My mother and her close friend were shopping at the original Nieman-Marcus in downtown Dallas when I was a child. Nieman's was then, as it is now, notorious for snobbishness-- but the unaccustomed rightly take that as simply the rudeness of some of the store's employees.
So, at a cosmetic counter, and having difficulty drawing the attention
of the not-overly-busy girl behind the counter, my mother and her friend
begin to bristle with annoyance-- you know how it is to begin to feel
invisible to someone who obviously knows you are waiting for them?
Another pair of women are also having a similar experience at the
counter. My mother overhears one of those women say to the other, "It is because we are Jewish that we get such treatment."
My mother is trying to figure out how on earth the girl at the
sales-counter could possible know the two women were Jewish -- thus the
old joke, "Funny, you don't look Jewish!" is being played out
before her eyes. My mother says to her friend, in ear shot of the other
pair and the woman behind the counter, "I wish I was Jewish because,
then, when people are rude, I don't have to take it personally."
A poignant observation about how we all blame our masks rather than our
own identity for how we are treated.
At Nieman's, of course, the effect
on many patrons of the store is to worry that one is not of properly
high social standing to be treated with respect-- and the irony in that
is the fact that it is exactly the marketing intent of Nieman-Marcus to
set such a perception-- seeking to associate their store with rich,
famous, and powerful-- and so the wanna-bes will shop there for status and pay the premium for the self-painted "mask" they take home apart from the actual purchase.