One thing more, one small doubt: there are treacherous people about…. No offense, please reflect, your intentions may not be correct….” –The Thénardier Waltz of Treachery, Les Misérables
In recent years, it seems that everyone is offended by nearly everything. Of course, few people are offended by a certain concept/object/statement in the same way, making everything difficult.
For example: I recently had a customer inform me that she was offended by a form she was filling out for us. Her problem with it was that it had spaces for both “maiden name” and “last name.” “Who even does that anymore?” she asked the woman she stood with, in reference to changing your last name with marriage.
Well, lots of people do. I plan to, someday. Many of the people filling out the sheet (a group including men and women from ages 20 to nearly 100) have. I’ve never had a man complain about the generic form; even those who write in the “maiden name” unthinkingly either laugh or bashfully cross it out.
This young woman has every right to her opinion. If she doesn’t agree with changing your name, then she doesn’t need to do so, should she ever get married. I applaud her for sticking to her beliefs despite a social construct.
However, was it necessary to be quite so vocal about this belief, in layman’s terms, shoving it down other people’s throats? In this case, the form asked for this information solely for classification purposes: those alumni who have changed their name since graduating may still be listed under their maiden name in the computer systems. As she was unmarried (made obvious by her rather aggressive specification of “Miss,” rather than the listed Ms.”), there was no need for her to supply any additional information. Even if she had been married, no one was forcing her to write something on that line. She could very well retain her “identity” (as she equated it) without loudly claiming offense.
This is hardly an isolated incident. Everywhere you look, people are offended by everything. In order to speak, one must carefully measure words for political correctness, so the least possible offense will be taken by listeners. Even then, someone will be offended by the attempt at being unoffensive. It’s a lose-lose situation. Communication in the modern world— whether it be verbal, written, technological, etc.— is like walking through a minefield. Quite frankly, it’s exhausting.
If you’re reading this, you (hopefully) acknowledged that this blog has a lot of my personal opinions. In reading, we enter an agreement: you are willingly learning what my TO&E are, and I’m willingly sharing them. I’m perfectly open to you sharing yours in response. However, I won’t force you to read my posts and won’t force you to agree with me. If something I say offends you, I trust that you will maintain your opinion (unless your opinion is something horrid, like kicking puppies or something. That’s a case where I will hope that my opinion influences yours.) and respect that mine is different.
It’s really not that hard to agree to disagree. It’s not possible for you to agree with everyone, nor for everyone to agree with you, so why bother arguing with them or vehemently expressing how much their opinion offends you?
Someone once told me that I’m the most reasonable vegan he’d ever met, and it’s one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received. No, I don’t eat meat or other animal products. Yes, I’ll happily explain why, if you ask. But I refuse to argue with you because of it. If I’m grabbing lunch with a friend and he really wants a burger, he can eat the burger. I won’t be offended. At the same time, I trust that he won’t be offended when I don’t eat the same burger. Vegans get a bad rap for radicalism, and I try to be an exception (though hardly the sole exception) to that stereotype. If you ask me to educate you, I will; I see no reason to throw it in your face.
This concept can apply to just about anything that people claim to find offensive. Your religious or political views aren’t the same as mine? That’s cool. Do I agree? Maybe not. But will I respect your opinion? Of course.
Gracefulness is hardly my strongpoint (clumsiness is more like it!) but I aspire to be like Audrey Hepburn or Jackie Kennedy when it comes to social grace. I respect other people and expect them to respect me in return. It’s truly not much to ask. I have an advantage, being raised to be respectful. Those who haven’t, however, can learn with little difficulty, if they try.
Chances are, somebody will read this post and think “This offends me.” I apologize if that’s the case. But please, think about it.