Friday, April 20, 2018

Stereotypes? Ye or nae?

There’s a song by the Specials with lyrics that go something like ‘he’s just a stereotype, he doesn’t really exist’. It goes on about this lad who claims he has loads of girls every night, drinks his own body weight in pints  and is the 'great bloke' that  many aspire to be. By the end of the song, the mum is wondering where her son is and of course he’s wrapped his car round a lamppost.
Do stereotypes exist?
When I do a character workshop, I ask the ‘class’ to shout out words to describe an ‘accountant’. I  write each suggestion on one of two pieces of  A 1 paper. Inevitably two types of accountant appear.

Number one is an accountant who works for a firm of accountants; tall, handsome, strong good quality aftershave, BMW, gym membership, model like wife or girlfriend,   good suit, on his way up the career ladder.
Number two is an accountant who does the books in a bean factory, doesn’t drive, lives alone except maybe for an old cat, or an arthritic beagle, brown suit, egg stain down the front of his crumpled shirt, older, balding, might have some personal hygiene issues,  not very well off… and so it goes on.
Then of course, we start to play around with it….who has the old mother to live with him so she’s not in a home,  who is a terrorist, who is a serial killer, who lives in a house piled high with old newspapers, who accidentally killed their wee sister.
There is a no thrill unless we know what to expect – and don’t get it.
On my trip to Germany recently I met three people. I’d like to introduce you to  them.  They were great, I was so fascinated by them, I wanted to put them in a box so I could re examine them later to stick in a book. And make sure they were real.
One was a beautiful man. I had to check that he was a man. More than once. He was cabin crew for a German airline, and he was beautiful in a Pete Murphy type of way, cheekbones that could cut a hedge. Finely manicured eyebrows and shiny hair cut to one length- the length longer than shoulder level. He dressed in his uniform ( impeccably pressed), including the cufflinks of the airline,  and had an arrangement of  coat with collar up,  his shirt collar down, some type of cravat round his neck. He had epaulettes to die for.  People did giggle at his safety demo as he was so stylishly dismissive….’lights will appear to guide you to safety, the emergency exits are located etcs’  were all done with a rather bored, pouting petulance, a flap of the hand, a toss of the head.  He was acting his role, and he was marvellous at it. If insouciance was an Olympic sport .......
                                                  Pete Murphy in the Maxwell ad.
                                                                  Mr Cheekbones.
I suspect he might have been a part time model, roughing it on a budget flight of German students.
His companion was a female Glaswegian, holding onto her thirties with her dying breath. She was orange, tango tanned to the extreme end of a Dulux Satsuma colour chart. Her uniform was a size 12, she wasn’t. Her make up was by Picasso,  waistline sponsored by Cadburys (Hershey for those readers  stateside). But it was her hair! Huge drug dealer doughnut hair  plus!  Our motorhome has a better chance of going  under a low bridge than her hair did. Get some straw, stick on top of a pumpkin  and pile it as high as you can--- you’ll be close.
 The contrast between them kept the passengers amused for the entire journey. If anybody  had been sick during that flight, she would have sorted it out. He would have been left in charge of her hair.

Then there was ….what shall we call him ‘Mr Mann’?  Last year, he caught our attention on the trip for being a potential pain in the backside. We had him fixed in our psyche, he didn’t remember us at all. He’s the  kind of guy that when he talks to you, you want to back away. Because he tells you things. Everything.  He even knows what side of the coach to sit on to avoid the sun. and at what part of the journey to change to the other side. Fair to say he was a large man, the kind who wears white socks under his sandals and Baden Powel shorts , all very Eric Morecombe. The weirdest thing about him was his wife, who he referred to as ‘wifey’ - all the time. In the third person when she was standing right in front of him. She wasn’t a long suffering person at all, at first I thought she might be deaf. Maybe his constant monologues of  crown green bowling scores and movements of Saturn  in the night sky around his  garden hut may have permanently damaged her hearing. But no, she bounced around with that cheery winsomness  found in newly recruited born again Christians, she wore flat lace up brogues and ….wait for it… American tan tights. Thick ones. Her clothes were circa 1974…  waist length straight grey hair pulled back in a clasp.   But there was two things unexpected about her-  she was passionate about wine, right down to the grape and the vineyard.
                                                            Morecombe and Wise, shorts and cream tea!
 And, the final thing. Her love of deep, red lipstick. Her face, unadorned by any other decoration or colour, always had lips beautifully filled and never smudged, never absent or smeared on her teeth. It was just perfect.
As my gran used to say, there’s nought as queer as folk, and that’s what makes them  wonderful!
Caro Ramsay 20 4 2018


  1. So, when does a stereotype become an archetype? Just wondering ...

    Sounds like you had an entertaining trip. People watching is one of my favourite pastimes!


  2. Sounds as if Mr. Mann's wife and young blade runner cheekbones could make beautiful music together at the cosmetics counter.

  3. How come the people I fly with are never this interesting? signed, Bored on Board,