Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Stuff People Say

I was moved today by a comment in yesterday's combox by a Single twenty-something whose feelings were hurt by a wedding photographer. And I cannot say I am surprised because weddings, especially sibling weddings, can make Singles feel supremely left out. Under those circumstances, it is not astonishing that someone as marginal to my reader's life as a wedding photographer could make her feel so bad. However, at the end of the day, this wedding photographer, eight months pregnant, was a stranger.

My editor hasn't spiked it yet, so I think my latest CR column is going into the paper, and I suspect it will cause a big fuss. I am not sure--I often think my column will cause a big fuss, and then it doesn't. But this time, I think there will be a fuss, and a few people will write letters and possibly even make phone calls to inform my editor that I am lacking in charity.

This happens only occasionally, and not as often as people just snarl about me to each other. When I still lived in Toronto people told me about it. There was some book beloved by Oprah and, it turns out, some Toronto Catholic schoolteachers, that I ripped the guts out of and danced a tarantella on in my book review, for it was the most heretical, cheesy nonsense I had read for quite a while. Anyway, yours truly got a pounding in a staff room, about which I would know nothing, had not one of the teachers seen fit to tell me when she encountered me on a subway platform.

You'll notice that I didn't jump.

The fact is that speaking your mind or just being a little different--like being the only Single woman in the family--gets you noticed, and if you get noticed, people either say insensitive things to you or talk about you behind your back, and that's just the way it is. The only way to cope is to not care, or to sort out whose opinion should matter to you. And this is not easy to do, and it is particularly not easy for a woman to do, or so I gather from complaints that so few women write Opinions-Editorial (Op Ed) or are willing to go on TV in  expensive suits to be screamed at by other people in expensive suits.

I can give you a breakdown of whose opinion I most care about. It sort of depends on what I am writing or doing.

This blog, for example. When I write this blog, I care most about the feelings of my husband, my family and my friends, so I try not to write stuff I think might upset them. Then I care about the feelings of Single women over 20 whose religious faith instructs them not to whoop it up like the ladies on Sex and the City.  I don't care what Sex and the City wannabes think, and I am mostly indifferent to the eavesdroppers, not because I don't like them, but because if I worried about what men thought my brain would seize up. Happily, I am married, so I no longer have to care about attracting any other man besides B.A.

When I write my CR column, I care most about the ladies in my mother's parish Catholic Women's League. On the other hand, I also care about the Filipina student who worked the desk at the nuns' infirmary when I dropped by to visit my infirm high school Latin teacher. When I gave my name, she said "Aaah! O my God. I love you!" with such fervour I fell chastely in love with the Filipina student who worked the desk at the nuns' infirmary. So I care most about the St. X CWL, who tell my mother what they think, and devoted fans. I also care about my editor, and the retired editor, and the books editor, who is theologically and probably politically opposite to me, but he is my friend and a very good egg.

I do not care as much about what my family or friends think of my CR column, and I pray nobody holds what I write against them because it is not their fault and no, they couldn't stop me. I once had a big row with my dad over a column I wanted in, but my editor it spiked anyway, so that was that.

But in personal life, I do care about what my family thinks, as I should because what I do with my personal life is indeed going to affect them if they find out about it. For example, I have to be careful with my health and safety because there are little people who will suffer if I die, especially if it is for a stupid, non-heroic reason that makes no sense. And I have to be good to B.A., first of all because he can't escape me, poor man, and second because my family will give me a Very Hard Time if I'm not. And then there are little people who would suffer if he ran away from my bad behaviour.

Those little people wield incredible emotional power. Bless their little hearts.

Outside of my immediate family, I care about the good opinion of my brother's parents-in-law and a few friends, although this is Scotland, so I also have to forget a lot of stupid stuff the men say, like, for example, "Hey Seraphic, you can make some extra money here" while driving past the row of warehouses where the local tarts troll for custom.

"I think I'm a bit long in the tooth for that," I said mildly, although inwardly annoyed enough to remember it three days later.

But that is only because he is a friend. If I've gotten any of those dumb "Hey, how much?" comments in Scotland, I've forgotten them. At any rate, my therapist of auld lang syne once asked me why I cared so much about what people I didn't even know thought or said about me, and I thought that such a good question, I pass it on to y'all:

Why care so much about what people who you don't even know think about you or say to you?


Anonymous for this post said...

Oh, oh… The things people say with no idea of standing in your shoes. And it get us, sometimes, to thinking that being married or finding love is a kind of reward for being a good, balanced and ordinate person. If you are of marriageable age and didn’t find anyone, everybody assumes this is about you. And yes, sometimes you need to grow yet, but it ain’t always your fault and it just might be a matter of time. My female relatives would say “I knew what I wanted so I married and you didn’t. Had you been more decisive, you would have got that guy, but you weren’t sure”, while I was figuring out if he’s going to be serious. One of my male friends (already an ex-friend) would say “If no man shows interest in you, i.e. asks you for a number and don’t call, stop answering you, doesn’t ask you out, it is because you failed to show him you would like him to and because you cared too little for him”. And I followed his advice. I took the initiative the next time I met somebody, got successful at first but was dumped very soon. And what did my friend say? That my moral standards are too high and I’m going to end up single forever and I deserve getting a few more bumps before I understand it. They say, friends should be there to tell you the bitter truth, should you err, right? But there are limits to this.

Argh. Awww. He tried to contact me afterwards as if nothing happened. I didn’t reply. Or maybe I should have replied that I'm not going to contact him if he says things like that.

Anonymous for previous comment said...

Pff. A vocabulary mistake in my previous comment, I didn't mean ordinate but respectable. That's when I get nervous!

Jam said...

It's the comments that echo my own worries that hurt most, I think. Spending all day at a wedding thinking "I'm ok, I'm okay, this is normal," and then some photographer points out that I'm single and makes it a big deal? Oh golly, how painful.

I realized recently that the reason I hate people asking "what's new" is that I feel that in the five years I've been in grad school nothing has changed. So that kind of innocent question can touch a nerve, and now I'm much better prepared to handle it.

Seraphic said...

When people tell you're Single because you're doing something wrong, that's hurtful and they should stop it. It's also hurtful when people make sad eyes at priest and say, "It's so sad you can't get married, Father!" (On the other hand, he does get a taste of what it's like to be one of his Single female parishioners.)

Occasionally people ask me to my face why they're Single, and because my great friend Lily gave me a great answer when I asked her why I was Single, back in 2008, I will hazard a guess. But usually I get an "Oh, Yes, but" rebuttal and then just feel silly and fall back on "God's plan is certainly very mysterious."

However, most of the time strangers, especially strangers who know you only in a professional capacity, do not mean to hurt your feelings and would be horrified if they knew that they had.

Personally I think anyone in the wedding industry should know about "Single Person's Wedding Angst" and be super careful about the feelings of Single family and guest. However, the professional in this story was eight months pregnant, and I wonder why she was doing such a physical job in such a state.

I completely understand why your fellow reader was hurt. My own feelings leading up to my brother's wedding were extremely intense, and I am extremely grateful there were other Singles there. In fact, I was at the Singles table with at least three other Single women (at least one of whom is married now, with a baby) and a really good-looking male doctor who is, come to think of it, still not married, even though he is really good-looking, Catholic, a doctor and hit on one of the other Single women at our table. Hmm.

But that said, I don't want any of my readers ever to feel extra-bad at a wedding just because a complete stranger just doing her job unintentionally hit one of your emotional bruises. As someone who wants a baby but probably can't have one, I notice baby remarks quite often, but I strive not to let them get me down, because otherwise I would be a basket-case. If I cried every time someone offered to sell me his kids, well...

Romi said...

We, as catholic, don´t care about what other people think. We care about what God think and strive to live according to His Will with His grace.

If you are a catholic woman your mission in this life is not marriage. Maybe you´ll marry or maybe not.

Your mission is to be a mother: biological or spiritual. Pope Pio XII has given us a lot of instructions about this. Pray to Our Lady, she will guide you.

Seraphic said...

We, as Catholic, actually do care what other people think. It's the human condition.

For example, I think you must be new. Also, you cite Pius XII on motherhood, not John Paul II. Interesting.