The title is probably not a good description of this; in truth I’m not even sure I should feel irked by the comment at all. Maybe I’m being too sensitive.
Anyway. The issue in brief: a person with whom I’ve been sort of becoming internet friends with for the past few months (through message board interaction and email) asked me for some more info about myself, since though we’ve interacted for months, I’m usually doing the question-asking in our email exchanges. (I tend to become a virtual Barbara Walters with other people, preferring to deflect focus to others rather than on me.)
The friend–whom I’ll call Chris to keep the gender neutral–already did know some of my background; where I’m from, religion (I don’t remember how that came up… oh, I think at one point I mentioned it was Passover so I was visiting some relatives), what I do for a living, etc. But Chris was curious about other stuff, like whether I’m married, siblings, etc.
I gave some extra info, and just for fun as a shortcut, I directed Chris to my bio on a social media site for readers/writers, where my pic is. And now we come to this thread’s raison d’etre:
Chris responded with (among other perfectly fine comments): “You’re very pretty! Somehow I thought you’d look more Jewish. You know, with harder facial features.” This was folllowed with a joke about another female Jewish friend, this one with a large nose, who dumped her boyfriend when he said she shouldn’t get a nose ring because her nose was huge enough.
Now… I swear I’m not the type to see anti-semitism everywhere. And Chris is a nice person, and I don’t think there was any insult intended.
Still, when I read that 1-2 punch of “You’re very pretty! I thought you’d look more Jewish…” which can certainly be taken a couple of different ways, I felt a bit sick. And definitely disappointed in Chris.
In all likelihood I’ll just quote the compliment part and respond with “Thank you,” not including the rest of the quote. If I thought that an insult was intended I’d be more assertive, but I really don’t. But part of me is irritated by the thought of letting it go. It doesn’t help that Chris is from a country that doesn’t have a stellar record on race/ethnic relations (I mean, even worse than the U.S.–well, only in the sense that their Legalized Bad Behavior ended much more recently than ours did). So Chris, who’s about twenty years older than I, did grow up in an evironment where not only were there fewer Jewish folks around, but the general atmosphere was not particularly enlightened toward “Others.”
I guess my questions are… first, is it reasonable to be offended by this remark or am I being oversensitive?
And second, what would you do in this situation? Let it go (as I will probably do) or say something?
Would it color your relationship with this person? I mean we are just barely beginning our friendship, and it is just over email, so it’s not like I have to see Chris every day (or ever, for that matter). I like Chris as a person and it’d certainly be easy to avoid this or similar topics.
Nevertheless… I don’t know. It feels wrong to me. And to be honest, if Chris had said this about, I dunno, Beyonce (“She’s so pretty! I thought she’d look more black!” I’d almost certainly say something, even just a snarky joke, and Chris would probably say hastily “OH I didn’t mean that! That came out wrong!” and we’d be over it.
So why do I feel unable to do the same thing for myself? Sigh.