Friday, June 23, 2017

Singing la la la

Like a lot of people, I mocked him when this photo first appeared four years ago. I did this on FaceBook and an overly sensitive cousin of mine got very angry with me. That was neither interesting nor educational in itself. That an overly sensitive person would be overly sensitive is not news.

What was interesting was that I got a barrage of back-channel messages from some people I've known for a long time, one male, one female. They both wanted me to apologize to the little snowflake and they threatened to break off relations if I didn't. I was shaken by that. These were people I had been very close to and I didn't want our relationship to be disrupted. On the other hand, I knew I had done nothing wrong and I didn't want to apologize just because someone else was upset.

That, was a big epiphany. I've remarked before that turning points sneak up on you. In retrospect, that was a turning point in my life but it just felt like two weeks of anxiety at the time. I spent several days feeling awful as these two threatened to break off relations if I didn't apologize. In the end, I didn't give in and they just moved on.

Then there was a second epiphany. In my family there is a tendency to appease women. Men in my family, including me, were raised to seek the approval of women and, therefore, to cave completely when a woman got angry. It didn't matter whether that anger was justified or not. I grew up with the odd notion that being a gentleman meant cravenly seeking the approval of women.

The funny thing is that my relationships with the two people in question never were the same again but not for the reason I expected. They, as I say above,  didn't break off the relationship. They just went back to normal. And that was the third epiphany: all their anger turned out to be a bluff. The only time approval or disapproval matters is when it comes from a person who has authority over you. Otherwise, it's just an empty threat. I, on the other hand, stopped taking them seriously and my life was richer for that.

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