Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Stressing out about friends who lie in wait for me to fail at being their friend

In this lifetime, here's my advantage: people usually get to know me before they decide whether or not to hate me. God knows I can be an asshole on occasion and some people really don't like me. The good news is that I earned my haters one by one. I was born a whitebread majority in terms of race and sexual orientation. I might get a few points deducted for knowing too many yiddish words, but luckily this isn't twenty years ago and I don't live in a red state.

My experience with discrimination and its side dish of festering hate may be limited to Rush Limbaugh, certain other misogynistic commentators and the politicians they pay. Although these talking heads clearly hate powerful or outspoken women, they (probably) don't hate all women sight unseen.

My point is this: I have no viable personal experience being despised for what I am, not who I am. I simply cannot empathize with my gay and non-white friends because empathy requires a shared experience and I have not experienced castigation for simply being myself.

Don't get me wrong. Just because I cannot empathize does not mean that I am not affected by the vitriol directed at some of my dearest friends and family. When the washed-up former child stars and angry pulpiteers shriek their hysterical rhetoric, I watch their lips. I see thick black putrid sludge spewing toward me and I can feel it rotting my soul.

That I am a "majority" is no secret. Nor are my unshakable bonds with those who are not. So why, in the middle of a lovely morning or late night or walk in the park with certain non-majority friends, do I sometimes feel the niggling awareness that I am being watched and judged? I steel myself in case I'm pounced on for saying something that shows I don't fully understand the plight of my companion. Of this there is no uncertainty. I do not fully understand. So perhaps it is too much for me to ask for their understanding for my lack thereof and to teach me what I can't hope to learn by myself.