“Bloodletting [or blood-letting] is the withdrawal of blood from a patient to cure or prevent illness and disease. Bloodletting was based on an ancient system of medicine in which blood and other bodily fluid were regarded as “humors” that had to remain in proper balance to maintain health.” – Wikipedia
“We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.” – J.K. Rowling
“Haven’t you ever heard that quote? We’re all everything, Sal – even the shit you’re uncomfortable being. For you, I would guess that’s being even a little bit gay.”
I heard a snort on the other end of the phone just before my brother shot back, “Shut up, daniella. I’m not gay.”
I dug in, “Yes you are; I can prove it. You have those grey cotton short shorts you love to wear despite the fact that they still don’t come in men’s sizes, and you have a pretty extensive Mariah Carey album collection.”
Silence drew out as I waited for the barrage of protest. “Daniella. This conversation is over.”
And it was. We went on to a brief exchange over some mundane bullshit, and then we both hung up and went about with the remains of our day.
I live for giving my brother shit, but what I had thrown out was proof of nothing. Technically, he was right. My answer didn’t shine a light on anything real about him that could be considered to be of a homosexual nature/origin. I didn’t have the courage for that conversation.
But what about me? I started to wonder how things would have gone if Sal had started poking around the dark recesses of parts of myself I’m uncomfortable with. What lives in me that I haven’t changed, can’t accept, and still feel shame about.
On the surface, it would be easy for me to make a dismissal of that term as a personal character trait. I’m a pretty socially liberal person, I have zero white robes and pointed hoods hanging in my closet, I don’t think people of different races are below me, and I consider diversity to be one of the great gifts in this world. So I’m not a racist, right?! (Yay!)
But wait a minute, there was last Friday.
I had to have some blood drawn and had made an appointment at a diagnostics lab I have never been to before. I stepped in just before my appointment time and looked across the waiting room to the front desk. Three petite, brown skinned women in pastel hued scrubs moved about helping people. One of these women was speaking fairly loudly into the phone, and I realized I had trouble understanding what she was saying through the thickness of her accent. The other two were working at computers with paperwork, inputting patient information.
I signed in on the counter’s clipboard and took a seat. After a few minutes, one of the women who had been working at a computer called my name. I hesitated before answering. Had she actually called my name? A few minutes before, I had answered to the name called, thinking I had heard the tones and syllables of my own. I hadn’t. It was someone else who has been called, and I felt like a bit of a heel.
I still hadn’t said anything, and now she turned to look at me. I smiled and stood up to walk towards her. We politely exchanged the cursory dialogue required to get my information inputted into they lab’s system. As I leaned against the counter looking slightly down upon her where she sat, I was relieved I had understood enough to get through that. But even so, I couldn’t shake a feeling of unease I had picked up very soon after arriving.
I was instructed to go through the door to my right and wait in area one. I checked myself at that door. Why was I feeling so nervous and scared? Normally, I would chalk it up to my rabid hypochondria and fear of public humiliation, (You know, like when you jerk away from the needle and dislodge the vial, spurt blood everywhere, slip and fall in that puddle of blood trying to run out of the place, conk your head on the floor, fall into a coma, and die two weeks later. That sort of public humiliation.) but I could feel that wasn’t it. Just a few weeks before, I had had blood drawn, so I wasn’t nearly as worried about this appointment as I had been when I went to the earlier one.
It was something else entirely this time. I had been ratcheting up to higher and higher levels of discomfort as soon as these women became known to me as immigrants to this country. But I don’t have a problem with Asian people, and I don’t generally have an issue with immigration, so why would that bother me.
I’ll tell you why: deep down in some little shitty dark nougatty bit of my core, I was worried – I held an unexamined belief – that these women possibly weren’t trained to do their job well because they weren’t born in this country. My prejudice made me feel like I was in danger, and I was scared. Racism.
As I passed through that doorway, quickly fleshing this out in my mind, I felt like an asshole, but that was the truth of it.
And that was also the end of it. Bringing awareness to where my head was at wasn’t easy, but it had calmed me down, and helped me to realize how full of shit I was. I was also relieved that the bullshit of my fears was a much more real thing to contend with than the chances of the negative outcome I was so afraid of before.
The woman who had been working with me at the computer was also the woman who drew my blood. She had come in and sat down next to me just a few minutes after instructing me where to go. With hands cloaked in deep purple latex gloves, she adeptly found a vein in my right arm, inserted the needle, and filled the necessary vials. I don’t think the whole thing could have gone any better – or faster.
As I held the tiny gauze wad to the fold of my arm, she gently taped it in place and advised me to leave it on for at least thirty minutes and avoid lifting anything heavy for the rest of the day. We exchanged smiles, goodbyes, and good weekend wishes before I turned to leave. I hadn’t had any trouble understanding her at all. I left feeling like maybe I understood myself a little better too.