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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Opening My Big Fat Mouth

There’s a thing my family members said for years – father, mother, sisters, and me – when telling about a situation that bothered us in some way but in which we kept our mouths shut: “I could have said something!” A continuation of the sentence was sometimes spoken, always implied: “But I didn’t!” I don’t know if both our parents came into the marriage with this phrase or if one of them got it from the other, but they both used it all the time, and we, their daughters, learned to use it, too. It was usually said with a little sniff of superiority and a lifting of the chin, saying louder than words that, in not saying anything, we had taken the moral and spiritual high ground. I think the real truth is that we were too shy, too afraid to speak out, but we wanted to hide the fear in something that made us look better -- to ourselves, if to no one else.

So now, if some of my adult friends today think I’m too much of a crank, this is my explanation: I spent too many years of my life not saying anything, letting ignorant or insulting or offensive or mistaken or hurtful remarks go unchallenged. For too long, I unnecessarily gave ground. I said nothing when I should have said something. 

True, there are times when saying anything is pointless and times when saying something once and then shutting up is about all that’s worth doing. But there are also times, and there are issues, when not saying anything or shutting up too soon is the worst cop-out possible. Listening is always important, but so, often, is speaking out. And I do not want the inscription on my metaphorical tombstone (probably the only kind I’ll ever have) to read: “She could have said something – but she didn’t.”