In honor of the intersection between Random Anecdote Friday and What’s Up With Work Week, here is a little vignette from the cube farm which played out just this morning.
The woman who sits in the cube adjacent to mine is not someone I work with very often, but she seems to be competent in her role at the agency and perfectly nice human being as well. She has some interests which might preclude us from being best friends (e.g. she’s a diehard Dallas Cowboys fan, though at least I can respect how against-the-grain that is here in Redskins country) but really, bottom line, I have nothing against this woman. So there was no baseline pre-existing annoyance to start with when she and a couple of other women in the office got to conversing before settling in for the daily grind.
What they were talking about was Twilight, because my cube-neighbor had gone to the Thursday night showing of Breaking Dawn Part 1. I do have a standard level of animosity towards all things Twilight, for reasons which I am going to huffily assume are self-evident in order to get on with the story. Personal antipathy aside, though, it’s a big whatever and other people can talk about it within earshot and I will do my best to tune it out. Which is more or less what I did, so I kind of missed the part where they segued into talking about Harry Potter movies. (Maybe it was the whole splitting-the-final-installment-into-two-movies parallel, maybe it was how the original books in both series were written for 12 year olds, I really don’t know.) My eavesdropping kicked back in, though, when my cube-neighbor started very adamantly saying “no, no, no” to the very concept of Harry Potter. She said, “I’ve never seen those. And I never will. Because, you know. It’s too much against what I’m supposed to believe, wizards and all that.”
Now, granted, I also knew before today that my neighbor is a serious Christian who’s not above a little casual testimony in conversation. I probably could have extrapolated that she’s more sympathetic to people who think J.K. Rowling promotes an unhealthy laxness about suffering witches to live than, for instance, I am. But I still thought that admitting she dismisses Harry Potter out of hand was thuddingly lame. And yet before I could even mentally draw the “hypocrite much?” card, my co-worker went on, “Of course, I’m not supposed to be into Twilight either and all that occult vampire business but I sure got sucked into that!”
Ordinarily that would have scored some mitigating points in my estimation, at least being self-aware enough to acknowledge inconsistencies and contradictions, even if that doesn’t prompt an immediate re-evaluation of how loudly you’re going to declare yourself pro- one thing and anti- another. But set all that aside, and seriously? Seriously. People. OWN YOUR OWN SHIT.
I am as usual paraphrasing slightly because I don’t have a recorded transcript of the conversation, but I think I’ve captured the spirit of it. Specifically, my neighbor’s curious formulation of how she’s “supposed to believe” certain things, that the question of whether or not she really believes them or not is secondary to the fact that they’ve been imposed upon her by authority and she accepts them and abides by them. And on the flipside, she “got sucked in” by Twilight somewhere along the line and going to see the penultimate film adaptation was never in question. So it’s nothing personal that she’s not into Harry Potter, it barely has anything to with her at all, she just rejects it because her church tells her to. And it’s not her fault she loves Twilight, because she no longer has a choice now that the story has gotten its hooks into her.
I’m not entirely convinced that the world would be a better place if everyone enjoyed the stuff that I love, and everyone found equally insipid the stuff I abhor. It would probably be a little boring. But I am fairly certain that the world would be a better place if people owned their opinions, instead of foisting them off on external loci of control. It doesn’t even matter if someone genuinely hates something and uses a doctrine of condemnation to justify it and distance themselves from it, or if the person wouldn’t have hated it to begin with but allows someone or something else to dictate their feelings, or if the person really secretly likes something but has to put on the false face of disapproval to fit in with the larger culture/institution. All three of those possibilities are terrible. Just formulate your own opinions and then acknowledge them as your own when called upon to express or defend or act upon them. Imagine what the discourse would be like if everyone could do that.