We each define ourselves. We do it in a variety of ways, and those of us that understand subtlety are able to use these definitions in a positive manner.
I understand the buzzwords, and avoid using terms that will define me as something that I know I am not. Sometimes this takes a little crafting of a response, but in a conversation in which someone has already defined themselves as “intolerant” there is no point in giving them a tangent to pursue rather than addressing the subject of the conversation. On the other hand, when I desire to end a conversation, tossing in a tangent can be like throwing a hand grenade. Any discussion with a woman can be ended with a sudden look of confusion and the words “Have you put on weight?”
Who and what you are is expressed in everything you do and say. Oddly, the people most likely to see themselves as “sensitive” tend to be the least likely to see themselves. They wear a mask, claiming to believe something that they don’t actually stand behind with their actions. How often have you seen someone blow up and accuse someone of “judging them”, in the midst of passing their own judgement?
When I worked at the winery, we would take trips to other vineyards, often for a couple of days. On one trip when we were choosing rooms, some of the other males asked if I would mind rooming with “Jim” (not actual name). I liked Jim, and couldn’t understand the undercurrent of the question, so I said “Why, does he snore?”. “No, he’s gay” was the response. No problem, I roomed with Jim. I didn’t know he was gay, maybe because I didn’t care that he was gay. Jim was a nice guy, who had complimented my cooking and often stayed late with his friend (who I could now guess was his lover) and drank with us after work. One night he had a phone call, and stepped outside to talk, “call from the wife” he said. Jim was gay, but it wasn’t all that he was.
On the other hand, “Mike” (also not his actual name) made sure everyone knew he was gay. After a few months it was clear that it was all he was. There was nothing interesting or unusual about him, nothing unique or engaging of empathy. He was less interested in everything, including wine, than he was in his gayness.
You probably know someone like this. Not necessary gay, maybe they’re an Atheist, or a Christian, or a Progressive, or a Conservative. But that is all they are, and by being only one thing, they are even less than that one thing.
I watched a sweet film last week, “Father of Invention” with Kevin Spacey. At one point the character Phoebe (Heather Graham) says “I’m an angry lesbian” to which Spacey’s character says “I know that, what else are you?” to which she has no answer. The film is worth your time, there are a number of good messages in it. One of which is (spoiler alert) she was only angry, it was a mask.
There are reasons to wear a mask that are not dishonest. Sometimes a mask is like the shell of an egg, all that is holding a person together. I wore the mask of a strong person when Emma was dying, I was falling to pieces but couldn’t let anyone know. When people wear masks and aren’t aware of it, we call it “cognitive dissonance”, or even “psychosis”. We can hold up a mirror, but unless we are psychoanalysts, there is no point in carrying the lesson any farther.