Last week I was grumbling to a friend about how much time I spend looking for my glasses. Seriously, it’s ridiculous. I can never find them and without them, I can’t see clearly enough to find them. I have a list of places I look first – desk, nightstand, purse, bathroom – but it’s not uncommon for me to find them on the stove, on top of the trashcan, on the floor, or in the bed.
“You need to have a place you always put them,” suggested my friend.
I’ve heard the exact thing from my mother for decades, but clearly it hasn’t done me a bit of good. I take my glasses off when I don’t need them and I put them wherever I am at the time.
I rolled my eyes at my friend. “You’re such a mom,” I told her.
Driving home later that day, I reran the conversation in my head and I cringed at the emphasis I’d put on the word mom. I’d used a disparaging tone, suggesting that my friend’s tendency to want to help was something negative.
I thought about the discussions we’ve had here about offhand comments people have made to us that have been so hurtful, and I realized I’d just done the same thing. What if my friend, with a daughter just graduated from high school and preparing to move out into the world, was feeling the pangs of her future empty nest and having a crisis of confidence now that her motherhood services were no longer needed? What if her daughter had said the same thing recently and she’d been stung? What if my offhand comment had really hurt?
We can’t censor everything we say on the off-chance we inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings, or there would be no room for humor in the world, but this incident reminded me that everyone brings their own filters to a conversation and what might be an offhand remark for one person could be hurtful to another.
The same rules apply to us, the other way round. Because of our filters regarding childlessness, infertility, or our choice to be childfree, what feels like a hurtful barb could just be intended as a meaningless throwaway comment. If we can’t censor the world, then maybe we just need to adjust our filters.