Sometimes a Turban is Just a Turban

December 29, 2017

Mrs. Chatterbox has informed me that at a recent Christmas gathering I made an offensive comment. I was surprised, and had no idea what she was talking about. Granted, I was self-employed for many years before retiring and might not be up on all the new ways to offend people, but I always try to speak politely, taking people’s feelings into consideration.


“What did I say that was offensive?” I asked.


“You told that food truck story. Pete was offended.”


“Pete was offended by my food truck story?”


“Yes, he was. You shouldn’t have said what you did.”


Pete (not his real name) is married to our best friends’ daughter. Although you’d never guess by looking at him, Pete is of Indian heritage. For the record, I love Indian culture and have even traveled to India, which turned out to be one of our favorite vacations. My fondness for Indian food led me to mention that when I had an art studio in downtown Portland one of my favorite places to lunch was a food truck called Taste of India. Most people lined up for the vegetarian special but I always ordered lamb biryani from the menu. It was to die for! I ordered it with delicious naan flatbread and green chutney. My mouth waters just thinking about it.


So how did I get into trouble?


At that Christmas gathering I commented to Pete, “You know the food is good because every time I grab lunch there the men queued behind me are often wearing turbans.”


“That was when you crossed a line,” Mrs. Chatterbox explained.


“Why? There’s nothing wrong with wearing turbans; we saw thousands of men in India wearing them.”


“You showed a total lack of sensitivity.”


“Pointing out a fact is insensitive? I was simply describing what I saw. I wasn’t making fun of anyone. If anything, I celebrate their culture. You might recall that in India I briefly wore a turban.”


A conversation from a Seinfeld episode played in my head, the one where Jerry is dating a woman he thinks is Chinese (she’s actually Jewish). George calls him a racist for being peeved at discovering she isn’t Chinese. Jerry tells George it isn’t racist if you happen to like that race.


I accept the fact that I might have been unintentionally insensitive, but it seems we’re all getting a bit too thin skinned, too politically correct—seeing offense where none was intended. And I recall how my mother couldn’t update her terminology, still referring to black people as “colored.” She once said Obama was okay for a colored president. I guess this was an improvement on words others of her generation might have used.


If I was wrong, I’ll change. So I ask you, my loyal readers, was I being offensive?




Note: I know what some of you are thinking, but Mrs. Chatterbox didn’t think it a good idea to post a picture of me wearing that turban.


What the hell!



Not my best look, and I was a hundred pounds heavier.






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I thought now that Trump was president we didn't have to be politically correct anymore. I guess next time you tell that story just leave out the turban part.
By: PT Dilloway on December 29, 2017
Anyway, it's not really up to white guys to decide what's offensive because we really don't have much perspective on this.
By: PT Dilloway on December 29, 2017
Good grief- I agree 100% with you!! When we travel to Mexico we seek out little hole in the wall restaurants that are packed with the locals because we know the food will be delicious AND inexpensive. You are not being racist or insensitive...nonsense...the world is becoming ridiculous and over working Political Correctness. Frankly I am quite done with it.
By: Kathe W. on December 29, 2017
Isn’t it sad that we have to walk on eggs when people can go into movie theaters and open fire. Jeez, it’s so tiring! I’m soooo exhausted from it all. Think I’ll go to my favorite restaurant and get a nice order of saag paneer.
By: Gloria on December 29, 2017
No, your comment was not insensitive. It was obviously meant to be a compliment to the chef. Carry on.
By: scott park on December 29, 2017
I’m confident that your intentions were nothing short but honourable. But I’ve come to appreciate your better half s wisdom. I do agree that political correctness does swing like the arm of a pendulum. However, a happy wife leads to a happy life.
By: Daniel LaFrance on December 29, 2017
People are too sensitive and PC has gone too far.
By: Kelly on December 29, 2017
It is hard to know anymore when we may have unintentionally crossed a line. Luckily you have Mrs. C to guide you.
By: Arkansas Patti on December 29, 2017
I have not read the other comments, but I think the Turban is a religious statement, so perhaps not actually related to how good the food would be.
By: Tabor on December 29, 2017
Isn't that like saying you should eat where the truck drivers eat? NOT offensive to me!!
By: fishducky on December 29, 2017
why on earth would he be offended by an observation that there were a lot of men in turbans in line for the food? are they ashamed of their turbans? it's a mystery to me. perhaps you should ask the guy if he was offended and if so please explain why he took offense.
By: Ellen Abbott on December 29, 2017
Read this to Bigger Girl, who is 24. She says it wasn’t offensive, it was probably simply misunderstood. She also thinks it’s a rather odd way of saying it. And i agree with you, it was not rude to say what you observed. If he was offended, all he had to do was ask what you meant, and i’m sure you could have easily explained and worked it out.
By: messymimi on December 29, 2017
I am pretty fed up with people seeming to make a living out of being professionally offended. I knew exactly what you meant, but I can see how someone determined to feel aggrieved would choose to be offended. Sad times we live in. BTW - I'm surprised no-one has yet screamed "cultural appropriation" at that photo :)
By: Botanist on December 29, 2017
I don't think you were being offensive. Then again...I'm not a man who wears a turban. What in the world! Whatever happened to "Sticks and stones...?" These days, it's like everyone wants ALL people to love them. Like they're entitled to that love.
By: Val on December 29, 2017
You are not in the wrong with that comment. You were merely making a comment to go along with your love of Indian food,
By: Keith Kline on December 29, 2017
Was Pete actually offended, or did Mrs. C. just assume he would be? It wouldn't be out of line to ask him yourself, to assure him of your good intent, and to ask for help seeing it from his point of view if indeed he did find your phrasing insensitive. Sometimes intentions are not enough, we actually need to do differently. But first find out what Pete thinks :)
By: jenny_o on December 29, 2017
I don’t have a point of reference. I’m not sure that the statement was a slur in that situation. I think I’d reach out to Pete and ask. If I’d been insensitive, I would try to make it right and be more mindful in the future. I’d be willing to bet he wasn’t offended.
By: Rick Watson on December 29, 2017
I get your point, but maybe not the best story to tell. As for the photo, I agree with Mrs. C. Change the turban to a yarmulke and an "Oy Vey" expression on your face (I have no idea what that is) and you'd likely offend another group of people. But then I wonder why do I find it funny when men dress up in nun's habits? Oh well. Sorry, Mrs. C!
By: Mitchell is Moving on December 30, 2017
Ok, Mrs. C is right about the picture, that needs to be private, but the comment was not offensive. Saying they wore turbans simply was saying it confirmed the food was authentic. If people want to be offended they will find something no matter how careful you are, also offensive comes from the heart, I think anyone who knows you would also know your intent would never have been to if you had said you liked the "towelheads" making the food, that is offensive!
By: cranky on December 30, 2017
RentATurban or do you still have it? Someone was having a bad turban day; pay no mind.
By: Joanne Noragon on December 30, 2017
Count me among those who are fed up with the overly sensitive who spend their lives worrying about other people's opinions of them. It only makes sense to get your good ethnic food from a place where people of that ethnicity go. And I'm sure with a little talk with Pete, any ruffled feathers can be smoothed. BTW you look rad in that turban!
By: Laura on December 30, 2017
I don't find it offensive, but I recommend that you obey Mrs. C. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on December 30, 2017
Listen to the wife. That's the best advice I was given before getting married. :-) Happy New Year! Greetings from London.
By: A Cuban In London on December 31, 2017
I don't think your comment was insensitive. But I don't know about lamb biryani. I have not established a good relationship with lamb over the years.
By: Catalyst on January 1, 2018
Ask Pete if he was offended. I immediately thought of the Seinfeld episode, even before I got to the part where you brought it up. :-)
By: Pixel Peeper on January 7, 2018

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