Thursday, April 29, 2010

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

Last night I yelled at my friend. I'm not really proud of it but in all fairness I would probably do it again. There is one sure fire way to provoke me into raving madness: "You wouldn't understand."

This phrase has been said to me countless times and has yet to lose it's ability to make me crazy. Not only does it attack my cognitive reasoning but my ability to empathize (the last feeling I truly think I possess). It's discriminatory and insulting to the person you say it to, and makes you look smug. Worse, it is almost always wrong.

I've heard this all my life. It's usually in context to my age but has also been used in conjunction with my skin colour, educational background, religion, sexual orientation, and economic status. Interesting, all things recognized as protected classes by the government.

I was raised to think before I speak and I'll be the first to admit, I'm not very good at it. My verbal filter is eternally clogged and I say whatever comes to mind much of the time. However, I don't pretend to be the expert when I'm not and I don't give an opinion where I don't have one. When I say something, I mean it and I probably have good reason for it as well.

The worst offenders of said unfortunate phrase? Women. We believe our problems are our own and that no one has ever been in the same position as us. We believe our feelings are unique. We believe no one understands us. We are wrong.

Much has been said about being a guys girl. Chelsea Handler, at her show Saturday, said there's a reason for girls without girlfriends; they're cunts (her words, not mine. You know how I feel about the "C" word). Even as a "guys-girl", I've always tried to maintain a few female relationships. There are certain things you don't want to talk to your male friends about, and besides; they usually don't want to go find the perfect sandals or visit Sephora with you. All this being said, I have never heard the above from one of my guy friends- ever. If we get into an argument it usually resolves itself when one of us gets hungry or tired or admits defeat. It is understood that anyone can understand your position if you explain it properly. It is also understood that doing so does not mean they will agree with you.

My anger last night did not originally stem from my friend but the situation she was explaining to me. It upset me greatly and deeply (I was practically shaking). On reflection, I can see how this might have been misinterpreted. However, when the phrase "You just wouldn't understand" was mentioned... What would be the point in talking to someone who would be unable to understand? You might as well talk to a brick wall or a child.

What I regret is not walking away fully when I tried to (another thing- let people walk away. this goes for everyone. We teach our children to walk away from confrontation, yet we keep trying to pull them back in; even as adults). I regret the number of times I said "bullshit". I regret joining the conversation when it was clear it was serious and I just wanted to have a good time. I regret any discomfort caused. But, I don't regret anything I said, maybe just how I said it.

So please, for the love of Pete (whoever he may be), stop saying this phrase.


  1. I'm not sure anything I say will be productive, but...

    I don't think the words "you wouldn't understand" were actually uttered. And that's all I'll say.

  2. First, I respect you and your blog and I don’t mean to or intend to hijack your blog. I believe dissenting opinions, even with your friends, are healthy and important. I do however agree that at a bar on a fun social night, I picked the wrong night not to just shut the hell up. With that said…

    I would never intentionally disrespect you. (And I’m aware that this blog was written as a “in general” and not just pertaining to the discussion last night, but it’s also specific enough that I think this applies). This is a very personal issue to me and something I’m sure I’ll drone on about later on my blog, but for now I’d just like the chance to explain what I meant. I genuinely do not think that I ever said, ‘you wouldn’t understand’. I hate those words and it’s not much like me to presume what anyone has been through. What I more likely said was, ‘I think you’d be surprised how different you feel when faced with this situation’. That doesn’t mean that you haven’t faced things similar, it wasn’t personal, I meant that I was surprised how different I felt when I was actually faced with a situation that quite literally broke my heart because it was WOMEN who held me down, didn’t promote me, and essentially were the discriminators. I thought if I ever faced something like that I would stand up and yell and holler and sue for what was right, but my point last night (which is still to this day one of the hardest decisions I’ve EVER made) was that there isn’t always ONE right way. A lot has been and will be done with MANY different means of making a difference and sometimes STAYING actually takes just as much courage. Unfortunately I just don’t believe there is a one size fits all right and wrong in this situation. It sucks, it’s not fair, and my whole point last night was that I don’t feel like anyone can truly understand how I felt that day, when it happened to me, because what I thought I felt in theory was changed in the blink of an eye when I was standing there face-to-face with it.

  3. I tried to be specifically vague in who and what I was talking about to respect your privacy. While last night inspired this post, it isn't the only situation that warrants it. However, in the fairness of complete disclosure, I guess I will respond here instead of in an email.

    I'm not even sure how to respond. I respect your position and feelings even if I think they're wrong, because you are not me and I am not you. It seems true that opinions and feelings change, I'm sure we've all been there. It's equally easy for me to say that would not be the case for me in this particular situation. Of the things I've experienced, my feelings haven't changed although how I react to them has.

    It's like people telling me one day I'll want to get married and have kids. No, I fucking wouldn't. I'm almost 30 and I have a pretty solid idea of how I'd like that part of my life to go thank you. In the same way, it's amazing to me (fascinating may be a better word) when another person does change their feelings or thoughts about something major. It confuses the heck out of me!

    I hope this discourse and my blog will be interpreted as apologetic and we can move on and forget it ever happened. Not surprisingly, I'm very good at that. I value you as a friend not to mention an awesome human being.

    This is the beautiful thing about memory- it's completely subjective. I know that phrase was uttered and I know by whom.

  4. We may not act like men in the way we move on (no good bar room brawls to laugh about later), but I agree that we can certainly move on and not worry about it again. I'm glad you wrote about it, I'm glad that we don't always agree 100%, and I'm glad I had a chance to present my thoughts sans alcohol and social good times. I actually think the conversation in itself, maybe not the location/time chosen (oops), was a good one and interesting.

    Next topic! :)