the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Do I Look Like I Speak Spanish?

I know that what I’m about to say is going to cause all sorts of hissy fits, and people are going to get all fussy and up in my business, but what’s the point of a personal website if I can’t whine?

It’s just, the only Spanish I know I learned from The Simpsons and Sesame Street, and so if you’re looking at me like I’m crazy because I don’t know what you mean when you say “ocho,” the look I’m giving you is, “Repeat it all you want lady, but I’ve got to count to ten in Spanish silently on my fingers in order to figure out how many fingers equals your ocho.”

By the time I get to eight you’re so upset with me that now you’re offering only “cinqo,” which, luckily, I remember is only five, so I tell you, “No mi gusta.” Trouble is, I knew a guy in college who spent two Mormon years in Brazil so don’t think I don’t know that you just told me to kiss your ass.

No, no besa su culo, or however you say it, you bitch.

I’m not having a garage sale so that I can just give away all this stuff. I know people are used to getting things for pennies at little sales like this, but I paid $279.99 for that chair a year ago, and you can’t have it for cinqo. Or for “Ocho! Ocho! Ocho!” for that matter.

Maybe for “Ocho!” times cinqo, but I’m not budging.

So two hours later I sell it to another lady for tres, and after she’s thrown it into the back of her van she has her kid ask me in English, “Hey, woman, what happened to the wheels that are supposed to be on the bottom of this chair?” And the lady is glaring at me like I just took her for a fool, that somehow, giving her a one-year old chair from the Pottery Barn for only three dollars I was violating the garage sale code of ethics.

And you know, any morsel of humanity left in my little Anglo-bones left me for that particluar instant and I shot that kid a bilingual bird, and said, * “J’ai pas moi!” “J’sais pas moi!”

*oops! I hate it when I’m a stupid American.

  • Keith

    2002/10/13 at 12:52 pm

    If she wants something from you, she should ask you for it in a manner you understand. It’s not your fault she can’t speak English in a country where that’s the predominant language. On a lighter note, that reminds me of the scene from “Shanghai Noon” where Jackie Chan’s character keeps asking the Indians, “Where is Carson City?” One says to the other (in their language), “He’s saying it slower now, like I’ll suddenly understand.” The other replies, “Give him the peace pipe, maybe that will shut him up.”

  • spike

    2002/10/13 at 1:04 pm

    “J’ai pas moi” ???
    “you dont have me” ???


    why were you getting rid of a one year old PB chair for 1 % of what you purchased it for?

  • Alex

    2002/10/13 at 1:06 pm

    I speak Spanish, and I think people are going to be asses no matter what language they speak. Good for you for sticking to your guns. Plus, she totally sounded like a pushy broad. I hate it when people are fucking rude for no real reason.
    Hey, it’s a garage sale not a take-it-all-for-free sale, right?
    i Orale chica !

  • David

    2002/10/13 at 1:22 pm

    Hey, there’s nothing wrong with Simpsons Spanish. It’s like Cafe French but funnier.

  • aprilgem

    2002/10/13 at 1:31 pm

    Being a SoCal girl myself, I know what you mean. I sometimes forget what country I’m in because everyone around me is speaking Spanish and looking at me like I’m some idiot tourist.

  • stupid bint

    2002/10/13 at 1:40 pm

    there is no satisfaction quite like ripping someone off who doesnt know you just ripped them off.

    So that stupid bint probably though she had the bargain, til she thought it should have wheels.

    We have a saying here in Australia for when we have just ripped someone off in a sale situation.

    “big windows”

    Meaning the windows were so big, and the object so carefully displayed, that you must have been a complete loser to have paid that much for the item concerned.

    Not that this in any way relates to your post about Spanish and French.


  • Anon.

    2002/10/13 at 1:50 pm

    Yeah, people like that are annoying, and chances are she really does speak english, and is pretending not to in order for you to think that she’s ignorant. They’re smarter than they look.

    On the other hand, it is hard being in a situation where you don’t understand what’s going on. Countless times I have probably insulted people or their culture because of my lack of language skills. So take pity, at least you were able to have a garage sale; where I live they’re illegal.

  • Mike

    2002/10/13 at 2:11 pm

    One thing I hate about living in So Cal is that all the street names are in Spanish. Like I’m suppose to remember to convert all my “j” sounds to “h” sounds. By the way, I think they speak Portugese in Brazil.

  • Me

    2002/10/13 at 2:24 pm

    øDÛnde es Antonio Banderas? That’s all the Spanish I knew when I went to Spain on vacation. Luckily, I had a Spanish-English dictionary and an open mind.

    Why were you getting rid of a year old Pottery Barn chair – did Chuckles pee on it?

  • Sarah

    2002/10/13 at 2:35 pm

    Were you mad at the woman for speaking Spanish or for trying to get a bargain at a garage sale? Because isn’t that the idea behind garage sales – to barter? Anyway, your view of people who speak spanish is very xenophobic and typical of most redblooded americans – “This is america – and we speak english only.” I feel sorry for you.

    As for Mike – the street names in So Cal are in Spanish because California and the rest of the southwest used to be part of Mexico and, thus, the long tradition of Spanish names for cities, states as well as places i.e. Los Angeles, Santa Barbara/ Cruz/Clara, San Francisco – Colorado, Arizona, NEW MEXICO, Texas

  • Gringo con alma Latina

    2002/10/13 at 3:04 pm

    The way I see it you can either complain about spics and gnash your teeth or embrace Latin culture and learn some Spanish–fairly easy to pick up with a bit of effort. Mastering a foreign language makes more sense to me than learning some dorky computer language that will be obsolete in 3 years.

  • dooce

    2002/10/13 at 3:13 pm

    and thus the fussing begins.

  • the husband

    2002/10/13 at 4:08 pm

    Look, you have 8 people coming at you, your husband just sold the microwave and this freak is demanding it for $10 (US) less than you’ve already sold it for and your husband is looking at you like “Get these insane people away.”
    This isn’t about culture as much as language. Screw anybody at this point who doesn’t learn at least some of the predominant language of the country they live in, despite Christopher Columbus, The Sopranos, Manifest Destiny, Angry White Conservatives and/or anal liberals.
    If I’m moving to France, I god damned well will learn to speak French. I expect the same courtesy from others.
    If you wanna talk multi-culti: it begins with the perfect margarita; 2 limes, tequila blanco and a dribble of Cointreau, rocks, shaken.

  • darsella

    2002/10/13 at 4:49 pm

    i can empathize with the garage sale mayhem, and you did complement it with the universal f-you sign, but do you realize your comeback to the cheap spaniard was “i dont have me” …. in french?!

  • Celia Cruz

    2002/10/13 at 4:50 pm

    Wow, I wish you had your yard sale by me. A little finger is worth it!

  • dooce

    2002/10/13 at 4:54 pm

    i really hate to have to explain things after i’ve written them, so, just so you know, “J’ai pas moi” is slang for “I don’t know.” the moi is added in many slang phrases, in this instance it’s like, “Me? I don’t know.” and the reason i was selling the chair? because the wheels broke. do you get it now?

  • The Inmate

    2002/10/13 at 5:01 pm

    1. Brazil is not a Spanish speaking country. It was colonized by the Portuguese.
    2. It’s Cinco, as in “Cinco de Mayo” not Cinqo, as that Thong Song rapper might be inclined to spell it.
    3. “Besa su culo” is conceptually right. If you want to kiss HER ass, that is. If she’s to be the kisser, substitute “su” with “mi”.
    4. “mi” is not the same as “me”.
    5. Look outside your borders once in a while. That goes for all Americans.

  • dooce

    2002/10/13 at 5:02 pm

    i know they speak Portuguese in Brazil, you fuck. and i know I spelled “cinqo” wrong. i was making fun of myself. that was the whole point of the post.

  • The Inmate

    2002/10/13 at 5:10 pm

    My thoughts ellicited a “you fuck”?
    Gosh, am I proud of myself now. I’m printing this page, sending it to friends and framing the last copy.
    Seriously now…do you really think you would have gotten a better deal from a nice “real” American?
    I don’t get the point really. Are you bitching about foreigners in LA? Are you bitching about people that go to another country and don’t learn the language (I’m with you on that one) or are you bitching because of your 1% ROI on the damned chair?
    So here’s my peeve: I find it laughable that you call yourselves “Americans”, given that the whole continent is called America. You should be called “Unitedstatesians”. You say it’s too long? Well, tell that to people who live in Trinidad & Tobago. What do you think they’re called?

  • Ex-liontamer

    2002/10/13 at 5:35 pm

    First off, a big shout out to Inmate; keepin’ it real from the feel. Mm-kay. Now, Dooce, baby, as far as I can tell “yardsale people” suck no matter where y’are or what language they speak. I went through a similar fate this Spring and lemme tell ya, trying to get fair market value on a slightly used collander is tough enough, let alone a PB chair. Cheapskates just suck. I’m just curious as to why you didn’t e-bay that sucker. Or just have Goodwill take it away. But, hey, 3 bucks is 3 bucks.

  • Sarah B.

    2002/10/13 at 5:51 pm

    Shit, girlfriend, you should have emailed old SB first. I’d have taken it off your hands for at least viente-tres, plus postage.

  • dan

    2002/10/13 at 6:14 pm

    it seems as if some people will never understand your humor, heather.

    i say fuck ’em all and kick back with a jack and coke. minus the coke of course.

  • mule-rider

    2002/10/13 at 6:16 pm

    Oh, just get the fuck over yourself. You had a yard sale and people acted shitty. As far as my experience goes, there’s nothing quite like a yard sale to make you feel angry and demeaned. Yard sale vultures suck no matter where you are.
    If you were going to be outraged that no one appreciated the retail value of your broken- ass Pottery Barn chair, then give it to the fucking Goodwill and take the tax break.
    Also- when you take cheap shots that are camouflaged racism and people call you on it- take the hit. Your defensiveness really stinks of unrepentant Mormon smugness.

  • dooce

    2002/10/13 at 6:23 pm

    dude, you ride mules. what the fuck do you know?

  • aprilgem

    2002/10/13 at 6:32 pm

    LOL, Dooce! Apparently, Mule-Rider knows how to ride on someone’s ass.

  • Agripina

    2002/10/13 at 6:42 pm

    Jeez, the controversy you’ve inspired, Dooce, with a broken pottery barn chair and some grossly misspelled spanish words. Oh well. You knew you had it coming, right? And you’ve gotten some nice usage of the word “fuck” along the way.

  • kath

    2002/10/13 at 6:44 pm

    Good job stirring it up, Dooce! Amazing how incensed people get when you throw a little “multi-culture” into the mix. The way I look at it, if someone wants to be understood, they use words the listener will understand. If someone wants to be misunderstood, they do the opposite. Ever been a guest at a family dinner where the whole family was bilingual? Notice when they switch from the common language to the family one? (Hint: it’s not when they want to include you in the conversation)

  • Mike

    2002/10/13 at 6:59 pm

    Look outside our borders? Weren’t all the characters in this story American? What the fuck?

  • Eric

    2002/10/13 at 7:13 pm

    Very nice.

  • The Inmate

    2002/10/13 at 7:37 pm

    By “look outside your borders” I was referring to the attitude that most (please note I am generalizing here) Americans – ugh, that word again – have towards other countries/cultures/customs. A significant portion of the American populace is embarrasingly ignorant about what happens outside of their own country. Some say it has to do with the big-headedness of being the world’s only superpower. I say it’s the collective cultural effect of too many years of being told America is so great, and so many inmigrants apparently confirming the notion. I would disagree. “America” (once more, the country not the continent) is not bad, but it’s certainly not all it’s cracked up to be.

  • Nick

    2002/10/13 at 7:45 pm

    I’ve come to the conclusion that people are neither inherently good or inherently bad; they’re inherently stupid.

    I like to go to garage sales to look at things. I rarely buy stuff, because frankly, I don’t have any more use for someone’s old things than that person did.

    Do you think that lady was trying to be uber-indie and score some retro-style home furnishings by shopping at a garage sale? Because we all know that buying old Pottery Barn chairs at yard sales is indie as fuck.

    Multiculturalism is part of this country; neither side is right. Racists are just as close minded as hardcore anti-everyone-who-doesn’t-take-the-time-to-learn-about-someone-else-people are. This is America; you don’t have to do shit if you don’t want to. Dooce, I think you’re right in being upset. Spanish, German, Irish, Asian, fuckin’ whatever: if you’re an asshole to me at my garage sale, then I will get downright vile.

    If everybody all got along, the world would be boring as hell.

  • Rodney King

    2002/10/13 at 7:46 pm

    Can’t we all just get along?

  • szg

    2002/10/13 at 8:16 pm

    The husband should take a long look at himself in the mirror and practice his spanish.

    Any country founded by and continuously inhabited by immigrants is going to remain a country in flux. Changes in language and culture are inevitable, so either deal with it, or get left behind.

  • smark

    2002/10/13 at 8:35 pm

    i’m kinda missing pictures of your dog right now…. ms dooce – definitely give you credit for having balls enough to put yourself out there. that being said, if a garage sale drives you to a point of flipping off children (or anyone), is it worth the 3 bucks? to THE HUSBAND: dude – a lot of hostility towards those who do not speak the language. yes, english makes it easier on everyone but the cool thing about the u.s. is that you do not have to speak the language to succeed or contibute in this country – for examples, one need look no further than little tokyo or little saigon; or nashville. well, i’ll get off the self-righteous soapbox now. alright, who stole my fuckin’ ladder?

  • Neil

    2002/10/13 at 8:41 pm

    This is what happens when you a) be yourself on your own site (how unusual), and b) allow comments.

  • delicateflower

    2002/10/13 at 8:42 pm

    amazing how people think they can sum up your entire personality and worldview from one blog entry, no? just another one to chalk up to the internet’s irony deficiency.

  • the husband

    2002/10/13 at 9:08 pm

    My thing isn’t hostility. And it isn’t about racism or closed borders, cultural imperialism, garage sales or pottery barn. It’s about how there isn’t enough hugs, teddy bears, puppies and ice cream. Like I hinted earlier, a good margarita solves just about any problem. There is, however, the few doltish pricks who think they “get it” and want to wax di-fucking-dactic in a comments section on somebody else’s website.

  • smark

    2002/10/13 at 9:12 pm

    and does chuckles share your feelings? please tell me you did not sell the dog.

  • Mike

    2002/10/13 at 9:13 pm

    Ah, I see. Yeah, its always fun for me to fire glib generalizations at those with whom I disagree, too. I understand that. Anyway, as for US citizens being called ‘Americans’: This is one of those things where, once it occurs to someone (or they hear it somewhere), he will hold onto it until they nail shut his coffin. But, if your affliction is curable then reason’s the tonic:
    1. First off, unlike any other country, the USA has ‘America’ in its name.
    2. Second off, there is no such continent as ‘America’. If we were to call our citizens, ‘North Americans’ then you’d have an excellent case. But we don’t.

  • so yeah

    2002/10/13 at 9:22 pm

    First, I’m figuring that if you didn’t want everyone in your business, you probably wouldn’t have posted your opinions on a public webesite that any ol’ self-rightous person could stumble upon, AND throw in their two cents. Secondly, I think your attitude towards the situation is justafiable, because those women sounded horrible, but your attitude towards people in SoCal who speak spanish is not. If you haven’t noticed by now, there are a lot of people around you who speak spanish, and there are probably going to be a lot more before you die. Learn to count to ten. It’s not that hard.

    And to the person who’s getting a bee up their bum for calling this country America, you try going to a village of two hundred people in the middle of Africa and see how they look at you when you tell them you’re from The United States.

  • tulse

    2002/10/13 at 9:50 pm

    dooce said:

    so, just so you know, “J’ai pas moi” is slang for “I don’t know.” the moi is added in many slang phrases, in this instance it’s like, “Me? I don’t know.”

    i don’t want to sound anal, but it’s “j’sais pas moi”, or “sais pas moi”. “j’ai” really does mean “i have”, coming from the verb avoir (even in slang), while “je sais”, means “i know”, coming from the verb “savoir” (as in “savoir vivre”).

    donc, ma petite douce, it would rather be “j’sais pas moi”. and yeah, it does sound similar (though not quite the same).

    i’ll get off my soapbox now.

  • Kate

    2002/10/13 at 9:52 pm

    Dooce, as someone who grew up in Spain (I’m American, though), I don’t see why anyone should be offended by your post… the woman was being a bitch, and if she wants to buy something from you, it’s her problem to communicate, not yours. If you were in a Spanish speaking country, with the situation reversed, the story’d be no different. If she wants it, it’s her responsibility.

    About the “Anon” poster who says “They’re smarter than they look.” I find that comment absolutely repulsive. No wonder they wanted to remain anonymous, the prejudiced bastard. Do all foreign-speaking people LOOK stupid? Is that a compliment you’re trying to give?? That’s like saying “girls are smarter than they look” in a serious tone. Disgusting.

  • Mike

    2002/10/13 at 10:41 pm

    You’re quite right. On the other hand, most foreign-speakers don’t sound too bright, not to in any way cast aspersions on foreign-speakers.Reminds of one time when a buddy of mine was taking customer service calls at AirTouch (now Verizon). He sat behind me, and I sometimes heard him try to handle calls in the foreign languages with which he had some familiarity. One time he tried Spanish, and when he got off the call, he told us that the caller thought he was an imbecile. Jeb was actually the most competent member of our team, but that shows the power of one’s language skills to dictate people’s perceptions of you.On the other hand, Jeb was fluent in French, which he learned while spending two years on the Ivory Coast. He regaled us one time with a story about the time he visited France. Everyone he met was startled to hear the accent of his French coming from a white guy. Apparently, it was to native Frenchies what a Jamaican accent would sound like to us Americans.

  • Igor

    2002/10/13 at 11:22 pm

    Tulse is right, but he/she is giving you the patois version.
    In French you’d say : “Je ne (le) sais pas” : I don’t know, where the ‘le’ would mean ‘it’. A shorter form is “Je l’ignore” which is a false friend for the English word “ignore”.
    If you don’t like the attitude of the party opposite and you would be of a mind to tell them off in French, you could always say “Vas te faire foutre”, which would not be all that polite and civil, but then again American movies are replete with such gems as “motherfucker” and “cocksucker” and that’s not exactly the kind of vocabulary one would generally use on Sunday mornings over coffee and dumplings in grandma’s house. At least, not where I live.
    And for the record, I think if the hispanics are so keen on living in the united states, let them learn english please. Or Lakota. What arrogance to arrive in a country and expect people just to adapt to you because you’re too lazy to learn another language. If you’re immigrating and you don’t speak the language after a year, what’s thate saying about your intentions ? I flee my country because I couldn’t be bothered to make a workable society so I’ll come into your country and would you please learn my language because I’m certainly not going to bother learning yours.
    Nice attitude. Very polite, very cosmopolitan. Before long they’ll start their own liberation movement. People don’t need an excuse to spread misery but it’s always nice if you can find a way to justify it. Take the fight out of the barrio and into the main street.
    You want to live in the United States, learn English dammit !
    Mexicans, giet er godverdomme beton over !

  • Brandon

    2002/10/13 at 11:56 pm

    Is there something inherently wrong with calling ourselves “Americans”? Is it truly all that confusing? Do people from Panama or Colombia call themselves “Americans” and then get all huffy when people don’t realize they’re from a particular country?

    No. They’re Columbian or Ecuadorian or Brazilian or whatever the hell, because that’s the name of their country, and American is the name of ours, and as soon as Ecuador takes over their entire fucking continent then they can call it the United States of South America and put that on their passport. In the mean time, getting pissed about this and blaming it on “egotism” is along the same lines as railing at the US for not dividing up the atmosphere into tiny tiny pieces and distributing it out to the nations of the world.

    Furthermore, I plead guilty to vacationing in foreign countries with a crappy command of the local language… but I definitely didn’t expect to accomplish much with it, and if anybody blew me off, I would certainly understand. Speaking to people in the language they can comprehend is a form of respect, and though it’s usually not “required,” trying to buy something while failing to do so promises nothing.

  • Matej

    2002/10/14 at 12:44 am

    I know it’s been said before, but not yet by me: Dooce, you rock!

  • Billy

    2002/10/14 at 4:23 am

    Garage sale? You?

  • Heather #2

    2002/10/14 at 4:32 am

    And I was so missing Politically Incorrect.

  • Heather #2

    2002/10/14 at 4:33 am

    Husband, pass me that margarita, please.

  • Jay

    2002/10/14 at 5:17 am

    Speaking of speaking the language… A co-worker at my last job was attending a conference in Miami. He saw someone get mugged and took out his cell phone call 9-1-1. The operator only spoke Spanish, and apparently no one else there spoke English, so they hung up on him. Nice, huh?

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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