|image courtesy of back to zero|
Now I feel bad.
Here's the problem with trying to live with a set of ideals nowadays: our society is not arranged to support you. Not only do we not agree on what an acceptable standard of behavior is, many of the best among us spend a lot of time defending the rights of all of us to reject those standards and live according to a principle-set of our own making.
But some things are Just Wrong. And one of the gift/curses of middle age is that you feel unfettered enough to say so. Except you (I, rather, and many of my middle-aged female ilk) still get the backwash from our just-be-nice decades, of which we are forced to endure far more than the fuck-it-i'll-say-what-I-want years.
Who among us hasn't been through this:
- You say your piece.
- At first you have that glow of the righteous and you look around smugly if surreptitiously to see if those on the sidelines are applauding your bravery/joining you in disparaging the offender.
- They're not. No one cares. (Side note: awesome rule for living, that - no one cares as much as you fear. Or hope. So you might as well just be yourself after all.)
- Except for that one person. Who's looking at you as if you might be kind of a dick for saying it.
- Unease sets in.
- Suddenly everyone seems like they might be judging you. Worse, like they're having a thing at their house for the return of Downton Abbey, with appetizers, and they invited that bitch who did the thing, and not you. And further that they're going to talk about your big comment/breakdown/outburst at the party, like, "I wonder if it's a menopause thing."
- And then you wonder if you were even right. Maybe the fabric of society was rewoven while you weren't looking and now up is down and publicity earned by twerking is good publicity and Cormac Macarthy is helping direct bad TV…maybe the stand you took is as hoary and embarrassing as insisting, say, that if its not in the American Heritage dictionary that your dad gave you in college it's NOT A WORD. (Which i have done.) In other words, maybe the bitch in that two-party bitch slap wasn't who you thought it was.
But here's the thing. I *was* right. And despite the comment by a well meaning friend that, to paraphrase, if you can't defeat odious self-serving industry behavior, you might as well join in - it's still wrong. And we do still have to have standard bearers, despite their conspicuous absence (everything's gone downhill since Letitia Baldridge died) - and if we all take up the yoke from time to time, especially those of us who've been around the track a few times and know what we're talking about, well, we might yet make the world a bit of a seemlier place.
(Unseemly - an underused but very useful word which can serve as a test. If a thing you're about to do is legal, even becoming accepted practice, but strikes you as the least unseemly - for heaven's sake, sister, refrain.
I'll close with...
A FEW TIPS FOR TAKING A PROPER STAND:
- Make sure it's actually your issue. Are you affected directly or indirectly? If not, back off.
- Got an issue with a specific person's behavior? Talk *to* the person, not about her.
- Doing it anonymously is cowardly. You don't want to be a coward, do you? (Hint - if you are over 50, you have NO excuse.)
- Don't get all hung up on the fact that you once did something uncomfortably similar. We make mistakes. We fuck up. If we had to be perfect before taking up the yoke, we would have no standard-bearers. But this *might* be a good moment to promise yourself that you'll try to set a good example whenever possible in the future.
- Denigrate as few people as possible. No casting wide nets to catch others who you have issues with; this is about *one* concrete instance of poor form.
- (This one is tough.) If at all possible, do it in a collegial fashion. Genuinely. Meaning: remind yourself that you are trying to help someone change a harmful behavior, and so you are going to keep it to yourself, and offer support going forward. If the behavior doesn't happen again, it's done and forgotten.
- If you get called into a debate, stay firm - what's the point of a stand if you don't stand behind it? - but remember it's about an *issue*, not about you or her or people in general.
- Let it go. You said your thing. People reacted, or didn't. Move on, you've got other things to do. IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU.