She’s a rainbow

Dear Uma: Do you like dogs? Organic food? Coffee? Do you recycle? Are you a vegan or a vegetarian, shopping at farmers’ markets or Whole…

Dear Uma:

Do you like dogs? Organic food? Coffee? Do you recycle?

Are you a vegan or a vegetarian, shopping at farmers’ markets or Whole Foods outlet stores and cooking in a kitchen chock-a-block with gadgets?

Do you ride a bike to your work at a nonprofit organization, but have a Toyota Prius for those longer journeys? Is there a bumper sticker on your Prius? Do you listen to public radio and have an Apple iPod for your pirated music?

Do you practice yoga and/or run in marathons?

If you answered yes to any of the above, or wished to, you probably drink wine and your beer is from microbreweries. You attend film festivals, eat sushi or expensive sandwiches when dining out and read David Sedaris.

You smoke marijuana sometimes, but stand still at concerts. You have a gifted child with two last names.

Your house, if rural, is by the water and has been renovated. If you have a condo or a townhouse in the city it is also renovated, being in an area that is in the process of gentrification.

You give and go to dinner parties where your friends always include at least one black person and one or more gay people. You wear scarves and New Balance running shoes.

You hate corporations; and though your health care is free, you don’t trust doctors, placing your faith in natural medicine.

You have an arts degree, worked and/or studied abroad at some time and have difficult breakups.

You drink bottled water, wear T-shirts and like the idea of soccer.

Grammar is important to you. You are easily offended. You know what’s good for poor people.

If even a few of these apply to you, you are a white person.

I got the list from a website.

I had to check a lot of the items.

Interestingly, many of my new likes have developed since I have come to live in Watson Lake, such as the kitchen gadgets, organic food, recycling, public radio and bottled water.

Since our memorable fishing trip to Vancouver Island, I have a sneaking desire to learn to yoga. There is a class starting next month and I will very likely join.

I’ve always liked wine, and dogs, and I’ve been a David Sedaris fan for years. If I could afford a Prius, I would like to have one, and would probably have a bumper sticker on it.

Grammar is my life and I love film festivals.

I am white, I have been thoroughly profiled and it is discomfiting.

We all like to think we are unique and something like this pointedly points out just how we are pointed towards our likes and dislikes by our consumer and media-driven culture, the very culture that expounds the virtue of personal freedom and individualism.

Years ago, I laughed at a story told to me by some friends who were living the hippie life on one of Canada’s Gulf Islands.

They’d moved there when Pam got pregnant, leaving their urban careers to settle on a small farm.

Their son was born at home, with only Richard and a midwife in attendance. They called the boy Hokusai, after the great Japanese artist, most famous for his painting of The Wave.

The family transportation was a VW van; the family pet a gigantic mutt adopted from the SPCA and named Moon Dog.

Their old city friends were amazed at the enormous changes this couple had dared to make in their lives and visited often, marveling at the uniqueness of their current lifestyle.

One day, at a potter’s kiln opening, Pam and Richard met another couple with a young son.

Jennifer and David had also moved to the island from a city, and they, too, had bought a small farm.

The men, bearded and blue-jeaned, talked of tools while the long-haired young moms, clad in Indian blouses and ankle-length skirts, chatted about children and food.

Both children were blonde, blue-eyed boys and were the same age.

The introductory small talk had barely begun before it was learned that both boys were named Hokusai! While they made polite noises at one another about this startling coincidence, it was discovered that the other couple’s rescued mutt was named Moon Dog. At this point, there was a gradual, and entirely mutual, edging away from one another.

They drove away from the potter’s studio, both families in their VW vans.

Then there are the stories of the doppelgangers, those exact replicas of ourselves we are all said to have somewhere.

Years ago, I met a doppelganger at an airport in Berlin; it was our mutual friend Jane Wills-Selman – remember her? She was the quiet studious one of our ashram group, the girl with the surprisingly wicked sense of humour.

There she was, attired in an olive green tweed and chunky amber beads, still wearing glasses, and her hair in a well-cut bob — older, but essentially unchanged. Judging from the expensive attaché case and aura of cool command, Jane had obviously lived up to our prediction of becoming important.

When I approached her with my usual enthusiasm (rather like an exuberant puppy, I have been told) she pretended to have no idea who I was, walking rapidly away from me. I was not fooled, remembering her sense of humour, and followed her into the women’s washroom still babbling news about the old gang.

Finally, back against one of the counters, she held her arm straight out, palm almost in my face, and loudly, in heavily-accented English, declared she would call for airport security if I did not leave her alone.

She certainly sounded sincere, and when I stopped talking and really looked at her, she did look decidedly nervous, though still very much in control of the situation.

It was abundantly clear she did not wish to have anything to do with me, whether she was Jane or not.

I was forced to acknowledge the evidence of my ears if not my eyes; this woman was either a total stranger or a different sort of Jane than the one I’d known.

I left the washroom in a state of confusion that was to remain unresolved until years later; I was having lunch with another friend who knew Jane and who informed me she had died in a car accident well before the fateful day I’d met the woman in the airport.

The resemblance was more than a physical one; the doppelganger was dressed and accessorized exactly as Jane would have been. It was an experience I have never forgotten.

I have enjoyed these sorts of anecdotes a great deal, confident that I would not likely ever meet anyone who would match me on more than one or two characteristics. After all, I have lived a different life than most women of my generation; travelling, making a living without a corporate or government job, childless, and marrying late, continuing to live a gypsy life, moving from one exotic locale to another every few years.

Visiting has been a humbling experience, and an exemplary one; maybe it is time to discover and ponder more on our commonalities than our differences.

We are indeed unique; so are snowflakes, but we are also part of the whole shebang, and remembering to consider the common good and act responsibly is as feel-good an action as being ironic while eating Asian fusion food.

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