Last week I wrote that the older I get, the less I care about how I’m perceived by others. I’m noticing that also goes for voicing my opinion, good bad or ugly. Apparently this whole aging thing has dulled my sense of concern in regard to what slips out of my mouth.
Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not condoning being rude or hurtful. Not at all. I’m just saying I no longer feel the need to remain silent when something strikes me as wrong, or to temper my response to please someone when I’m asked my opinion and it happens to be different from theirs.
Generally speaking, I think women (more than men) struggle with confronting friends when they have a criticism, even if it’s constructive. My women friends avoid this scenario at all costs because they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.Often, women tolerate bad behavior, all the while staying mute then venting to others later. Why did she do that? What did I do wrong? The simple solution: Just ask!
Now, instead of holding my tongue when it comes to voicing my opinion, I rarely hesitate to offer mine to perfect strangers, let alone friends.
If I see a gal at the market looking at eggplant, I’m apt to offer her my scrumptious eggplant parmesan recipe.
I’m also an equal opportunity opinion-giver: While shopping, a friend once asked if I liked the pants she tried on. I said I liked the style but they seemed a bit tight to me. She replied, “Great, that’s just how I like them.”
The thing is, I didn’t need to fib to avoid hurting her feelings and that felt good. It’s all in the delivery – the way we say what we’re thinking. I’m finding that honesty isn’t cruel and it doesn’t have to be rude.
In my younger days, I often allowed people to get away with bad behavior. Now I’m apt to speak up. For instance, when a grocery clerk says he’ll take the next person in line and someone at the very back comes forward, I want to say, “Seriously? Are the rest of us invisible to you?!”
Instead I say, “Excuse me, but I believe you were behind us.” The point is I now speak up and that leaves me less inclined to want to smack someone for their selfishness, and I’m no longer regretful for staying silent. So it’s a win-win.
Some people are oblivious to how their actions affect others and some know precisely what they’re doing.
A while back, a nasty woman I know (whose nickname is the Vicious Termite – VT) pulled one of her usual petty stunts to cause trouble at a gathering. In front of everyone, and to VT’s surprise, my friend called her on her shenanigans.
“Tell me why you did it,” my friend said. Since VT is never held accountable for the trouble she creates, she squirmed like a cornered lizard.
Right about then I blurted the answer: “Because she’s a shit disturber.”
It just shot out of me like projectile vomit. Sad to say, some people only respond when smacked in the face with brutal bluntness. And you know what? There hasn’t been a peep out of VT since.My point is, the older I get, the more I realize life is too short to tolerate things I used to, simply because I didn’t want to rock the boat or be thought of as mean or confrontational.
Mark Twain said: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” I think that also applies to speaking up.
So in that regard, I’m taking Twain’s advice to “…throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor…” In other words, rock that boat! Say what you need to say and damn the consequences.That is, however, unless you encounter someone who is mentally unstable, someone carrying a weapon, or someone much, much larger than you. I mean, let’s not be stupid.
Here’s my Eggplant Parmesan recipe:
2 large eggplants
4 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
2 cups (or more) Italian bread crumbs
Olive oil for browning
3 cups tomato sauce (use 2 15 oz. cans if you like more sauce)
½ lb. sliced mushrooms (or more if you like mushrooms), Sauté in butter. (I don’t sauté them. Less fattening, just as good)
12 oz. mozzarella cheese, sliced (I buy the packaged shredded mozzarella – easy peasy).
2 oz. Parmesan cheese, freshly grated (can omit if you like. I don’t notice it when I do)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Peel eggplant and slice ¼ inch thick. Dip into egg which has been beaten with oregano, basil, salt and pepper and granulated garlic. Then dip into bread crumbs. Brown quickly (med-high) in olive oil, turning once. Add more oil as you need it. Drain eggplant on paper towels. In a 9 x 13 casserole dish, put some tomato sauce on bottom so eggplant doesn’t stick. Add a row of eggplant, cover eggplant with ½ of the tomato sauce, put ½ the mushrooms on top of that and ½ the cheese. Repeat for another layer. Add Parmesan to the top. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden and bubbly. If you have eggplant slices left over, make another layer and repeat. You can ad-lib.
Did I mention you had red wine all down the front of your shirt the other night? Is this what you mean? 😉
Susan, that was all your fault for parking so far away and making me walk with red wine in my hand while I was wearing a white top. I’m sure you made me laugh so I spilled. Again, all your fault. Then, to top it off, you had a good laugh about it. I’m glad I accommodated you with a good chuckle (at my expense). Yours truly, your ex-friend, Janet.
Janet-Your post on this subject is especially timely for me today! I know many of us struggle with this everyday challenge, men included! This definitely hit a feeler with me. Challenges withthis element of communication abound in my world…with colleagues, with friends, with family. I love the homage to Nora Ephron’s Heartburn at the end! Just the perfect amount of comic relief for a very real and potentially painful subject. And I’m going to cut up that eggplant on the counter for dinner tonight. Thanks Janet!
Susan, as hard as it is to be honest with friends and family without hurting their feelings, trying to do that in the work place with colleagues is a whole other story! There are so many personalities and power struggles there. In the end I think we are just too darn sensitive for our own good sometimes. Everything is taken to heart and internalized, thought about for days or weeks and then nothing gets said and the relationship suffers over a usually petty incident. People are so interesting…
This was perfect and it fits exactly how I feel. I still need to learn how to say things to close friends as they happen instead of stewing. I find that, the older I get, I mentally write folks off who are not an asset to me. Those who chip away at my self esteem, or don’t put the same effort I have put into our relationship, and those who try to make me second-guess my decisions or my personal beliefs. More power to ya for writing and sharing what we’re probably all thinking and wishing we had all done before now. And that grocery store recipe comment? I do that already. Hate to keep a good thing to myself if it can possibly help someone or make his life easier or more fun.
Thank you for your writings. They are enjoyed by many!
Maria, I’m glad it hit a button for you. I’ve been thinking about this for a while, especially since some stuff happened recently with someone I thought was a friend but really wasn’t. It’s just not worth having certain people in my life when, at the end of the day, I feel worse for having been in their presence. Those are the people I’m learning to let go of and, while I’m at it, let them know why I’ve come to that decision. It’ not easy but it’s very freeing.
Hi Janet: Thanks for the words of wisdom. You are spot on as usual. I have eaten your wonderful eggplant Parmesan. I’ve printed out the recipe and will cook it soon (when the weather isn’t so darn hot and I feel like turning on the oven again).
I should have entered a nice salad recipe instead. WAY too hot to turn on the oven.