Stop Offending Me!

Okay. I’ll try. But in the meantime, I'd also like to talk. It's just that nobody wants me to talk. They all just want to remind me of how I'm going to offend people if I talk.

I was at parent-teacher conferences the other night and was about to explain that my 7-year-old was struggling with using the word "interrogative" correctly in a sentence. Luckily, I remembered the 12 Things You Should Never, Ever Say to Teachers just in time. Thank goodness too, because asking a teacher about a difficult homework load is akin to saying she's a horrible teacher. So, I decided to not be interrogative, and just pretended everything was okay. After all, I wouldn't want to offend her.

I was in the middle of screaming toddlers and kids' homework last night when my husband called to ask what kind of pizza he should pick up on the way home. I could barely hear over the screaming and almost said, "Whatever." Wow, that was a close one. I'm glad I remembered the 7 Things You Should Never, Ever Say to Your Partner! Such an indifferent statement would have pushed him into seeking a different wife who was more willing to listen to his pizza-topping concerns. I panicked and hung up on him instead. We ended up eating Captain Crunch-Berries for dinner. But at least I saved our marriage.

I was chatting with another stay-at-home mom the other day at play group when I almost said how nice it was that we could be there with our kids during the day. But then I remembered from the 9 Things Never to Say to a Stay-at-Home Momthat such a suggestion was offensive. So, I went with the article's recommended replacement: "There is no scale that weighs if staying at home or going to work is harder. We all work really hard. Kids are work too and we all wear many hats." She looked at me like I was a few clowns short of a circus. But no worries, at least I hadn't offended her!

I was doing the dishes the other day when my son ran to me, near tears with a scraped knee. I ran over to comfort him and tell him he was okay. But then I remembered  from the 10 Things You Should Never Say to Your Kid that telling him he is okay will actually make him feel worse. I decided letting him suffer in silence was the better route.

I was at the grocery store the other day when the bagger asked me, "Paper or plastic?" Feeling pretty neutral on the matter, I was about to tell him I didn't care. But then I remembered the 7 Things You Should Never Say to Someone . I bit my tongue just in time! Good thing too, because saying "I don't care," actually means, “Leave me alone. I have better things to do than listen to you.”  Oh boy! I wouldn't want to say that. I decided I had better remain silent. After an uncomfortable minute he finally reached for plastic. Phew! Offense-giving avoided!

And it doesn’t end there--virtually every time I open my mouth I remember that there are things I’m not supposed to say. But I can’t seem to keep them all straight. What if I get the 25 Things You Should Never Say to Harry Potter Fansmixed up with What You Should Never Say to a Homeless Person?! Or the Dirty Dozen Things You Should Never Say to Someone who Suffers From Migraineswith the Things You Should Never Say to Your Bike Shop Mechanic?! Or even worse, what if I mix up the 21 Things You Should Never Say to an Atheist with the Things You Should Never Say to a Catholic Bookstore Employee?! That could go south real quickly! So, you see, I hesitate to talk now. 

Hopefully you get my point. Because I get yours. Really, I do. People can say some horribly tactless and offensive things sometimes. I had a temporary lapse in good judgment a few months ago and decided to take our many children out to eat. By myself. As we were walking into the restaurant an old man stopped to behold the spectacle before his eyes. After confirming that they were indeed all mine and from the same husband, he remarked with a kinky grin, "You know how that happens, don't you?" followed by a perverted chuckle.

Now, I didn't necessarily enjoy this interchange. And considering this man had just thrown down 3 of the 8 Things You Shouldn't Say to a Mom With a Large Family in under 10 seconds flat, I was momentarily tempted to get up in arms. However, I decided to let it roll off my back and not let him ruin my day...or my hour, or even my minute. In fact, I occasionally enjoy a good laugh as I review my list of all the potentially inappropriate things people have said to me as I traipse about with my troop in public. Since it happens all the time, why not make the best of it?

Yes, I am suggesting that we can choose how something makes us feel. I am suggesting that we can control how we react to the words and actions of others. I am suggesting that it's just as important to not take offense as it is to not giveoffense. People will always judge. People will always say stupid things. There will always be a reason to be offended, which in the end, means there will always be a reason to be miserable.

Of course the behavior of my restaurant buddy was out of line. And of course many things that people say to us simply shouldn't be said. But most often it's done with no ill-intent. Really, people that are purposefully rude or vindictive are few. But as is seen by the hundreds of articles of the “don’t you dare say this to me” flavor being shared online, many people seem bound and determined to find malevolence in the words and actions of others. So, even though most don’t mean offense in their words, the majority of us are choosing to be offended anyway.

Even in the rare instance when someone is intentionally hurtful, I have found that it often stems from insecurities or unhappiness within themselves and has nothing to do with us at all.  Regardless, whether rude comments are given purposefully or are merely a social faux paus, we can still choose to simply move on. We can even offer kindness in the face of rudeness, despite the deafening shouts from the world telling us that we are entitled to take offense on every hand. Yes, this may mean creepy old men don't get the talking to that they deserve. And it may mean we don't reform the speech and conversation of all around us to complete fairness, equity, and respect. But by making ourselves accountable for keeping our negative emotions and reactions in check, we make more room for happiness to seep in.

So, in a quest for happy living, I've come up with a new plan. I'm going to talk. That's right. I'm done with the silence, with walking on eggshells. Don't get me wrong, I won't go around telling pregnant women they look like beached whales and accusing stay-at-home moms of sitting around and eating bon-bons all day. I will continue to do my best to speak to others with tact, kindness, and respect. This may mean, however, that I occasionally give offense, if you choose to take it. But for the love of life, please let me talk!