Good morning, friends and neighbors!
We get bombarded by stereotypes these days, and whether we buy into them or not is our own call. Age groups, races, political affiliations, and so on.
The trouble with stereotypes is that, to some degree, they all have a seed of truth.
“Jews become doctors/accountants/lawyers”, for example, because studying, analysis, debate, and intellectualism are a big part of Jewish life and faith.
Obviously, stereotypes are by definition generalizations, which are always foolish. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would want me to represent them in court, or balance their books.
It’s an interesting thing, though, to be conscious of a stereotype of one’s own group and actively seek to embody it. The stereotypes can act as identifiers for the group- a way for the members to set themselves apart from others, and even revel in it.
Yes, I love lox and cream cheese bagels and matzo ball soup- #jewishastevye.
When joining a new group, though, those very actions can be interpreted negatively as being misinformed or “being a try-hard.”
Here’s a story from the kitchen of someone I know. It’s about how actively pursuing the stereotypes you think will ingratiate can actually alienate, the (hopefully) changing face of kitchen life, and how old souls spend their evenings.
At one of the places I worked at, there was a kid named Greg- he waited tables and sometimes picked up extra work in the dish pit.
I liked Greg well enough- he was about 10 years younger than me, and very new to the kitchen world. I never knew if he really wanted to eventually be a cook or was trying to “rise through the ranks,” but he definitely loved horsing around in the kitchen. He worked hard, joked with everyone- definitely a happy guy.
He DID have aspirations of bodybuilding though. That’s what initially got us talking- the bakeshop was separated from the rest of the kitchen, and so Greg figured he’d find out what life was like around the corner from the line.
Greg was something of a textbook “gymrat.” He was kinda scrawny, but he hit is favorite gym up regularly. He stuck to a meal plan (much to the amusement of the guys on the line who he’d ask for dinner), was evangelical about getting people to work out with him, and eventually wanted to write a book or blog about his experiences.
That’s not why I’m telling you about Greg today.
Greg labored under the popular stereotype of kitchen life– one of toxic masculinity, partying, drinking, getting weeded and laid- ideally all at once right after service. No doubt, there are people out there that can support this stereotype- but this wasn’t one of them.
After service ended, I’d usually wind up sitting outside with the other cooks and sous chefs while they smoked. We’d talk about families, finances, interesting events coming up- but most of us were really about getting our butts home. Every once in a while, a couple of us would head out to a bar for drinks and pool- it’s times like that I really love the community I’m a part of.
More often than not, though, our idea of relaxing was pretty simple. A barista friend of mine put it best-
“I just want to go back to the home I worked for, surround myself in the comforts I pay for, and enjoy them for a night.”
Simple joy, at its heart.
Greg, however, wasn’t buying it.
He came outside with us one night. He saw the cooks were smoking, and said, “Dude, is it weed? You got pot?”
“Uh.. no, man. Just cigs.”
“Shit… I wanna get weeded. Hey, anyone going out tonight?”
“Naw, man… just wanna get home, see the wife/kids if they’re still up/dog/cat, put my feet up for a bit.”
“Shit, man… you guys are all tied down!” He shook his head and proceeded back inside to get blind drunk on a single vodka and soda.
The moral of this story isn’t “Don’t be like Greg.”The moral of this story is a bit more like “Be Yourself”, but with a twist.”Yourself” is subject to change.There was a time when I was just like Greg. I wanted to make friends as quickly and aggressively as possible. I wanted to get drunk with the big kids, hang with all the cool people, act stupid and get weird because it was “the thing to do.”
Now I’m 32, and my idea of relaxing is much the same as my barista friend- I want to put on comfortably clothes, pour myself a whiskey, and read or write or otherwise enjoy the things I work hard for.
Quiet nights at home with Emily mean more to me than getting stoned on a patio somewhere.
A night at the bar chatting and shooting pool with friends is just more rewarding for me than trying to score at a club ever would have been.
If that’s you, then be you- not you trying to be the “you” you think people expect you to be.