Judgmentalism, Intolerance, Exclusion...oh my!

I recently had lunch with a friend of mine - a former co-worker - who is 24 years old and single (in the sense that she is not legally married). We met around 12:00pm and ended up chatting away the afternoon until 4:30, at which time I jumped into action because it was time to pick up Brandon!

We had such a great conversation - topics ranging from politics to religion to technology to friendships and views on relationships in general. It was the type of conversation I used to have quite often back in the days of university when I was sitting around with my best friend, getting positively maudlin over our drinks after work. Part of me misses those talks so much, but I know it wouldn’t be the same now that we’re both married with families. Now, we live too far away from each other and we only get to squeeze in an occasional phone call every few months around family and work.

That was one of the topics that came up with my friend. She made the admission - perhaps slightly reluctantly as I’m sure she didn’t want to hurt my feelings - that she had friends who would criticize her if they knew she was sitting down having lunch with a woman who is a mother under 40. In all honesty, I wasn’t the least bit offended and it didn’t surprise me either. Despite all of the entreaties for tolerance and acceptance, there seem to be more judgmental attitudes out in the world today than ever before. People continue to be judged based on unchangeables - race, gender, ethnicity, ancestry, sexuality, etc., and they are judged based on their life choices.

I don’t know what the average age is for a woman to marry now, but I know it’s probably a fair bit older than 23, which was when I got married. Since I met my husband when I was 20, I don’t have an extensive dating history either. I’m sure many would judge me for that as well - I know I got an earful from some of my co-workers back in Florida when they found out I was getting married so young. But what does it really matter? And how is that anyone’s business other than mine?

I had another interesting talk with someone recently along similar lines. I’ll call him Bob and our discussion involved the gay rights debate. Some things Bob said kind of rubbed me the wrong way, such as, “Name one gay couple that’s stayed together longer than 5 years.” I think I cited about three off the top of my head; one I knew of that had been together for something like 40 years. Talk about a major misconception on his part! Bob then told me about an incident where a gay male had tried to assault him sexually. This was very offensive to Bob. I asked how that is different than a heterosexual man forcing himself on a woman. Are they not both equally wrong? To me, something that people - particularly the conservative right, who are against homosexuality - forget is that there’s a major commonality between heterosexuals and homosexuals: we’re all PEOPLE! People deserve respect and consideration regardless of how you feel about their choices in life.

Back to my lunch with my 24 year old friend. When we were discussing her friends’ potential criticism of her having a friendship with someone like me, I brought up the silos that we often end up in, whether we want to or not. If you’re single/dating, it’s pretty usual that you have mostly single/dating friends. Once you get married, it’s common to lose touch or not be quite as close to your single friends. Then come kids and you find you maintain even fewer single friendships and even those who are married and childless seem to fade - at least until they have kids as well. Somehow these major life status changes seem to generate an inability to relate.


I’ve always liked this quote from Abraham Lincoln - I think I learned it from a Sunday school teacher as a child:
I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.

I haven’t always practiced this myself, and I’m not so naive as to think that everyone in the world has to like each other, but it would be nice if some people would just give it a try rather than making snap judgments.

 

I enjoy my friendships with people who are at different life stages. I learn from them and have fun seeing how their lives are playing out. It enriches my life. So, I feel sorry for people who, because of beliefs or biases, don’t want to know people who are in different life situations. We all have something to offer each other and finding common ground isn’t that difficult if you’re willing to work at it. People need to stop judging each other for differences of opinion, lifestyle, beliefs or unchangeables and start discussing differences rationally and respectfully. Maybe then we’ll finally understand, know and - dare I say it - like each other.

My friendship philosophy

We've all learned this lesson at one point or another in our lives (probably more than once). It's pretty simple: sometimes you are willing to be a better friend to an individual than they are willing to be to you. What does that mean? I see it as an imbalance in give and take, i.e., one gives and the other takes (even if they just aren't that into you). :)

I learned this the hard way with a group of people all at once quite a while ago. It was not a fun experience and I swore that I wouldn't let it happen again. As a result, I have a few friends that I like, respect and trust and if I don't get a vibe of interest with new acquaintances, I don't let it bother me.

Of course, we all have our little groups we fit into. I remember, growing up, that everyone talked about cliques and the "in-crowd" or the "out-crowd". I'm sure I cared that I wasn't EVER part of the "in-crowd" at varying points, but I'm actually pretty happy to say that I avoided feeling much angst about it in the long-term.

It's not all that different in the "adult" world. Most of my friends know or have probably guessed that I lived a pretty sheltered, goody-two-shoes life in the Bible belt (and really, I don't think there's a thing in the world wrong with that - it's just a fact of my life). I also think that the ones I trust and respect don't let that affect the way they relate to me. But then I run into the odd person who seems to judge me for being too "wholesome".

What I can't figure out is why it's so hard to relate to me for having a different life path. I don't interview people I meet to find out whether they were/are a smoker, were/are into drugs, etc., and then decide not to associate with them because of their life choices. You are who you are and your experiences shape you and lack of experience doesn't automatically render a person naive and shallow (neither does a wealth of experiences automatically give a person depth).

I genuinely appreciate the different perspectives I get from the friends I have who have backgrounds that differ from mine - we all need a fresh perspective sometimes! I don't judge the choices/actions they've made; it's all part of life and every choice has an impact on who you ultimately turn out to be.

My Two Cents (and what I'll say to Brandon when he's older): Life is too short to waste time putting effort into one-sided relationships. Be thankful for and cultivate genuine friendships that will make you a stronger individual. Most of all, be a good friend to your friends.