A couple of years ago Jose and I went to The Museum of Tolerance here in L.A. My parents grew up in England during the Second World War, so I’m interested in that period of history, and I wanted to learn more about the Holocaust. MOT is a beautifully designed museum, both the external building, and it’s interior content. But we ended up leaving after only half an hour. Here’s why:
The museum only offers guided tours. You have to travel in a group and stop for the prescribed amount of time at each exhibit and be given all the information either by audio, or by watching a video, or reading. There’s no lingering over especially interesting bits and no jumping forward over areas that don’t grab your attention. For me (and this is a highly rated museum, so this is just my opinion) I felt that I was being force-fed my Holocaust education. The Museum of Tolerance wasn’t very tolerant of my ignorance.
Now, I’m an adult who took a free day from work and chose to visit this museum for my own edification. I have a college education, so I know how to learn under my own power. I wanted to be trusted to take the information and form my own thoughts. I wasn’t given that chance, and so I left, sadly, with my education.
I think that the majority of people out there in the world don’t understand the decision to be childfree and don’t understand how it feels to be childless-not-by-choice. I would say that most of us didn’t understand it either before we had that experience. I believe that we have an obligation to educate, to explain, to show people the other side of the story, but we can’t force-feed that education. The people in the restaurant last week got my back up with their closed minded opinions, but stomping over there and giving them a piece of my mind would have accomplished what? Nothing. Those people didn’t want to be educated, especially not by a complete stranger.
What I can do is work with the people who do mean something to me. When a well meaning (genuinely well-meaning, because there are some actual mean people out there) says something upsetting I have the choice to take the opportunity and explain my side of the story and why I’m upset, or let it go. Getting my hair all on fire and yelling about how insensitive they are isn’t going to help.
We need to talk, educate, explain, show, but only when the audience is willing and only for as long as they’re willing to listen. Bit-by-bit, we can tell our side of the story, and bit-by-bit, we can change the way other people view us.