Did you read last Wednesday’s post about hating on moms for wearing yoga pants?
As it turns out, it wasn’t about yoga pants at all.
It was a popular post, as both page views and comments nudged higher than normal. I had just approved a comment someone had made, went back to scrubbing down my cast iron skillet, and burst into tears.
When I say burst, I mean burst. Explosive, sobbing, snotty tears.
I was just overwhelmed with emotion, and I couldn’t figure out why. So, I scrubbed and I scrubbed and tried to clear my mind to let things settle a bit.
“What is it about yoga-pant snark that riles you so much, Kristine?” I asked myself.
“It isn’t about the yoga-pants,” I told my inner-therapist.
“Well, what is it about?” she followed up.
“It’s this whole idea we have that other people need to bend and mold and change their lives to accommodate our beliefs. That’s what’s getting to me. I have damn good reasons to wear those yoga pants. It’s who I am. Why should I be subject to snark for that? Or, worse yet, what gives other people the right to tell me what I should be wearing?”
It’s all these things that I do that other people feel the need to criticize and tell me I should do differently because my lifestyle offends them somehow.
Well, I’ll be damned.
If you pay any attention to the news at all, you will know that a recent hot topic was legislation passed in Arizona that was billed as “anti-gay discrimination*,” (AZ SB 1062). Whether the bill actually was or was not designed to discriminate against gays, I don’t care, because that’s how it was interpreted by the gay community. Governor Brewer vetoed the legislation and thus it did not become law.
In law school, we frequently heard the saying that “Your rights end where the tip of my nose begins.” It’s overly simplistic, of course, but it’s a touchstone I use a lot when thinking about issues like civil rights and just how we all get along in a society. The crux of it is that if what you are doing does not tangibly impact me, then I have no dog in the fight. And, I cannot claim that my rights have been violated nor can I urge you to change your behavior unless I have a dog in the fight.
So those sobs? They weren’t about people ragging on me for how I dress, how I eat or how I feed my baby. It was a deep, gut-wrenching sorrow.
Here’s what my heart was yelling:
You don’t get to do that, people. You don’t get to ask other people to change their lives, themselves or their behavior because it offends you. You don’t get to ask gays to stop being gay because their being gay bothers you. If another person’s behavior offends you, then you need to stop looking at it, stop thinking about it and move on. Because we each only have one life to live and asking other people to alter their lives so your sensibilities won’t be offended is self-absorbed, self-centered and not in the least bit practical nor respectful.
Faced with the reality of what I was feeling, I walked away profoundly sad, but with a very clean cast iron skillet.
When I look out around me in real life and in social media, I see people defining themselves by their “tribe.” We’re digging down deeper into what we believe, following bloggers who agree with us, listening only to the media that speaks to our tribes, and then angrily declaring that the other side is “stupid,” or “not paying attention,” or worse.
I don’t think this promotes healthy civil discourse at all, and I think our public life suffers because of it. (Hello, Congress!)
It’s time for a little more I and Thou and a little less “us vs. them.” And one of the ways we start that is by expanding on a theme I’ve shared with you all before:
Eyes on my own body.
Eyes on my own plate.
Eyes on my own business.
Gay, transgendered, straight, Jewish, Sikh, old, young, bottle-feeding, breastfeeding, homeschooling, unschooling, Republican, Democrat … be who you are. Let others be who they are. And enjoy this stunningly beautiful world, where some of us spend the day in Armani suits and others of us dash about in stretchy black pants.
* * * * * * *
(*That the legislation would actually have caused anti-gay discrimination in places like restaurants and other service-industries remains to be seen and is a subject for debate. For my purposes today, whether it would or would not have discriminated doesn’t matter because it was what the debate provoked in me that is relevant.)