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04 May 2012

Masks for sale

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.

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