You think I don’t see you there, but I do.
You’re everywhere regular people are- your eyes ready for judgement, your fingertips itching for the keyboard so you can post your assumptive anonymous letter online. It’s too difficult to just say “Good morning” to the guy on the track. You’d rather just assume that his reasons are the same as yours and applaud silently from a distance. It’s too much work to think of him as another runner and instead he must be “Fatty”.
It’s too scary to say “Cute kid, how old?” to the mom on her phone in the park and give her a real life break from her frustration at this being the 11th straight hour that she’s had to hear “I’m a Princess” in that voice that was cute for 9 hours before it became a shrill, terrifying battle cry.
It’s too hard to turn around and say “That’s awful. Rape isn’t about physical attractiveness, it’s about fucked up people doing fucked up things to other people, and I think it’s fucked up that you’re trivializing it.” Or “Well, I’ll have to tell the rape survivors I counsel THAT’S the problem,” or “For some people, that kind of joke is really hard to hear.” Or even a simple, poignant “WOW” after hearing someone say “you’re too ugly to rape.”
I get it. It’s really, REALLY hard to act on your passionate feelings when you’re feeling them. It’s much easier to be poetic about it later, when the people committing the acts are nowhere around to understand your appreciation or disapproval.
Somewhere in your past you got the idea into your head that this is what writers do- they observe and report their biased opinion about what they think they saw. The world is not there for you to experience, it’s there for you to squash into your prefabricated boxes and damned be the person who tries to expand your world.
Here’s what you don’t see: The people you are mentally exploiting, using for blog fodder and validation of your own shitty feelings are people. Real live people with real live thoughts, problems, and feelings. If you think they’re doing it right- the option is always open to tell them so. If you think they’re doing it wrong- you have the option to tell them that, too.
But that’s not for you. You’re better than that. You avert your gaze from the woman nursing her child in public even as someone walks by and sneers. You have the perfect comeback, but you can’t bring yourself to support the woman in the moment. You’ll write an anonymous letter to her later, and to the snarling idiots who can do nothing but stare. You couldn’t possibly express any kind of solidarity or draw any attention to yourself. What if someone SEES you?
But you need to realize that you ARE one of the sneering idiots. You feel there is no condescension in your gaze, but real people don’t have the superpower that allows them to see into other people’s souls like you do.
But you voice your silent support from the safety of your keyboard. You come up with a sexy title too, maybe “To the Mom who Pulled out a Boob in the Museum”.
You are a person too, with thoughts and feelings but you don’t let other’s experience that unless they’re subscribed to your account. You express them from behind your username and persona because, let’s face it, you aren’t all that interesting otherwise.
The thing that is really sad about this is that you are that interesting. Give other people the chance to see it. Let other people know that you exist. Open your mind to their worlds. Turn your stories from “Dear Person I’ve Never Met and Have a Bunch of Assumptions About” into “Here’s an Actual Story About an Actual Experience that I Actually Experienced.” Maybe iPhone Mom needs to talk to someone who’s vocabulary consists of more than “Mommy” in order to remember that there is more to life. Maybe she needs to be reminded that she DID go to the park to hang out with her kids and to put the phone down. Maybe “Fatty” would appreciate the runner-to-runner nod, or a brief chat about “how often do you come out here? In this weather, too!” instead of being gawked at and publicly shamed as “Fatty”. Maybe Boob Mom NEEDS someone to provide the comeback for her or for someone to notice that she has dropped her ticket and doesn’t want to shuffle the baby around to pick it up. Maybe she doesn’t have any emotional reaction to the jeers and stares because she’s doing the normal, correct thing and the artwork is really interesting to her. Maybe Rape Jokers just need someone to shine a light on the fact that rape is a terrible, terrible thing that happens to way too many people.
They say you only get one life, but that’s not quite true. You have the ability to empathize with others, walk a mile in their shoes, touch their lives. Maybe your smile and kind words will be what prevents a suicide today. Maybe your harsh vocal nudge or judgmental comment will be what reminds someone that they’re walking the path they were so determined not to.
I don’t mean to be harsh. The world NEEDS people like you- to stand up and BE what you believe in.
With love, and a little condescension,