Thanksgiving reminded me of something else that’s missing from the world today. When I was a kid, if we didn’t like a type of food, like mincemeat pie, we were instructed to say, “No, thank you, I don’t want any.” We were not allowed to say, “Eww, that’s gross. It smells like @#$%. Only a @&$% would eat that #$@%. Why would you even offer that to me, you ^%$@?”
And yet, what do you hear today? Not just with food choices – although I’ve heard similar reactions when I tell people I don’t eat gluten – but with everything. “Gluten-intolerance isn’t real, you @^$$. Eat it anyway.”
I’m wearing a turtleneck. “Eww, how can you wear those &$$% things? I hate them. I’d never be caught dead in a turtleneck.”
I’m listening to U2. “God what’s wrong with you? That’s not real music. They’re such @#$#.”
I’m reading John Scalzi or Jim C. Hines. “How can you read them, they’re such $#$%.”
(Maybe that should be $#$%s. I’m not sure whether you just as an s to make it plural or if you should double the % or add an e before sticking on an s or if it works in singular form.)
The point being, if you don’t want mincemeat pie, what’s wrong with just saying, “No thanks”? Once in a while someone might respond with, “Oh, go ahead, try a bite, you might like it.” But I don’t recall any of them being rude. You’d just say no thanks again, and that would be the end of it. Oh, occasionally Aunt Froo-Froo would absolutely insist you take some of her peanut butter-Jello salad, but even if it did come to that, you could put a tiny amount on your plate and poke at it a little, just to make her happy. You didn’t have to eat it.
But today no one seems to know how to say, “No, thanks,” anymore. And it’s not just because they don’t like mincemeat pie. They want the whole world to know that they DO NOT like mincemeat pie and they DO NOT want to even be associated with it. Because if you even put them in the same zip code with mincemeat pie, they’ll turn into a #$@%.
One guy nearly cussed me out once because I was listening to the Monkees. With my headphones on. He didn’t even have to hear the music. The very idea that someone he knew would listen to them tainted everything.
Another guy who was offended because I studied Buddhism. His grandfather had been a Southern Baptist preacher, and while he himself never went to church and didn’t believe in organized religion, the mere idea that I was not paying homage to the Southern Baptist religion was an insult to him and to his long-dead grandfather.
Why? Seriously, it’s a big planet. There’s room for mincemeat pie AND pumpkin pie. And apple and pecan and blueberry and whatever other flavor you like. Or no pie at all, if you prefer. Whether I eat mincemeat or not has no effect on the other pies. It won’t cause you to gain weight or get sick or break out in a rash. You don’t want to wear a turtleneck? Then don’t. I can listen to the Monkees without causing Led Zeppelin to start wearing rainbow tutus and singing Barney songs. What really gets me is that I didn’t even ask him if he wanted to listen to the Monkees. I didn’t try to convert the other guy to Buddhism. They assumed that because I was doing – or eating, or wearing, or reading, or thinking – something different from what they were that I demanded they drop their own likes and be just like me.
I won’t force mincemeat pie down your throat if you don’t want any, and I expect that you won’t force it down my throat, either, if I refuse a piece. My not wanting what you want does not eradicate your own preferences. Saying – or hearing – “no thanks” is not an insult. It’s a choice. And multiple choices can exist simultaneously. Remember? Land of the free and all that rot? I’m free to eat or not, as I choose. And you can do the same. No need to get your pie fork all bent out of shape because I’m not exactly like you. We can exist here on the same planet without being identical copies of each other.
And now if you’ll excuse me… *walks off into the sunset singing “Randy Scouse Git”.*