident.

In person, I tend to be more self-doubting. Our family's unschooling style is fairly outside the mainstream, even for many homeschoolers: we don't really do lessons, or use prescribed curricula, or follow a recommended timetable for when the kids should learn something. We try to trust that if we provide a rich environment and are available to answer questions and pursue projects with the kids, they will learn what they need to learn.

With other unschoolers, I tend to share my questions and concerns about my homeschooling more than my joys, maybe because I need support and reassurance from others who are educating their kids similarly. With people whose kids are in school and with homeschooling friends who are doing a lot more structured, curriculum-based learning with their kids, I tend to clam up and not say much about what we do, because deep-down I wonder if these parents will judge me as lax or think my children are going to suffer because of my choices. When my homeschooling friends start talking about the lessons they do with their kids, it can really set off paroxyms of panic and doubt for me.

What helps me is to touch base again with stories of other life learners, and to look at my own kids. When I see how much they're learning and growing and how close we are right now, it helps assuage my guilt and doubt. And sometimes I even integrate approaches and ideas I've learned from my friends whose kids are more conventionally schooled!

posted on Thu, 11/03/2011 - 3:08pm
maiken's picture
maiken says:

I think I see some similarities between C.P.'s experience and B.P.'s experience, in that both self-identify as part of a group "homeschool" or "queer" but do not always feel like they fit into the norms of those groups. Both also seem to have experienced some discrimination or judgment from members of those groups who don't think they are "authentic" or "hardcore" enough to identify in that group. Does this resonate with anyone else?

posted on Thu, 11/03/2011 - 4:50pm
kellyleemcc's picture
kellyleemcc says:

Yes, it absolutely resonates with me.

I identify as a gay and/or queer woman. The way I dress, cut and color my hair and hold myself seems to confuse not only the straight community but also the queer community.

I guess you could say I don't fit in a box, meaning, I don't always dress super girly but in more masculine attire and yet sometimes I'm in full make-up, a dress and heels.

My queer community often will tease me if they see me out all gussied up in a dress or if they see pictures of me like that. Many of them will ask me if I'm a femme or butch? I usually say neither or a little of both which then is usually followed by comments or jokes about my identity and where am I supposed to fit in. I laugh along with them often but in all honesty it sort of makes me a little sad like I don't fit in or that I should chose to look or dress one way or the other. I really don't want to make that choice, I like bits and pieces of both and I feel like embracing both my femininity and my more masculine side accurately reflects my true self.

posted on Wed, 11/09/2011 - 3:12am
maiken's picture
maiken says:

Kellylee, in some ways it is incredible that your identity is flexible enough to allow you to embrace both your masculinity and your femininity. Since the society you live in, both the gay and straight communities, seem to be so tied to an either/or, dualistic view of gender and gender expression.
As a gender bender yourself, have you ever mistaken someone else's gender identity?

Has anyone else mistaken someone's gender? What happened and how did it make you feel?

posted on Wed, 11/09/2011 - 12:14pm
kellyleemcc's picture
kellyleemcc says:

Yes I have unfortunately, in fact many times in my life.

My latest incident(s) of "mistaken identity" was just last weekend. I attended a fundraising event for a queer and transgender community organization. Two or three different times during the evening I used incorrect pronouns while having conversations with people I assumed were masculine looking queer women but when in fact they all identified themselves as men or transgendered men. Although they all were kind about my assumptions and quietly corrected me I felt embarrassed and foolish for making the same mistake several times in one night.

posted on Fri, 11/11/2011 - 10:09pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Were these male-identified people dressed in female-identified clothing or makeup? If so, you have nothing to be embarrassed about. You made a reasonable assumption. They recognized it as such, and corrected you in an appropriately gentle way. Everything worked perfectly well.

If a male-identified person wear female-identified clothing, they are doing so deliberately. Any confusion that results is their creation, not yours. And so long as everybody recognizes that, we're cool.

posted on Mon, 11/14/2011 - 1:04pm
Carrie P's picture
Carrie P says:

I sort of see what you mean, though I'd make the distinction that whereas BP really did have people say and do things to him that sounded judgmental/critical, for me, the criticism seems to come more from within than from other people.

However, I frequently feel that I don't quite belong in the groups with which I most closely identify. For instance, I'm an environmentally conscious person who tries to bike a lot, eat locally, buy things second-hand, and hang up my laundry outside, but I also live in a big energy-guzzling old house and drive a minivan. I'm a home-birther who had an ultrasound during my pregnancy.

I often feel at risk of revealing myself as not quite one of the tribe, and yet I cherish my individuality and lack of orthodoxy, too. I wonder, do other people have these feelings, too? If so, what are some experiences you've had with this?

posted on Thu, 11/03/2011 - 10:25pm
buffalo_pete's picture
buffalo_pete says:

I agree, and I find this line of thought to be very insightful.

On one hand, it's difficult in a way to feel that a group or culture with which you identify doesn't necessarily identify with you. On the other (funny parallel to a conversation I was having last night, actually), it is our differences from our peer groups, our very "lack of orthodoxy," that in my opinion truly defines us as people, and makes us more than labels or stereotypes.

posted on Fri, 11/04/2011 - 11:49am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

As I read some of these comments, I keep hearing the voice of my sister in the back of my head saying, "oh, grow a pair."

Everybody's identity is a constellation of different aspects. And everybody's constellation is unique. If it weren't, it couldn't be used to identify you.

So you disagree with somebody on something. So what? It's your choice; it's your identity. Own it. Embrace it. Revel in it. Rub it in their faces if need be.

Or, if you decide to keep some aspect of your uniqueness under wraps, fine -- but, again, that's your choice. You made it; you accept responsibility for it.

But don't go whining that somebody is different from you. Remember, you are different from them, too. And that's kind of the whole point.

And stay off my lawn...

posted on Mon, 11/14/2011 - 1:30pm
skcarter's picture
skcarter says:

I am often mistakenly identified as a very light-skinned mixed race woman. I have many times had people assume that I'm white. I've even had people say some nasty things that they wouldn't have said had they known about my background.
One example is the woman who commented about a Parade magazine that featured an African American family and their reunion. She asked me how many of them I thought were on welfare. When I responded with a look of shock on my face and a, "What are you talking about?" She sputtered and said, "That wasn't a racist comment."
I am getting much better at looking at people like they are crazy and calling them to the table for saying a comment. It's taken me a long time to feel comfortable doing this.

posted on Tue, 11/08/2011 - 6:21pm
Julia H's picture
Julia H says:

Thanks so much for sharing, skcarter- it sounds like an incredibly difficult position to be in, one that forces you to see people in a not so pleasant light. While it may have taken you a while to feel comfortable with it, I find it great that you use these cases of mistaken identity to confront people about their biases. What have you found people’s reactions to be when you call them out?

posted on Thu, 11/10/2011 - 12:53pm
joyousduck's picture
joyousduck says:

My identity was mistaken when I was 13 years old. I was babysitting a 1 year old child. We were in a crowded hallway and another small child bumped into me. Her mother said "look out honey. Give that mommy space to play with her daughter too."
I was taken aback that this woman thought I was a mother. At the time two things struck me. One was that I felt as though just because I was a woman, it was assumed I was also a mother. If I had been a male with a child I wonder if the assumption would have been made that I was a father.
Second, I felt as though not only was my identity mistaken, but that my core values were being attacked. By assuming I was a mother, this woman was also assuming that I had sex when I was 12 years old. In my mind this was attached with poor judgment and values.
By assumption, one comment, I felt as though my whole being was being questioned.

posted on Tue, 11/08/2011 - 11:43pm
Julia H's picture
Julia H says:

It’s amazing how much impact one small comment can sometimes have. I like your point that assuming you were a parent at the age of twelve implicated both your choices and your gender. The choices and circumstances that lead to parenthood are often so varied, but the assumptions made about young parents can often be pretty narrow. What would you think if you saw a teenaged guy walking down the street with a one year old child?

posted on Thu, 11/10/2011 - 1:08pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

It sounds like the woman was teaching her child to respect others space and probably gave you little thought .

posted on Thu, 11/10/2011 - 1:36pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Amen to that. I think some of the folks here are reading wayyyy too much into innocent comments. Non-innocent comments? Yeah, that's a problem. But some of these reactions I feel reveal more about the writer than about the person who made the "comment."

posted on Mon, 11/14/2011 - 12:43pm
joyousduck's picture
joyousduck says:

Gene and Anonymous-
I completely agree that the woman's comment was meant in an innocent way. However, I would argue that most mistaken identities are not meant in a mean or malicious manner. What I am curious about when reading these 'mistaken identities' is not what they say about the commenter, but how the comment affected the person who heard the comment. In that case it seems good that you are learning more about the writers. I want to learn how people have been affected by assumptions made about their identity. Whether the assumptions were provoked or not. And perhaps learn why people have made these assumptions about us.
I am curious, can anyone give me an example of a non-innocent mistaken identity comment?

posted on Tue, 11/15/2011 - 12:20am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

I think what it tells us is that people are too sensitive. We shouldn't be letting innocent mistakes affect us at all.

posted on Tue, 11/15/2011 - 9:57pm
Carrie P's picture
Carrie P says:

skcarter, that was an amazing experience you related about the woman's racist comment about the Parade photo. I just saw a talk last night by the photographer Wing Young Huie that touched a lot on the idea that so many of our cultural images of ethnic minorities are stereotypical that it severely shapes and limits how we see the real people around us.

He also talked about growing up in Duluth (he was born there) and being the only Asian person outside of his family that he saw. He said that people often asked him, "Where are you from?" and when he said, "Duluth," they'd say, "No, really, where are you originally from?" He'd reply, "No, I really am from Duluth." He said their repeated line of questioning and incredulity implied a definite "us" that didn't include him.

posted on Thu, 11/10/2011 - 11:50am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Or they lacked the vocabulary to simply say, "no, I meant your heritage."

posted on Mon, 11/14/2011 - 12:44pm
maiken's picture
maiken says:

Gene, very good point about the possible lack of vocabulary to talk about these issues. However the elephant in the room is not their lack of culturally sensitive language but that those people in Duluth assumed Wing was not born in the United States because of the color of his skin.
I wonder if these same people went around asking anyone who looked black or latino "where they were from" as well?

posted on Mon, 11/14/2011 - 2:36pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

I dunno -- I think it's fairly common to ask people their ancestry / heritage. "Where are you from" is shorthand for "Where is your family from" or "Where are your ancestors from?" the fact that his interlocutor continued to ask the question after Wing said he was born in Duluth indicates that that is what was meant.

My last name is Dillenburg, with a "u." People frequently spell it with an "e" and assume I am Jewish. (It doesn't help that I refer to fall as The Holy Season, but I am referring to the playoffs and world Series.) I just correct them. One time, somebody told me, "I'm sorry, but that's incorrect." And I just laughed.

I actually once mis-identified myself. I met a fellow from Germany, and I blurted out, "oh, I'm German, too!" He looked at me quizzically, and then said, "ah, I see--you are an American of German ancestry." Saying I'm German, I'm Jewish, I'm Chinese is just the shorthand we use to convey this part of our identities. Ain't no big thang.

posted on Tue, 11/15/2011 - 10:07pm
maiken's picture
maiken says:

Has anyone been mistaken for being much older or much younger than they really are? - or -
Have you made that mistake towards someone else with embarrassing results?

posted on Sun, 11/27/2011 - 12:44am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

I once made a joke referring to myself as "an anal-retentive German," and managed to offend a co-worker who was a German native. I had to explain American humor to him, and everything was cool.

posted on Tue, 11/29/2011 - 2:15pm
maiken's picture
maiken says:

Gene, how did you explain American humor?

posted on Tue, 11/29/2011 - 2:49pm

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