My very good friend, and former boss, Bosco once asked me something hilarious.
“Debbie, do you say every thought that pops into your head?”
Oh, Bosco. Oh, honey.
I only say about 20% of what’s in my melon. If I said everything that occurred to me, a few things would happen. I would never, and I mean never shut up. I’d have no friends, and I’d be locked up—either padded cell, or gray bar hotel.
But most of the thoughts to which I give voice are of the positive persuasion. I’ll tell the lady at the gas station I like her shoes, the kid bagging my groceries he has pretty eyes, and the little guy carrying a bag for his mom that he is a helpful, strong little man.
But for the most part, I’m much more reticent when it comes to the negative thoughts toward my fellow man.
The self-censoring comes from my childhood.
Although she’s gotten over it (Hoo boy, has she gotten over it), my mom was raised as a nice Catholic girl in the Ozzie and Harriet fifties. Act like a lady was drilled into every girl child from birth.
Having a dad in the military was part of it. It was impressed upon me every time I left the house I represented not only our family but the Coast Guard and the entire United States. How we acted reflected on Uncle Sam, Smokey the Bear, the Partridge Family and Dick Tracy.
And being raised in the South has a lasting impact on a young woman.
It’s an IV attached to every little girl, feeding a constant stream of expectations, prohibitions, and assumptions. “Mind your manners.” “Don’t be loud, or messy, or bossy, or rough.” After a while, that kind of stuff becomes part of one’s very marrow. Like it or not, admit it or not, most women live their lives with an internal hall monitor passing judgment on everything we say and do.
It’s why, when someone obviously doesn’t spare a thought for my feelings I’m stressing out to protect theirs.
But you know what?
I’m not looking for a job, a date, or the approval of others (the last one is the toughest for me).
So, there are times when I don’t give a fig about being polite. And I’m not gonna—not anymore.
When someone decides that because of their fellow human’s plumbing, or color, or accent, or who they love, or how they dress, or bank account, that that person is “other”, and less than. As in less deserving of basic humanity, or kindness, or civil rights, or a voice, or even the right to want those things.
When someone decides that their story, or history, or feelings are paramount, and others need to get over themselves, grow up, and grow a sense of humor.
When someone decides that when others stand up for themselves it’s an attack on them, and emblematic of the war against them and all good decent people; that the very rights of others marginalize them and threaten everything they stand for.
If you steal my parking spot, or the last sample at Costco, or fail to thank me if I hold the door for you, I’ll probably give you a low key dirty look, but keep my thoughts to myself.
But, from now on, when I see someone being cruel or hateful, or when someone is navigating their lives with a complete lack of compassion, and a proud absence of empathy, I will call it out.
From this day forward, I refuse to ‘be sweet’.
Thanks for your time.
Contact debbie at firstname.lastname@example.org