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Wednesday, August 12, 2015


I just had the opportunity to visit with some dear old friends from my years in L.A.  It is amazing how when you are with people from a particular time in your life, not only do the memories of that time become sharper and clearer, but you also feel something in yourself shift—you become your “old self” again.  The weight of the years and the losses and the traumas drops away, even if just for the afternoon, and you feel lighter, younger.  It is such a wonderful way to recharge your batteries, renew your soul.  Of course not all of the memories we recounted were happy ones…take it from a writer, happy stories are not quite as interesting as those that include drama, conflict and risk.  One story I told that I hadn’t thought of in years was of attending a “seminar” which turned out to be a recruiting meeting for a cult.  This is L.A., people!  The realization dawned on me pretty quickly into the “seminar” and from that moment on, every molecule of my being was aching to bolt from the room.  So why didn’t I do it?  Because that would not have been POLITE.

It is INCREDIBLE how often being polite, well-raised citizens trumps our common sense, even our self-preservation!  Because I did not bolt from the room when common sense kicked in, I was subjected to an excruciating one-on-one hard sell; as I’m sure you can imagine, it included a lot of subtle shaming and not-so-subtle undermining designed to convince me that I NEEDED this cult not only to thrive, but frankly to survive.  I must have said “No, thank you” about 400 times during my interview, but they continued to call me for weeks afterwards, trying to persuade me to change my mind.  Of course, what I WANTED to say was “BUGGER OFF!!!” (and possibly hack my way out of the room with a machete, if necessary), but I endured the torture and no thank-you-ed my way to the end.  While in L.A. I even had that classic “casting couch” experience, with a man who fancied himself “powerful” offering to help my career if I essentially lived as his concubine.  I said “No, thank you” to him as well, and will never forget the crudeness and vitriol of his response to my polite refusal.  I probably should have told him to bugger off as well, but truthfully?  I felt sorry for him.
Much has been made of our tendency to “over-apologize” as of late; how often have you found yourself saying “I’m sorry” when someone else bumps into you (how dare you be standing there!) or even runs over your foot with a grocery cart (my feet are just so darn big!).  I think this is just the tip of the ice berg.  Of course we want to choose our battles wisely—being confrontational with someone who has bumped into you is probably not advisable—but saying “I’m sorry” is also entirely unnecessary.  Our politeness often belies the intrinsic fact that we are allowed to exist, even if we are currently standing in someone’s way, and that we deserve to be treated with respect.  I have said for years that bullies target the polite; rude people do as well.  Think of that memorable scene in “Terms of Endearment” when the cashier loudly shames Debra Winger for not having enough money to pay for her groceries.  When John Lithgow comes to her rescue and admonishes the clerk for being rude, she shrugs—“I didn’t think I was being rude” and he retorts, “Well, then you must be from New York.”  HA!  Classic.

Speaking of rude people from New York, I hate to even mention him, but Donald Trump (henceforth to be referred to as He-who-must-not-be-named) is undoubtedly one of the RUDEST men on the planet, and is constantly saying the most appalling things; he’s been praised for his “honesty”, but I think he is a zeitgeist for the extreme right wing of 2015.  My way or the highway, every man for himself, “weakness” (AKA empathy) will not be tolerated; in fact NOTHING will be tolerated if it doesn’t fit into the teeny tiny box I have fashioned out of my teeny tiny belief system.  People view his rudeness as empowering and…well, they’re right.  He has tapped into that collective unconscious desire to speak our minds and take no prisoners, but what is happening is that people who agree with He-who-must-not-be-named are emboldened by his idiocy, while those of us who realize he is a crude, intolerant ass sink deeper into our politeness:  I would never say anything like that!   Of course you wouldn’t, but you probably also wouldn’t say “ouch” too loudly if someone did run over your foot with a grocery cart.  See the dilemma?  Sometimes standing up for yourself and your beliefs is “rude”.  Even if your beliefs are not a noxious sinkhole of lunacy.
This is why I am not polite.  *Saying “that hurts” when someone hurts you is often construed as impolite.  Calling someone out on their bad behavior is almost always considered impolite.  Drawing firm boundaries with friends, neighbors and relatives is pretty much the definition of impolite, at least in my experience; people are so damned uncomfortable about doing it, most times it just doesn’t happen.  But fences make good neighbors, and healthy boundaries make respectful relationships.  What is it you are itching to be “rude” about?  A co-worker who treats you like a personal assistant?  A friend who constantly takes advantage of you?  A family member who thinks they should be supported in behavior that should barely be tolerated?  We are afraid to be “rude”, no matter how much we suffer the consequences of our politeness.  But far from being the girl who said “No, thank you” to the man who mistook me for a hooker looking for a “ride” back in my L.A. days (I was wearing KEDS!  And a FLANNEL SHIRT!  SERIOUSLY!), I am no longer terribly polite.  Being “rude” still scares me, but I will confront bullies, name the behavior and never back down in personal relationships when a difficult discussion becomes necessary to clear the air.  Don’t be so polite that you forget that how you feel matters.  Don’t be so polite that you don’t even realize how you feel sometimes.  You matter.  So rip off the bandaid, and don’t forget to say OUCH.  Change can hurt, but without change we stagnate.  It's not "rude" to grow, even if our growth makes other people uncomfortable.  Don't be so polite that you forget that's why we're here.