Today I Did the Wrong Thing

I often tell my children, “Nothing worth doing is easy.”

I believe this to be true. I believe it’s imperative to stand up for what you believe in, and to stand up for what is right. Today I did not do that.

Today I sat across the table from a woman and listened to her complain about the gays. I nodded in understanding while she prattled on about how America is teaching kids to be gay, and I smiled at her while she spewed hate and talked about the righteousness of her church and her family’s devotion to her church.

I needed her to be an ally for my child so I didn’t tell her that she was hiding behind religion while teaching her children to be intolerant. I needed her assistance so I didn’t tell her that I don’t respect her and that I think that she’s narrow minded and ugly on the inside. Instead I smiled.

In the very short term it was the right thing to do. In the long term it was wrong.

When she said to me, “School wasn’t like this when we were kids, there were no gay teachers.” I did say to her, “It was like this for me.” Because even though I don’t recall a teacher having a partner I also don’t recall teachers talking much about their spouses. I don’t know who my teachers slept with or who they loved. It didn’t matter to me then and it doesn’t matter to me now.

What I did today was allow a woman to not feel shame when she should have. It ruined the rest of my day and I’ve spent the hours since then replaying the scene in my head, only in my head I smile at her and say, “You’re wrong. Your church is full of gay people, your priests have a disproportionately high number of gay people, and I pray that neither of your children are gay, because you’re going to make them want to kill themselves.”

And in my rewindable world she stutters and stammers and sees the error of her ways.

And then she is nice to my child.

My world doesn’t rewind. It pretty much sucks.

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22 Comments

  1. Ilana

    When it comes to protecting our child and to not anger the people who interact with them or can help them it is understandable.
    We do what is right at the moment. When the your child no longer has to interact with her than you can tell her your piece of mind. Protecting our kids will always come first.

  2. Mrs NotSurprised

    I’m sorry you’re having to rely on someone who believes that and I hope you’re able to find someone different who can provide the assistance your kid needs/rely on/advocate for your kid who doesn’t spew hate. You’re right, she should have felt shame. But you’re also right that sometimes it’s hard to stand up for what you believe when your kids are at stake.

  3. Nicole Pelton

    I can’t imagine someone like that ever doing something in the best interest of my child. I gave someone a hard time one for saying, ‘what a great teacher, too bad he’s gay’ – she understood then how wrong that sounded. Obviously though I have no idea what the rest of the story is.

  4. Mrspop007

    Let’s face it. We do not live in a perfect world and there are a lot of bigoted, small-minded folks sitting on every part of the spectrum of life and perception.

    You do the best you can and sometimes, it is not appropriate to say exactly what you are thinking just in the interest of not sinking to their level. I wouldn’t worry about it.

  5. The main difference between you and this woman is that you feel bad (badly?) about what you did and didn’t say, and that’s a very important distinction. This woman probably never stops to question her convictions, what she says, or what she doesn’t say. You’re a thinking person, a compassionate person, and a brave person. Hey, we all have moments when we wish we could rewind. You’re human.

  6. Anonymous

    FWIW…Think of all the people you interact with on a less personal basis that involve the well being of your children. Their doctors, random staff at school, people at the grocery store, etc…And for all you know they’re Satan worshipping baby eaters. Or God worshipping pig eaters. I dunno…You happened to have a conversation with this *one*. I just nod and stare at some people (I don’t fake smile well)…and get out of Dodge as quick as I can. I think the only times I’ve really “stood up” for something in particular is the drive-by kind. Turning around to the asshole in the line behind me at the grocery store and letting them know how I feel. B/c I never have to see them again. And I can burn that bridge.

  7. iloveGarick

    And so we struggle with personal ethics/morality while a battle wages in our heart about the right thing to do. You were protecting your child, looking out for the benefit of your child.

    Yes, you know my own challenges with finding work/trying to survive and selling my soul to marketing big-name products..

  8. I admire your utmost honesty here because we all know that you could have simply not written about this.

    I hate confrontations to begin with and sometimes if the speaker of hatred/bigotry is not anyone of consequence, a stranger, or an old relative, I do pretend that I don’t hear them. It is indeed an “easier” way out…

    I could so relate to what you went through yesterday. “What do you do in this kind of situation when your family does not sign on to be on the brigade?” I have thought about what I would do when the person wields some power over my child: Would I allow potential negative impact on my child’s life “simply” because of some personal sense of justice? That I need to make some grand stand so I can feel good about myself? Wouldn’t that have made me a “selfish” parent? And if I am getting hypothetical: What if it is my husband’s co-worker, or say, his boss that says something like this? Would I be ultra-self-centered if I ruin his professional career because I need to satisfy some personal needs, so I don’t feel guilty for being a hypocrite? I know the above rumination itself sounds extremely self-serving and self-centered: after all, I am not the “victim” (for the lack of a better word) here.

  9. In the same situation, I likely would have done the same thing, whether assistance was needed or not. I’m a non-confrontational person and while I don’t respect her opinions or even agree with them, she has a right to them. It’s not yours or my place to judge her for how she believes, just as it isn’t her place to judge you. The world is going to change with or without her and hopefully, her opinion will be a miniscule minority soon.

    • I had to reply to this comment. It’s a privilege to sit by and say nothing when hate happens to other people. Not everyone has that privilege. She does have a right to her opinions, but other people have the right to not be subjected to them. I don’t think standing up for what you believe in is judgmental, although this woman was certainly being judgmental toward others. The fact is that if everyone who isn’t impacted personally by a situation sits back and says nothing, the world will NOT change. It takes bravery, and not just on the part of the oppressed. Those that have the privilege to be unconcerned need to be brave as well. I think we’re all placed in situations like this where we feel that we need to stay silent, but on the other hand, true heroes are those who take risks for other people. None of us are perfect and I cant say that I would always be brave or strong enough to speak out, but that doesn’t make it the “right” path to take. As I said in my other comment, there are often ways to speak out that aren’t so confrontational as to anger the other party.

      • Anonymous

        “Other people have the right not to be subject to them.”

        …Not really. Since everyone is allowed [in America] to speak their mind…you can only shut it out when it’s on TV, the radio, or otherwise coming through some device in which you can control the sound. If I’m sitting in a restaurant being “subject” to someone else’s thoughts…My only real option is to leave. They have every right to speak out. That’s what freedom of speech is.

        Telling them to shut their traps is a violation of their rights.

  10. I think that what we do when nobody is looking is a better indication of who we really are.

    Recognizing when we do not live up to our own standards is perhaps the hardest step and the one that weighs most heavily on our hearts.

    The real question is what will we do the next time we find ourselves in the same situation?

  11. Preston

    Jessica, I have an immense amount of respect for you. My daughter suffered a lot at the hands of children and adults because I was an “out” gay man with a partner. There were times when I had wished I wasn’t so out, that I could tone down who I was and hide it some to save her from those times when people were mean to her. But then I look at the strong, independent, beautiful woman she has become and I know I must have done something right. I’m sure that if it didn’t have involved your child, it would have been a whole different scenario. :)

  12. *sigh* Sometimes it’s hard to choose your battles. I’m totally with you on this…all the things you want to say to her, throwing the truth in her face so she can see it for what it really is..the TRUTH. But, then you remember your kid and let’s face it…it’s exhausting being right. ;)

    Sometimes, we have to smile and nod and acknowledge in your head how ludicrously ridiculous they sound. Just put it in your pocket and save it for a rainy day.

  13. Well, in the midst of feel-good comments, I’m taking a different path. I believe that you can take a stance without being judgmental, or even confrontational. In a situation where I don’t feel that it’s appropriate to start and argument, I would quietly say (perhaps with a smile), “I don’t think we entirely agree on this subject, so maybe we could talk about something else?” It gives the other person an out, but still allows you to take a stance.

    • I think I’m going to practice that phrase in the mirror. I was so shocked to be sitting at a table with her that I didn’t quite know what to do.

      If it was just about us I’d have gotten up and walked away, but since my son would be the one to pay the price I sat and smiled though I clenched my teeth. Depending on the moment I think I did the right/wrong thing.

      I really hate when the world isn’t black and white.

  14. Wow, this *is* so hard. Protect your child is what we all go to first. I know that you probably tried to redirect the conversation. You remind me that I need to do what I have told my kids to do, practice a response. Like, “hey, I don’t think we really agree on this–but we sure can agree that we love our kids and ice cream!” Not as good as telling someone off, but cutting off the conversation without nodding and smiling and feeling wrong.

    Thanks for helping me get prepared–it could be a boss or a bosses spouse (happened to me and I quickly excused myself-thank god it was a party), or a cab driver who starts spouting racist crap while he’s driving you home (that, too, and I was silent since he was driving).

  15. not speaking up for your beliefs, isn’t necessarily wrong. but wow, tough situation.

  16. Jess

    Wow she seems totally out of line to even be telling that to you.
    Any way you can report this now?
    I can imagine being shocked and unable to respond in a thoughtful way because of the innapropriatness of the situation.

    Jessica

  17. A local church wrote a very anti-gay comment on their sign. Someone in my very small conservative town spray painted the sign and wrote Love is Equal. There is hope.

  18. What a powerful post. You really hit a nerve with me….I just returned from visiting my Mom in my small town in Minnesota and found myself reining in my speech for the entire week. I, too, felt lousy about it, but as I’ve gotten older I have to pick my battles.

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