Dear Tiny Baby,
In today’s world, full of bloggers and trolls, reality TV and paparazzi, and in the midst of Twitter/Tumblr/texting/status updating mania, it is all too easy for people to look at something, give it a quick glance, and dash off a 140-character judgment, never looking back. We all do it. I’ve done it. If I’m in a particularly snarky mood, I freely admit that I’m the first to say something out of irritation with the types of people who never look up from their phone while ordering their coffee or the ones who wear enough perfume to choke a rhino. I’ll whip out my phone and update my Facebook as quickly as my thumbs can type. Do I think twice about it? Not really. I might delete it later, if I realize that I sounded too cruel, but usually I get responses from like-minded people who are irritated by the same things.
Now, that may seem relatively harmless. After all, I’m not calling anyone out by name and I’m not (usually) being particularly mean about it. I usually try to take the humorous route so as not to sound like a total brat. But I almost always catch myself thinking about what I said…and, often, regretting it at least a little. For all I know, that guy was in the middle of a really important conversation that really couldn’t be ignored, no matter the impact on his own schedule. Or maybe he’s just really shy and not comfortable looking the cashier in the eye. Can’t really fault him for that – I have days where I feel that shy, too. It’s tough. Maybe the lady wearing so much perfume has anosmia or something. Or maybe she had to skip her shower today and feels really self-conscious about it. Been there, and it’s no fun.
These are very small examples of the judgments we all pass every single day. Some are way bigger. Throughout your life, you’ll hear people make sweeping generalizations about all sorts of people, from teenagers to the elderly, from atheists to extremists. There is no one – not even God, and no, I’m not kidding about this – who is safe from being judged by others. There’s really no way to avoid judging others. You can’t force yourself not to think something. You can, however, force yourself not to say something.
Let me give you an example. Today, Mommy was out doing a little Christmas shopping. You’ve grown so much that my belly is unmistakable, and strangers are starting to comment. Usually, these comments are of the inquisitive or complimentary nature, which is great. This particular comment, however, was neither of those things.
There was a woman standing nearby with a friend. I saw her look at me, look at my stomach, and shake her head. She then turned to her friend and said, not even bothering to lower her voice for my benefit, “That girl cannot be more than sixteen!”
Well, that was rude. And something in me snapped. I turned to her and said, just as loudly, “Ma’am, I’m twenty-four. And I can hear you.”
The woman didn’t apologize. She didn’t say anything at all, actually. She just blushed and turned away, pretending that nothing had happened. She had been caught, and being caught like that can be a real shocker. I wasn’t exactly expecting her to say anything to me, but may a mumbled “sorry” would have been nice. Just as a courtesy.
What bothered me the most, though, was that she was so quick to assume certain things about me like that…and then not even whisper for my benefit. I’m sure other people have thought the same thing – I do look quite a bit younger than I really am, so I can’t really get upset about that – but at least it isn’t really mentioned. I did have someone else actually ask how old I was and act very relieved when I assured them I was not one of the stars of 16 and Pregnant.
The main thing, though, is this: even if I was only sixteen, that still wouldn’t give her (or anyone else) the right to assume things about me or make comments about me. You’ll hear a lot of phrases like “judge not, lest ye be judged”, “don’t judge until you’ve walked a mile in someone else’s shoes”, and similar sayings, all of which are meant to remind us not to make assumptions about people without really knowing their situation.
Yeah, maybe the guy who snapped at you is just a jerk – or maybe he’s dealing with the scariest time of his life and isn’t in full grip of his emotions. Maybe the slow cashier really is stupid – or maybe he’s new and is a little overwhelmed. And maybe the girl who looks far too young to be pregnant has made some poor decisions – or maybe she is married, in her twenties, and thrilled to be a mommy-to-be, and just happens to look younger than she is.
Whatever the case, always try to remember that there are billions of people in the world with billions of stories. We couldn’t possibly know them all. One of the easiest ways to keep your own sanity (and goodness) is to try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Judge not…lest ye look like a jerk.
P.S. Yes, Mommy is aware that she sounds like a total hypocrite since she is saying this and has no real intentions of ever totally cutting out the snark. A little snark and sarcasm here and there helps keep a mind healthy. However, we will discuss the difference between snark and cruelty when you’re a little older. Trust me – it will help you get through middle school as unscathed as possible if you learn that lesson early.