A few weeks back my husband and I had dinner with a couple that we are somewhat friendly with. I say somewhat because I would not consider them really close friends but rather friends we socialize with a few times a year. We have been to their home for holiday parties, they have been to our parties, and we have had dinners together. I am fonder of the wife than I am the husband. The reasons for that will become clear.
This particular dinner was held at our home on our lovely new paver patio. They arrived around dinner time. I prepared some appetizers; we shared two bottles of wine, ate food from the grill and later enjoyed a fabulous dessert. The entire event lasted about four hours.
At one point in the evening, my husband left with friend’s wife to go make coffee or prepare something in the kitchen. I am outside with the husband and we are having conversations ranging from politics to social mores to religion. I should note this gentleman is very religious and I am not. He is also very conservative and I am not. He is also approximately 20 years older than me. I share all that for context.
Some part of the religious conversation turned him towards “gays, fags and homosexuals”. I am physically startled at his crass words. I gulp but let him rant on. He is a passionate guy, opinionated, strong willed, fixed in his conservative, white male, religious beliefs.
As he continues to go on about the fags of the world, he hones in on lesbians.
“Can you tell me why those dykes use strap ons? If you have no interest in the male form, why do you purchase and use products that are clearly derived from the male? I don’t get it. They are all a disgrace. A sin against the Lord. Freaks and faggots” he says VERY loud.
I squirm a bit. Okay, I squirm A LOT. This man is everything I am not. His beliefs are at total odds with who I am and how I live my life. Having had many challenging conversations with this man in the past, not being much of a fan of him, I ponder if I really want to get into this conversation with him. I evaluate how much this conversation really means to me, how much this relationship means to me and how often I see this gent. Most importantly, I wonder how he will respond if I let him know that I have a “gay” “fag” “dyke” daughter (she prefers queer femme but I assume I would have to speak his language to make an impact). I consider commenting sarcastically that I don’t know if she uses strap on sex toys but if she ever talks to me again I might consider asking her. I then realize that would lead to a discussion of why she doesn’t talk to me, her adopted status and likely his approval of her being given to strangers when I was young and unwed. I have an entire conversation and debate with him in my head. I decide I am not going to comment, not going to engage him.
This may be shocking to some people. For me, it amounts to evaluating the investment I have in the relationship and where I want it to go in the future.
I have zero investment in this guy. It is his wife I like. We see them a few times a year. He is not someone I would ever be close with, would ever want to see on a regular basis. His opinions, his views are not mine and never will be. I am also quite confident that mine will never be his.
I could consider telling him he is offensive. I could get agitated. I could stomp off. I could throw things. I could engage in a lengthy discussion to try to convince him, show him, how he is wrong and ignorant and more.
I don’t bother. I don’t believe it will benefit me in any way and frankly, I don’t care. His views are a reflection of him and not of me.
This is tangentially related to my approach with my mother when she is offensive. I don’t believe I can change her views (meaning get her to understand how her words effect me) so why should I bother? I have no skin in the game at present. Sure, we can cite that my relationship with her is limited in its depth but if I am okay with that, why bother continually telling her how she is offensive? What would that accomplish besides causing constant friction between us? I wince from her comments and ignorance (regardless of how it came about) consider the source and move on.
The husbands’ behavior – and my mothers – may be inexcusable as PB suggests. I suppose I am just dealing with it and accepting it as it is, not trying to excuse it.
I move on and fight bigger battles.