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Stuff People Say

Tuesday, August 13, 2013
I was moved today by a comment in yesterday's combox by a Single twenty-something whose feelings were hurt by a wedding photographer. And I cannot say I am surprised because weddings, especially sibling weddings, can make Singles feel supremely left out. Under those circumstances, it is not astonishing that someone as marginal to my reader's life as a wedding photographer could make her feel so bad. However, at the end of the day, this wedding photographer, eight months pregnant, was a stranger.

My editor hasn't spiked it yet, so I think my latest CR column is going into the paper, and I suspect it will cause a big fuss. I am not sure--I often think my column will cause a big fuss, and then it doesn't. But this time, I think there will be a fuss, and a few people will write letters and possibly even make phone calls to inform my editor that I am lacking in charity.

This happens only occasionally, and not as often as people just snarl about me to each other. When I still lived in Toronto people told me about it. There was some book beloved by Oprah and, it turns out, some Toronto Catholic schoolteachers, that I ripped the guts out of and danced a tarantella on in my book review, for it was the most heretical, cheesy nonsense I had read for quite a while. Anyway, yours truly got a pounding in a staff room, about which I would know nothing, had not one of the teachers seen fit to tell me when she encountered me on a subway platform.

You'll notice that I didn't jump.

The fact is that speaking your mind or just being a little different--like being the only Single woman in the family--gets you noticed, and if you get noticed, people either say insensitive things to you or talk about you behind your back, and that's just the way it is. The only way to cope is to not care, or to sort out whose opinion should matter to you. And this is not easy to do, and it is particularly not easy for a woman to do, or so I gather from complaints that so few women write Opinions-Editorial (Op Ed) or are willing to go on TV in  expensive suits to be screamed at by other people in expensive suits.

I can give you a breakdown of whose opinion I most care about. It sort of depends on what I am writing or doing.

This blog, for example. When I write this blog, I care most about the feelings of my husband, my family and my friends, so I try not to write stuff I think might upset them. Then I care about the feelings of Single women over 20 whose religious faith instructs them not to whoop it up like the ladies on Sex and the City.  I don't care what Sex and the City wannabes think, and I am mostly indifferent to the eavesdroppers, not because I don't like them, but because if I worried about what men thought my brain would seize up. Happily, I am married, so I no longer have to care about attracting any other man besides B.A.

When I write my CR column, I care most about the ladies in my mother's parish Catholic Women's League. On the other hand, I also care about the Filipina student who worked the desk at the nuns' infirmary when I dropped by to visit my infirm high school Latin teacher. When I gave my name, she said "Aaah! O my God. I love you!" with such fervour I fell chastely in love with the Filipina student who worked the desk at the nuns' infirmary. So I care most about the St. X CWL, who tell my mother what they think, and devoted fans. I also care about my editor, and the retired editor, and the books editor, who is theologically and probably politically opposite to me, but he is my friend and a very good egg.

I do not care as much about what my family or friends think of my CR column, and I pray nobody holds what I write against them because it is not their fault and no, they couldn't stop me. I once had a big row with my dad over a column I wanted in, but my editor it spiked anyway, so that was that.

But in personal life, I do care about what my family thinks, as I should because what I do with my personal life is indeed going to affect them if they find out about it. For example, I have to be careful with my health and safety because there are little people who will suffer if I die, especially if it is for a stupid, non-heroic reason that makes no sense. And I have to be good to B.A., first of all because he can't escape me, poor man, and second because my family will give me a Very Hard Time if I'm not. And then there are little people who would suffer if he ran away from my bad behaviour.

Those little people wield incredible emotional power. Bless their little hearts.

Outside of my immediate family, I care about the good opinion of my brother's parents-in-law and a few friends, although this is Scotland, so I also have to forget a lot of stupid stuff the men say, like, for example, "Hey Seraphic, you can make some extra money here" while driving past the row of warehouses where the local tarts troll for custom.

"I think I'm a bit long in the tooth for that," I said mildly, although inwardly annoyed enough to remember it three days later.

But that is only because he is a friend. If I've gotten any of those dumb "Hey, how much?" comments in Scotland, I've forgotten them. At any rate, my therapist of auld lang syne once asked me why I cared so much about what people I didn't even know thought or said about me, and I thought that such a good question, I pass it on to y'all:

Why care so much about what people who you don't even know think about you or say to you?