Mostly, I’m more than likely to try to get people to show a little more sensitivity than be on the offending side — the few times I’ve gotten told off by the PC
police I’ve laughed off, like the time I was told not to read Charles Darwin
in public so as not to afflict some evangelicals nearby. I generally don’t have much contact with “overprotected Millennial snowflakes
” so-called. Mostly the ones I’ve met were kind of Crusader Rabbit
types, the kind of young folks who are idealistic, brave and determined to Do Good — except there isn’t any real need for their particular kind of bravery. So, having no Moors to fight, they tilt at windmills, feeling satisfied they’re really fighting giants. In short, mostly harmless, until...
I got kicked out of #Struggle Meals on Facebook.
A loosely organized community comprised of fans of Frankie Celenza’s cooking show of that name, most of the threads were about cooking problems, tips, tricks and general frugality: I have been gifted with gallons of heavy cream, what do I do with it? Will it freeze? (Yes.) I treated allergies the same way I did every other kind of design stricture — if someone said no meat and no wheat I would lean on my rice recipes, and specified tamari. I gave out a few ideas, dropped a few threads when they looked like more trouble than they were worth, and generally tried to act civil.
However, there were quite a few people who used the group as their Agony Aunt. Confessions were rife: a good number seemed unable to write for the group without giving out with detailed sob story autobiographies. I tended to tune them out: to me, they just sounded more apologetic than emotionally needy, the kind of person who might say “I’m really not the kind of person who would otherwise…(take a bag lunch to work, take home half their entree from a restaurant, go on food stamps, etc.) … but, well, needs must.” Meanwhile, they had a peck of pears, and a sack of dried beans, and I had a recipe for cooking one with the other….
And then, there was yesterday.
On my way to a mammogram, I read about a young woman who had just gotten her first shared apartment with her boyfriend in NYC, and she said she had to “count her Penny’s”. (Reading her profile, I learned that she was white, evangelical, college-educated, and had worked in several craft stores, and was currently attempting to making a living selling crocheted items on Etsy.) I read this two or three times, and got the nagging feeling of hearing a choir singing flat. So, I good-naturedly said “I hope I’m not out of line, but..” and corrected her usage, adding that capitalization != emphasis. “The only one I’ve seen who does that is the President, and even he can’t carry it off."
Cue the dog pile. This is a safe space, I was told. People come here for support. How unbelievably cruel and heartless and bullying I must be IRL. I was referred to an essay on Medium where some Asian-American woman was triggered by a rather vulgar attempt to play grammar cop and concluded that insisting on common standards of grammar and spelling on the Web was “bigoted, classist, and ableist” and blamed this for all the people who told her that she “was surprisingly well-spoken”. (Would I say that to George Takei? I think not!) She was writing this as an essay instead of simply telling the boor off, because, she said, she was a Nice Person, and Nice People don’t do that. Passive-aggressive much?
I tried to apologize as well as I could, saying that I wasn’t doing anything that I don’t often do other places (like here) and I was acting out of “grandmotherly kindness”. (It’s a Zen thing, meaning something like “I’m only doing this to save you even worse embarrassment in the future”, however they don’t need to know that.), and said I was going to creep off and lick my wounds. I got an even worse response, accusing me of “not showing do respect” and of making trolling remarks about the President. (Penny wasn’t saying a word.) After thinking hard about my next move, including pointing out that this kind of polishing can lead to liberation from bigotry, class, and ableism (and I can think of several Netizens whose RL identities would be unguessable if placed in a lineup) I wrote all the scathing fury I could think of in a blank file, and then erased it. Any further remarks from that thread I decided to simply throw away, unread.
Cut to next morning. I tried going back onto the group, hoping to give feedback about the ideas for new episodes (yes to eggplant, nix to sushi)…and found myself wiped from view, and memory. I couldn’t find my place in browser history. If I logged off the group was still there, all right, but as soon as Facebook knew who I was, I couldn’t even find it in a directory. When the doctor told me to go back to the Breast Health Center for a follow-up I didn’t know what was more unsettling (I very likely took a wrong breath, or something. Also I have a sebaceous cyst that recurs on that side.) I sent Penny a more sincere apology.
So, I’m out. I suppose I’ve been licked. But maybe I’m better off. I still miss it, though.