“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself-and especially to feel, or not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at any moment is fine with them. That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is.” ―Jim Morrison
Not that long ago, what I can only presume is an “older gentleman”, and by “older”, I mean over fifty, but probably closer to seventy, sent me a private message on Facebook to complain about my use of a word. I remember reading the message and thinking “Are you for real?” Initially I ignored it, until I decided to reply and set him straight.
As a writer, and especially with something like this platform, I don’t feel I have to edit myself or dumb myself down. In fact, I transitioned to this platform from another one that is still “active”, because I felt like I was neutering myself there and wasn’t fully being the outspoken person I always am. I needed to remind myself how I started out and how I have grown, but not changed my voice and how I use it.
I have come to resent myself whenever I am not 100% me, especially when someone turns to me and gives me any type of “warning” about how vocal I am or how they would like for me to “behave”. I’m not a child or a trained dog, so that kind of behavior, when directed at me, is a quick way to get yourself on my shit list. I revel in authenticity. You cannot ask me to me something I’m not; because the results will be negative.
The word this man took such issue with is one I did edit, slightly. Instead of using the word I wanted to use, I said “effing”. If that offends someone, that is a sad state of affairs to me because that’s pretty clean in my eyes. I couldn’t get more “clean” with that specific word, either. Perhaps I should have used symbols, instead? I know lots of us use this word in our daily lives because no one is perfect and it’s probably an overused word in many instances. I’ve never counted, but I’m sure I use it daily.
I remember consciously making the decision to use it in that “edited” way so as not to offend anyone. And yet, I get someone who is offended by it. Big surprise. He somehow felt the need to inform me that I shouldn’t use it in connection with God on a public forum. I love it when people think they’re lecturing me. <rolls eyes>
“I don’t mean to come off judgmental…” Really? How did you expect to come off? When surfing Facebook or the Internet at large, I am certain we probably all come across things we don’t like, or things that affect us in a negative way. You have the right to engage or scroll on. Hell, you can walk away from your phone, computer, tablet, etc., and disengage entirely. I will usually scroll on if something isn’t worth my effort because unless I know someone, what’s the point of engaging? Would I engage with a stranger on the street who said something stupid? It depends on the situation, obviously, but for the most part the answer is “No, I would not.” I’m not that nice, or approachable.
As a result of this person’s comment, I ended it with respectful wishes for the upcoming holiday (Passover) and left it there. I’ll probably have to block him if this comes up again, lest I offend his delicate sensibilities with my honesty and directness regarding Israel, Judaism, or perhaps the placement of the sun in the sky.
When something is titled “Poison In Lethal Doses”, you can come to expect certain things from me, since I’m the one producing the written content. Anyone who has read my bio can probably figure out that I’m a “take no prisoners” kind of chick. From day one, the way I have conducted myself as a writer is the reason I have received respect, not to mention a widespread audience. There are Harvard educated doctors who read my work (Yeah, it shocks me, too.). If they’re not offended by the occasional use of profanity to make a point, I’m good with that. This is definitely not the place for anyone who is sheltered or buttoned-up so tightly that an edited word bothers them.
Believe it or not, this is the first time I’ve ever had someone approach me in ANY way during the course of my career and tell me that one word I used bothered them. I think I’ve maybe offended one other person with my “brazen authenticity”, but for the most part, people either like me or they don’t. I can’t control how I affect others. I’ve mellowed over the years (sort of-ish) and curse a lot less than I once did, so I found myself staring at this message for a while, pondering how to handle it. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have replied in such a polite fashion, but I was incredibly polite. I let him know, in no uncertain terms, that HE contacted ME, and that if someone takes issue with a word I use, the issue lies with them, not with me. I’m not so sheltered that people have to curb their words with me. I’d be more concerned with the tone of voice you use, because that’s something I am more inclined to get in someone’s face about.
On the Internet, unless you’re on YouTube, you can’t really pick up on tone from people you don’t know. I have relatives who I communicate with who I am positive do not pick up on my tones when we speak. If they did, they’d stop talking. I have several tones that are “warning tones”. My voice drops several octaves and my responses become icy, or short. A lot of my text messages are “warning tones” because I’m probably pissed off at the other person for being nosy, presumptive, rude, disrespectful, hurtful, etc. I don’t always pursue my anger towards someone if I know how it will be received. It’s not an easy choice to make, but it’s knowing who and what to argue about. If someone keeps talking or texting through the “warning tone”, I do not feel sorry for them when they inevitably incur my wrath.
I have many different tones to how I speak and express myself. There’s my “dry tone”, which is all about timing. In my family, we refer to it as my “dry, British humor”. It’s my Judi Dench tone, along with the accompanying expression, and sometimes I throw in the accent for good measure. It can be delivered in a myriad of ways. There’s my “funny tone”, my “sarcastic tone” which are also, all about timing and delivery. What I find interesting is how people who know me well are never entirely sure which tone is which. Whereas my brother KNOWS if I’m being a smart ass or just being me. He knows my “warning tones” because he will often remind me, when I use them, that stabbing someone with a fork is illegal. He can even pick up on it in a text message. He gets me, even though he often pretends not to.
Nine times out of ten, I get accused of being sarcastic when I’m simply stating the obvious. That’s when you know, for sure, that a person is making an assumption. Don’t make assumptions via text message, because you’re probably wrong. I simply don’t have time in my day-to-day life to use a “tone” via text. Unless you’re an absolute moron, I’m probably just stating facts. No one said I’m not rolling my eyes while swiping my reply. I might be, but the other person can’t see me and that’s probably a good thing, though I wouldn’t shy away from rolling my eyes at them if they were in front of me. I’m not two-faced.
My daily vernacular is a combination of varying expressions, both in English and other languages, along with wit and measures of sarcasm and honesty. In certain situations, I dial myself down approximately five to ten percent, because I have to filter myself with the other person. I don’t like being unable to fully be myself, but sometimes it’s a necessary evil.
A family member pushed my buttons last winter. After giving them ample time to “get over themselves” and apologize, they continued to treat me like shit and be rude and dismissive. Publicly, they behaved like nothing had occurred. Because this person married into my family, I have to shield my actual blood relative from the incident, and my subsequent feelings. But first, I wanted to verify if the behavior was normal, so I asked this person’s sibling, with whom I am equally close to, if this was normal. They told me “That hasn’t been my experience.” and proceeded to ask if I had said something offensive or hurtful, leading the person to respond negatively to me. I had done no such thing, and I found the question borderline absurd. They quickly dismissed the subject after I replied that I’d done nothing but be nice and kind, and went back to talking about themselves (Yeah, that’s my family. I wonder if group rates are offered in family therapy…). I have now spent over a year shielding this family member from my true feelings. Someone I respect said “Well, you’re keeping the peace because you don’t want to lose another friend.” I stared at him blankly, because he clearly forgot who he was talking to when he said that. “Keeping the peace” isn’t how I do things. That’s “people pleasing” behavior, and I REFUSE to do it.
Since the initial incident, I have tried my best to be polite to this person, but I’m sure I’m failing miserably. My concerted effort has clearly not been well-received because even after sending this person a birthday card, something I did NOT have to do, I’ve continued to be treated as a threat. However, I have to be honest with myself about how I feel. I cannot be fake.
Fast-forward to last week, when I received a text message inviting me for Passover. Normally I am invited at the last-minute each year to most holiday occasions, and while I consider the invitation supremely kind and genuine, it’s the last thing in the world I want to reply to. I’m not known for my diplomacy. I know I can’t say what I truly want to say in response, so naturally, that upsets me.
On pretty much any given day, the last thing I want to do is sit in a room with a group of people I don’t know and pretend to be interested in forced, polite chit-chat. It’s not who I am. Food is of zero interest to me, and people I’ve never met before rank up the list, too. I appreciate the invitation, but there’s no polite way to say “I’d rather remove my eyes with a melon baller.” On top of my very real feelings, there is always my health to consider. I try to be around as few people as possible with uncontrollable chronic migraines and all the other health issues I am currently trying to navigate. I just took my last round of antibiotics this morning, and I don’t even know if they helped, which is worrisome.
Chronic illness makes me unreliable for many events, especially anything short notice. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to heavily caffeinate in order to go to a doctor’s appointment or something else I committed to in advance. Inside, I feel like the biggest mess on the planet, but on the outside I don’t think people ever notice that something isn’t right. After all, the majority of people are only looking for visual clues. They’re not going deeper.
I ended up sending a very polite text reply to the invite last night. I was downright polite and borderline diplomatic (for me), but I didn’t get into any detail as to why I could not attend. If I’d been asked, that would have been a problem, but I wasn’t. Instead, I was told I am welcome anytime. I know it was genuine, so I was genuine in turn. I’m good with large crowds of strangers when I’m speaking in public or have a commitment, but there are still times when I will say no to such things.
This year, I need to spend the holiday focusing on my health, and giving myself a short break from all the craziness because I’m really suffering in terms of quality sleep. My body needs rest in the worst way. 😦 I won’t make any appointments those first few days (March 31st might have been a good day to get my MRI out of the way, but I’d feel bad doing it on a holiday.), but I do have things that I will need to get squared away during the following week.
Words are important in society. It’s how we communicate, because not everyone responds to non-verbal cues. I find that the well-placed word is crucial. It can be the difference between “keeping the peace”, should you enjoy the route, or starting a fight, but it can also be the difference between complimenting someone and making their day or going through life as an extremely unpleasant person. Each day, we make choices with our words.
No matter how you choose, I’ll be over here, maintaining my authenticity as a “Speaker Of Powerful Words”. 🙂
copyright © 2018 Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
“The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.” ―Stephanie Perkins