don't be mean, and give your future self a present

by Jackie Ferrari in #AmReading

maybe we don’t always have to call everyone out all the time

I was listening to a conversation recently where someone who’d been doing more yoga and exercise said she thought of it as “coming home to her body” which, she said, seemed like a really warm and pleasant approach to her.

Well, the other person responded, maybe—if you’re lucky enough to have good associations with “home” and “body”. But a lot of people don’t.

And… that is indeed true. And the two women were speaking in a public, although very small, forum. So maybe it needed to be called out. But I’m not convinced. I think the second speaker, whose voice had more weight in the conversation because of externalities (race, accomplishment, history) was just being mean.

She was in a position to spank the first speaker and she decided she would.

There was a pause, and then the first speaker acknowledged, as she was expected to, the privilege of having good associations with home and body. And then they moved on, but I sat there, still reacting to the smack that one of these women had just—metaphorically—given the other.

Listen, sometimes you gotta call someone out. You need to say, hey, I see you making an assumption about another human, or a joke that isn’t funny, or setting limits around how many people with such-and-such a characteristic get to join your little club. But I’m with Ross Gay, who declared, in Inciting Joy, an unwillingness to call some things, things everybody should get, “privilege”. People who have happy associations with “home” and “body” should not have to feel bad about it—instead, we should ALL feel angry that some of us don’t.

And also… sometimes using your position of moral superiority to make someone else feel bad isn’t informative, or brave, or educational. It’s just mean. If you make a joke about cosmetic breast surgery and I’ve recently had a mastectomy (I have not, this is just an example) maybe I don’t need to flag that right then and there in front of a crowd. Maybe sometimes, we hear something that gives us a flicker of sorrow. Maybe that’s just life.

A Likely Story: I haven’t loved everything I’ve read lately, so instead of my usual list I offer this single book, which I read last year but waited to share. Pre-order it now if you loved Writers and Lovers or Also a Poet, if you like twisty family stories (that aren’t thrillers), if you suspect there are a lot of men out there who will never realize the privileges that come with that male-ness (this one we do, indeed, call out gleefully when necessary and I assure you that here it is necessary). It’s a delicious literary page-turner. It’s not out until mid-March and I’m sorry, but I’m telling you, reader-March-you wants a present.

I’m also almost finished with Bittersweet, which I returned to when it popped into the news this week as Oprah’s book club pick—which I LOVE, because you know it’s totally real. Oprah, as a reader, picked this up and loved it—nobody gave it to her before publication (well, they probably did, but that’s not why she read it). She’s not making a movie out of it. She isn’t secretly the publisher. She just thinks people should read it—and she’s right. I find myself thinking differently about emotions and grief and relationships on every page.

That’s it from me this week—got to go warm up some BJ’s lasagne and feed a hockey team. But NEXT week—I get to show you the cover of Playing the Witch Card! And I’m going to show you how it evolved, too, because I think that will be fun. Until then—

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