Write about an experience you had when you spoke up, even though you were afraid (and I know it was stupid of me to be afraid, but I've always hated conflict—though obviously I'm getting better at that, I think). Or, think about the main character in your work-in-progress and write about him or her doing something brave.
You know what? Last night I was just thinking that I was in the mood for a Monday Morning Warm-up!
I couldn’t figure J out.
In some ways, he acted like such a country bumpkin … but he had lived in Chicago for several years, which is not exactly the boonies.
Shortly after I started working at BCM, we did the Lunch Room Chat thing, where you exchange tidbits of history. When I told him I had lived in Los Angeles for eighteen years, he said, “Oh! I don’t think I could live in L.A.”
“Really?” I said. “It’s just like any other big city, except hotter. And more smog. And more actors. Beautiful people wanting to be discovered.”
“Hmm,” he said. “It seems like such a promiscuous place.”
You know, you’re right, I felt like saying. I’m glad I moved to Portland so I could give up table-dancing and sleeping with strange men.
I chuckled. “Well, maybe it seems that way based on what you see on TV,” I said. “But it’s full of regular people, too.”
So I wasn’t especially surprised when J made a homophobic remark one day in my hearing. He just seemed like that kind of guy.
It was a long time ago, so I don’t remember the exact remark. In fact, the comment I kind of remember is so sickening that I won’t repeat it.
I was shocked, but he said it with a such a smile that I couldn’t respond. Surely that was a joke. J was a church-going guy with three young kids. Surely he wasn’t serious … what if one of his kids ended up gay?
At the time, I did not answer, except to look at him in puzzlement.
But I spent the next hour stewing and simmering. I was new at BCM, still getting to know people. I hadn’t planned on making a stand so early. But I didn’t want this guy to think I agreed with him, or that he could feel free to utter ugly ignorant remarks in my presence.
Shaking, I approached him.
“Um, J? I just wanted to tell you that I was offended by what you said earlier.”
J looked instantly concerned. At heart he was a nice guy and wouldn’t intentionally offend someone. He didn’t know what I meant.
I repeated his earlier remark back to him, then added, “I have friends and relatives who are gay,” I said, my knees wobbling. “And they’re people just like anyone else.”
It’s hard to speak up.
In fact, a lot of people probably don’t do it, because it feels shaky and naked to confront someone.
But if you feel shaky and naked, it probably means it’s even more important that you do it, because the original remark is so ignorant you’re scared to acknowledge there are people who feel that way.
A few years later I met J's sister.
Maybe she hadn't come out to him yet. But I think he figured it out around that time.
After I'd worked at BCM for awhile, I didn't feel nervous about confronting the co-worker who accused some vendors of being “too Jewish” for not sending us treats at the holidays.
The company had grown by that time, too. I was the third person to approach him with the news that I was offended. :-)