A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

This is an attack. This is not me “reading between the lines”

Posted by Pepper on January 16, 2012

We as a society, have always been critical of each other’s choices. More often than not, if your choices don’t match with the ones made by the next person in line, he or she will try telling you that you did not choose right. I wonder why humans are made that way. With time, we as a species have only become worse. I have noticed a new trend in which we criticize the other person’s choice without saying a word to them. These indirect digs are much worse and harder to deal with, because it leaves the victim defenseless. I am going to speak with several examples.

“I do not believe in sucking the blood of other animals for food”, said my vegetarian friend to me. It angered me beyond words. Why can’t you just say you don’t eat meat? Why criticize those who do? “Oh, I am not criticizing anybody. I said I think eating meat means sucking on the blood of other beings. I only spoke for myself. Did I say anything to those who eat?”, she asked me. Yes, I said. You just called every meat eater a blood sucker, without saying a word to them directly. Now, I quit eating meat a few years ago myself, but I would never be so vicious towards those who enjoy a good piece of chicken. I made my choice, you make yours.

We’re all familiar with the Stay At Home Mom Vs the Working Mom debate, aren’t we? I happened to witness one in person. The stay at home mom, while talking to the working mom, said “I want to be there for my child at every stage, I can’t imagine leaving him with strangers. I want to welcome him with open arms when they come back from school, I want to spend time playing with him and nurturing him. These years are precious. I would never give it all up to go out and earn some money. The money fades in comparison. My child is worth a lot more….” She went on, and on, and on.  I wanted to ask the lady to shut the hell up! The working mom just nodded, looking stricken. The stay at home mom had not said a word criticizing the choice the working mother had made, not directly atleast. But what is the working mother supposed to take out of her statements? That money is more important to her than her child? That she doesn’t care to spend these “precious” years with her baby and so on and so forth? How can she even fight back? Because the stay at home mom is only speaking for herself, after all!

Now I very strongly dislike men with a  moustache. That is fine, isn’t it? We are all allowed to have our own likes and dislikes. I know girls who dislike men without a moustache. Fine, again. I don’t see anything wrong in having preferences. But sample this conversation. Me and a friend are talking to a third friend, who recently got engaged to a guy who has a moustache. My friend, also somebody with a strong dislike for moustaches told our newly engaged friend, “I just hate men who have a moustache. Stubble I can tolerate, but moustache? Eww! They are meant for people from our father’s generation. I associate moustaches only with old uncles. We are young girls. If I ended up having a partner who has a moustache, I would feel I am marrying an uncle of mine”. I was horrified when she said all this to our newly engaged friend, who just smiled. What can she say? After all, the friend is only stating her own opinion, not saying anything to her directly.

I have experienced these indirect digs a million times in the past year. Most girls would look at me and tell me, “Oh my God, I cannot imagine being financially dependent on my partner. I need to have my own money. If I didn’t, I would never be able to respect myself at all…” etc. I would keep quiet and smile. They could have said the same thing to me in one line “I would not like being financially dependent on my partner”. That is fine, a personal choice like I call it. But saying things like “I would not be able to respect myself at all?”, now what message am I supposed to take home from here? That if I am not earning, I shouldn’t respect myself? Even if I don’t subscribe to that theory myself, it tells me I am doing something wrong. It tells me I am supposed to feel that lack of respect for myself. That it is abnormal if I am able to respect myself despite not earning. I am now strong enough to discard that message before it reaches my brain, but there are plenty of people who are not. They are the ones whose interiors are crumbling.

I know a lot of people who say we should be confident about the choices we make. So much so, that we shouldn’t bother about how the world justifies theirs. While I agree to an extent, I also believe the society we live in is getting increasingly malicious. So not only do I feel the pain that these indirect jabs cause me, I am also accused of “reading between the lines” and being too insecure about the choice I have made? Sorry, however confident and secure I am about what I have chosen, if you hit me below the belt, it will hurt. Stop blaming me for feeling the pain! If I am bleeding, it is not because I lack a thick skin, it is only because you injured me that brutally.

I do realise this is a fine line to walk. The thing with choices is that they take a side. Not everybody is on the same side. And each time you justify a choice, you are inevitably going against the other side. I have always been very open about my desire to move back to India. The other day somebody asked me why I wanted to move back. I was about to say, “because I cannot imagine letting my parents grow old alone. I want to  be there for them when they need me”, but I stopped. By saying that, am I not guilty of the same behaviour? I am telling people who have chosen to live here that they do not care about their parents as much as I do, that they don’t want to be there for them when their parents need them. Honestly, saying that to them was not my intent. So I modified my words and said “I want to stay closer to my parents”. I did my part and tried to be more sensitive. It might have still hurt somebody, but atleast I did what I could to lessen that hurt.

I’ve thought about this for long. Sometimes if people question you and ask you to justify your choice, you have no other option but to speak honestly. And that honesty might hit somebody where it hurts. So this is how I go about it. I do not justify my choice to somebody unless asked. If I am questioned and I have no option but to speak the truth, I try to be as gentle as possible and say what I have to without attacking the other. I do believe all of us need to be more sensitive towards each other. I realise I am quite opinionated on my blog. I do justify my choices, without being asked, but this is the only place where I am true to myself. I do it here because I know, somebody who dislikes what they read always has the option of exiting this page. If only we could do the same with people whose unwanted opinions are thrust upon us…


80 Responses to “This is an attack. This is not me “reading between the lines””

  1. SK said

    Hey pepper
    You know you sound just like me, 5 years back. Your thought process, outbursts etc, I can associate with a lot.
    Regarding the topic at hand, I say people will talk what they talk, we cannot control their actions, words, we can only control how we let it affect us, or how we react to it. It may be tough to practice, I found it tough too, but as you grow older, I think it will come to you. Oops may be i am just saying what you already mentioned in your post.
    May be the whole point of their indirect reference is to hurt you, dont let them succeed! and good that you are trying to be good and not hurtful.

    • Pepper said

      You’re right SK. We cannot control their words, we can only control our own reactions. But somehow this keeps bothering me. Because of this very premise, the words keep getting sharper, and along with that, I am expected to keep adding layers of thick skin that will protect me. I wish we could focus on the people that carry the weapons instead of focusing on getting me a better shield 🙂 Maybe I am being too idealistic, but I hope we become more sensitive and less competitive.

  2. Bhavani said

    Wow..lovely piece Pepper…so true….you really made a good point….because I have been on the recieving side of some really rude remarks for being a working mom and all and I was pretty hurt couple of times…

    Having said that hope I have not subtly said things to offend other people without realising…I know I was not rude but not sure…

    I will make a conscisous effort from now on while making some strong statements..will try for sure


    • Pepper said

      That’s very nice of you Bhavani. A lot of times our intention is not to hurt, but in a world where all of us are struggling with the choices we make in our lives, some statements from others can really hit us hard. We forget how vulnerable we all are beneath the covers. Some amount of sensitivity will do us all good.

  3. ajay said

    So agree with you. The line may be fine and subtle but it is there. Judging people through the prism of choices we make is being insensitive, callous and inhumane. Snide remarks hurt more.

  4. I agree with you on the point that when asked one has no option but to answer the question which involves justifying your choice. I wont worry too much if the person asking gets hurt or not..because he/she asked the answer. I will keep it toned down, yes, but then beyond that cant do much 😉
    What irritates me the most are people who go on judging others by the one decision they make which does not align with theirs. They feel that one single decision of a person is enough for judging the whole person. important thing is respecting others’ choices and not thinking that the choice you made is the best and the right one. Sure, it is right for you, but then why judge others with a different choice?!
    All said and done, I think I am pretty immune to such judging. And it is not because of my confidence levels or anything (for all you know, I might be super insecure about my decision), but I just know people are here to judge, and I dont have to be (and I cant be) an angel in everyone’s eyes.

    • Pepper said

      That’s what Mint tells me too. That if people question us, we can just be honest and keep it toned down. Can’t do much beyond that. So I try not to speak unless questioned.
      I think I am pretty immune to such judging too. It no longer bothers me much, but I know there are plenty of people who are bothered, and then accused of taking things to heart. It’s a classic case of ‘victim blaming’, and that’s what maddens me the most.

  5. Suba said

    Pepper, I totally agree with you, I have faced these situations a zillion times myself. People who make such remarks actually have a severe inferiority complex, that’s why they want to hear themselves saying such things aloud so as to reassure themselves. I always tell myself “To hell with them” and move on.. 🙂

    • Pepper said

      They certainly have an inferiority complex. That’s what I was trying to say. We should probably confront them and try to correct them. Instead the world says I feel bad because I have an inferiority complex. That’s kinda stupid 🙂

  6. R's Mom said

    I agree with you Pepper…more often than not, even if we dont mean it, I have realised that I may be hurting the other person’s feelings…exactly like you said about your parents…while I wont care a second about the way you put it, some people may, that what does Pepper mean ‘we dont care about our parents?’

    I often speak without thinking and only after I speak out, I realise I may not have said it in the way I meant it….Thats something I am going to work on more seriously after reading this post 🙂

    • Pepper said

      I do speak without thinking when it comes to people who lie within my close circle. With others, I suppose I do think some bit before I talk. Guess you don’t have to think too much, as long as your remarks don’t hurt the other person 🙂

  7. rambler said

    I think financial dependence is overrated. Are we all not dependent on each other in many ways, am I not dependent on my mom who puts food on my plate everyday?, am I not dependent on my wife who does so many things for me

  8. Sig said

    You’re right when you say people are becoming more judgemental. I dunno if it’s just me, but I don’t take things to heart when people state their opinion (unless it’s either very directly aimed at me or just plain rude/obnoxious/offensive) because I realise that it IS just their opinion. When people say what’s on their mind, they may genuninely not be directing that at anyone – literally just stating their opinion.

    Like I have mine.

    Nobody needs to apologise or justify your thoughts or decisions. There is however a way of saying things that might change the tone and the implication and not come across as so “judging”. That’s common courtesy.

    So I CHOOSE not to get upset about it, because I tend to give people the beneft of the doubt when they interact with me. If however, they continued to be all passive-aggressive, then maybe I need to think about not being around them lol. STAND UP for your choice.

    It’s like when random people say to me “oh I could never not wear my mangalsutra – my husband/MIL/neighbour’s neighbour would be so upset and a good wife/DIL/random member of society”.

    I’m like, well good for you – but *I* have no intention of wearing it. I can go into my reasons, but frankly it’s none of your business!

    End of story 😛

    • Pepper said

      Yes, when people say what’s on their mind, they may genuinely not be directing that at anyone, literally stating their opinion. But I wish they stopped being so callous. We, as a society, NEED to become more sensitive.

      Beside, there are a lot of people who are genuinely malicious. And their indirect digs are intentional. I’ve often wished those women would just tell me “Hey, I don’t think you’re doing the right thing by choosing to be financially dependent during this period”. Then, I would talk back. I would tell them why I chose what I did, why it is right for now. But when they only talk about their own selves, I don’t feel like giving them unnecessary explanations.

      I will say it again, with time, we reach a stage where we either learn to retort, or brush their judgments aside, without caring much. But there are so many people who are unable to do that. They are facing the attackers constantly, without being able to fight back. So this isn’t just about you and me, or how we deal with it, this is about all of us who live in this vicious environment. I don’t know what I can really do to make people more aware and conscious of what they say 😦 .. I wish people would think on their own, of how their words can impact somebody who is already struggling with his choice.

      • Sig said

        I think I misunderstood – I was talking from the point of someone GIVING an opinion and failed to realise that the person on the other end might not take it the way I meant.

        Which is the whole premise of the post really 😛

        It boggles my mind that people would be intentionally malicious and I can fully understand that you can’t even react to that without them adding further injury to the insult. But how do you make people see that they are hurting others WITHOUT speaking up?

        Sensitivity IS the key here – in this day and age people make so many decisions and choices that one of them is BOUND not to agree with yours. So knowing that, people need to be more aware of their actions onto others.

        I tend to say my opinion and pass it off as being ‘passionate’ about the topic. But never really thought to take a moment to think that perhaps others might feel I’m aiming those opinions at them…

  9. Ashwathy said

    Most girls would look at me and tell me, “Oh my God, I cannot imagine being financially dependent on my partner. I need to have my own money.

    Next time someone says that, reply right back saying: “I have the option of not working and being able to trust my husband on this. Not everyone is as lucky.” Say this with a sweet confident smile. And watch the expression on the other’s face 😛

    Justifying your own choice is fine babe. As you pointed out rightly, the fine line is to know HOW you are justifying it…and whether you are stepping on someone else’s choice in the process 🙂

    • Pepper said

      This is no longer about me. I don’t feel much when those people say such things to me. I think I’ve gone past that stage, so I don’t feel the need to retort. 🙂 This is about the people who go about hurting others and killing their confidence, without saying a word to them directly. I wish we could find a way to get them shut up, instead of looking for ways to harden ourselves. I want them to stop using their weapons, I don’t want spend time getting a thicker shield for myself.
      But then.. maybe I am being too idealistic by hoping we become more sensitive to each other? Don’t know. 🙂

      • Ashwathy said

        I wish we could find a way to get them shut up, instead of looking for ways to harden ourselves.
        Exactly the point babe! I’ve realised that the only way to shut them up is to reply back in the same coin….. they are taken aback and don’t expect it – a lot of times….atleast in my experience. They grumble something and then change the topic.
        You gotta be a bulldozer in front of another bulldozer 😀

        • Pepper said

          Lol! You are right. But if I open my moth and reply back in the same coin, chances are they will shut up in front of me, but target somebody else, someone who takes it. Or maybe my response has to be nasty enough to scare them and make them behave well with one and all 😀

  10. I’m guilty of the “financial independence” thing to some extent – it’s important to me, yes, but your post made me think that may be I don’t have to harp on it and make someone else with a different choice feel bad. And while my intentions are not malicious, I could certainly have been more sensitive – this is something I have to correct.

    I’ll be a working mom some day, and the statement from the stay-at-home-mom sort of felt like a dig at me, especially the open arms part and the strangers part. So will the reverse statement feel for stay-at-home-moms – you know, like “I cant imagine sitting at home, and setting an example for the kids that moms do nothing but take care, feed, clean and cook”.

    Sensitivity, like you said, is the key word here – completely agree. But we cant do much about the malicious ones – the ones who make statements like that *only* to make a judgment on other person’s choice.

  11. DI said

    i get what you are saying, and you’re right. There is nothing to read ‘in between’ lines here for heavens sake, these are just insensitive, malicious attacks. More often by those who I feel need to re-emphasize their choices, because they are pure insecure.
    I am on the receiving end of SAHMs already, who talk about how they wouldn’t want to miss their children’s childhood, and while I seethe, I keep it to myself. But honestly, in cases where I find the person in front rude, I give it back in the same terms, and no I am not proud of it, but I tell myself at least I did not start it 🙂
    At times, I feel people are ungrateful even! Like The Dude, he helped this friend pick a house to buy based on all the research ‘we did’ for our house. And eventually when he does buy the house, he gets back to us saying how he couldn’t imagine living in the locality we do, how it was too crowded etc. I was fuming, but The dude stayed quiet.

    By the way, I feel that you are gutsy 🙂 and that is obvious from your posts. I used to be opinionated at one point on the blog, but as I started making friends out here, I stopped getting into controversial topics! 🙂 Which perhaps explains why my posts are super random!

    • Pepper said

      You shouldn’t feel guilty for giving it back if people are rude. They probably need to hear it. Maybe that will prevent them from being rude to the next person. I personally don’t give it back cos I find it a waste of time. Some people never get it. But if you think you can make a difference to somebodys attitude by giving it to them, you shouldn’t stop 🙂
      I don’t mind dragging in the controversial stuff with friends around. I actually enjoy debates and discussions. To add to that, I am not friends with everybody who reads this blog, just a handful perhaps.

  12. Oh , what a post. Straight from the heart Pepper, as usual no BS-ing around. I loved it.

    Now, about the topic as such- I have similar stuff being told to me quite often, you know-especially regarding being financially dependent on the husband ? More often than not from friends and family alike. And that is when I truly do NOT know how to react. How do you tell a close cousin/close friend that she played a part in shredding your confidence and sense of security into bits.

    I am quite sure that I belong to the category of people who fume from the inside and end up feeling bad. While most people tell me “that is not how you should take it, what was so wrong with what she said-that was just her POV” . So much so, that I have begun hating that word when used in such circumstances.
    Does your POV have to cause me hurt? Not only do your words hurt, you top it by saying I am sensitive?
    I never,never know how to react to such things,Pepper.

    There are so many times, I wish I could have a means of shutting them out of my head-the comments I mean. But I never know how to. And end up feeling miserable for sometime .

    And I love what you said in the last para. I believe it is something I must inculcate more than what I practice right now.

    Thanks a lot for this post Pepper. It helped me feel better.

    • Pepper said

      You are a girl after my own heart. You have said all that I experienced at one time. I really dislike people justifying their unnecessary and rude opinions by saying “It’s my POV”. To add insult to injury, the blame then lies with us. We’re labelled as ‘too sensitive’. It’s unfair and wrong.
      Maybe we can start with correcting people and telling them what we truly feel. Some of them realise the consequences of their words, some of them don’t. We can talk to the ones that don’t, and hope they will change. As for the people who realise it and do it knowingly, we really have no choice but to ignore them, or give them a piece of our mind.

  13. Kartikay said

    I know my comment is not going to add any value, but I just had to say that this post is really awesome. It’s posts like these that are rare and spaced between, but are very important nonetheless.

    I know this is selfish, but please face more problems like these so that you can write about it!

  14. Anon said

    I loved loved loved this post! So true.

    This scenario is a bit different but still talks about how people dont stop to think what could be hurtful. We are friends with a fun set of desi families, us being the youngest, everyone else is at least 5 years older. But they are (as expected) as judgmental and condescending as they come. I walk into the room with a black rope with a stone pendant for a necklace and they are aghast that I would wear something not gold and “cheap” in their own words. But then one of the other women (whose husband is the most successful in the group) comes in with a similar (non-gold necklace/jewelry) and they are all in praise. And this happened in a matter of days and they were fawning all over that woman right in front of me. My jaw just dropped. What am I supposed to do? Confront them and make a scene? And why should I be the one to have thick skin in this situation? Just because i dont make as much money, I dont deserve the respect but still have to have better tolerance? Some might say then why be friends with them. But my point is every desi (including myself) at some level is guilty of doing this. But our society encourages tolerating and developing a thick skin. But not confronting the abuser and having a heart to heart about the consequences of their words – because that is a sign of weakness. That is precisely the reason why desi men get argumentative and agressive in groups because its a rat race to prove dominance and thick skin.

    • Pepper said

      You said it perfectly. Our society encourages tolerating and developing a thick skin. Confronting the abuser and having a heart to heart about the consequences of their words is what we really need to do.

    • RK said

      OMG! Do we know each other? I witnessed something very similar in our group and the boss’s wife is considered always right and good in everything!

    • Harini said

      I cannot tell you how well I relate to your situation. Forget successful men’s wives.. I even see this happening all around me at work.. where the boss who does the exact same mistake as his subordinate is let go easily while the subordinate has to face the music..or how as you exactly pointed out…the same dressing style or work done ALWAYS gets the golden attention and praises for the boss from the others while the junior member is lucky if he/she gets a single compliment for the same.. I wonder if this is because of survival issues at workplace in India?

  15. What a unique topic Pepper, trust you to think through and write so well about it all 🙂

    Honestly, I am guilty of being carried away by the topic in hand and blabber my opinions so strongly only to realize it has hurt someone among the audience for sure. I used to believe “This is my opinion and I have every right to voice it”. But experience does make one wiser, doesn’t it?

    I am much careful choosing my words now..and even if I get carried away, I am quick to add “But, hey,that’s just my opinion and I might be wrong in many ways.Did not mean to judge anyone”

    • Pepper said

      I am so glad you are more careful in choosing your words now AHK. Even getting carried away is fine, as long as your opinion doesn’t attack the other person’s choice. However, since I have experienced this, and you mentioned it, I feel the need to tell you that ending your opinions with “Hey this is just my opinion and I did not mean to judge anyone” doesn’t help much. In fact, it doesn’t help at all. That is what most women have done to me. Gone on and on about the importance of financial independence, told me how unbearable my situation seems to them, been very harsh in their expressions, hurt me in every possible way, attacked my choice and then ended it with “but those are just my opinions. I am not judging you”. I wanted to laugh and ask them to take back their last statement. It felt so meaningless and hollow, and most hypocritical.
      So just wanted you to know, that if you aren’t careful with your choice of words, if you do hurt the person, just adding that line in the end does not rectify the damage. The hurt has already been caused. Your opinions have already attacked the other person. I am saying all this to you, because from what I have seen, people use that last line to lessen their own guilt and tell themselves, “Oh, I already told the person I didn’t mean to judge him/her. I was only saying what I thought was right”…Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way 🙂

      • Yes, very cautious in choosing my words. As I said, grown out of the phase where I believed it’s my right to voice out opinions.

        Those last lines may not help much, but if one truly means it, it will show 🙂

        • Pepper said

          Need to clarify this – I am only talking about opinions that involve somebody’s personal choice. Not general issues! I do think you have all right to voice your opinions on general issues. And yes, maybe if somebody meant those lines it would show. Maybe the people who said it to me didn’t mean it at all, and that showed too. 🙂

  16. Very good article… I may have been on the giving end but never thought in this direction. At times, I am just trying to put a stronger case by explaining but never thought that it could be taken in other way..

    I will definitely try to work on it and try to be as sensitive as possible.

  17. popbiscuit said

    I have been a victim to indirect digs more than once and am unable to reach a state of zen liek you seem to have achieved !I retort,it gets ugly and have lost some “friends”

    Found myself in the working mother vs. stay at home argument like 2 weeks ago and couldn’t keep my mouth shut when I felt attacked …!And this is when I don’t even have kids!

    Ohh and the meanest jibe I got was from a surprisingly close friend on getting married too young (I was 23, the husbadoo had just turned 25) and how these marriages those last with people being too immature to handle it.Just not the thing you tell someone who is newly married and sharing their wedding pics quite blissfully!Obviously we are no longer friends!

    • Pepper said

      If you lose some people in your life because you reacted to the nasty stuff they said, they weren’t friends. Don’t grieve their loss. You’re better without them.
      I don’t have kids and I get all riled up when I see one side attacking the other, when it comes to the SAHM Vs WOHM war. I got married at 23 and heard a lot of crap too, so I really know what you mean. People are just stupid and insensitive. It’s time we made them realise their doing.

  18. RK said

    Pepper, A great topic to think about! I always wonder why the other person just cant listen and nod rather start judging and saying “no hard feelings eh?” in the end. I am in the process of building a thick skin / cold front to avoid stupidity. Since I absolutely cant control stupidness, I can only cultivate skills to avoid/pushback / numb it

    • Pepper said

      I wouldn’t say the person has to just listen and nod. He/she can say what she wants, in a few words, politely, without making it a snide remark. That’s not asking for too much now!

  19. Like some of them have mentioned here, I no longer get upset by people’s opinions. I feel bad for a split second maybe, but it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. Growing up 🙂

    A good friend of mine recently told me that they are looking out for a groom for her sister and it is the right age because that way she will be able to think about and have kids by the time she is 27-28. Anything after that is not so good, she said. I just smiled and said “whatever makes her (the sister) happy” (I am close with everyone in their family). Did I feel bad because she was talking to me who is 30 with no baby? Yes, a little bit. But I know she didn’t mean to hurt me.

    Recently, on the Anderson show (which I love because of the myriad topics that come up for discussion), there was a debate about working-mom vs SAHM. And I was stunned when one of the working moms said “SAHM are lazy! They think just by giving reasons about being there for their children, they can get away with being lazy and not contribute to the family! I work out and stay fit, I go out and put food on the table and it makes me very satisfied”. The audience, of course, was shocked and had I been there, I would’ve blown my top off, for sure! But keeping in mind the decorum of the show, the SAHM’s retorted back with good points. But in the end, it is a choice. There is no right or wrong about it. If it suits you, do it. If it doesn’t, don’t. But DO NOT judge the other person’s choice.

    However, there is something that someone once told me – that we are becoming overly sensitive. To the extent that we don’t even use certain words in the fear that it/we will be termed insensitive. Like the word “bad” for example. We are now using “not so good” instead. Why? Because the word seems harsh to use. So we’re overly sensitive on some and totally not on some others. Strange, isn’t it? (I wish I could recollect some of the other examples he gave to substantiate this better)

    But the best advice that you have here is NOT to give an opinion unless asked for. We all learn it the hard way, don’t we? 🙂 I shut up now too.
    I have been branded because I have strong opinions on certain subjects and if someone were to irk me, I come off very hard on them. I now know that not many people can handle that heat because they thought it was ok to comment (and not have anything to back it up) and not expect anyone to react!
    Some just start off a controversial topic just to get people like us started off (Yes, there are many many people like that!) to see how we get riled up! So now, I question them back and ask for THEIR opinions instead and take it up real slowly on them. It’s working. It sure is.

    • loved your comment, sns! it’s also true that we are quick to take offense – but then again, we are so guarded abt. our choices, and if there’s a little guilt lurking somewhere, a single comment hits us off quite hard – i have reacted violently in such situations some times, but when i calmed down, my response seemed somewhat excessive. Bang on, wrt the usage of words – “agree to disagree” is used so commonly – i mean, it’s fair enough to have that stand when it’s about a personal choice – there’s no right or wrong there – but even in places where the issue is black and white(discrimination against gender, dowry, harrassment for example), a little heat can quickly lead to the amicable “agree to disagree” which makes me seethe so much! It’s not because I want to prove I’m right, but some issues are so heart breaking for us to be sitting on a fence.

      Ditto for the usage of the word “lie”. We do see that several times ppl try to post their own assumptions(or even lie to score a point!) as either historical “facts” or arguments backed by research. Call their bluff directly and you’ll be called rude. You’d need to say, “hey i read something else blah blah”. I mean, the person who blatantly lies/is too lazy to verify their facts is the victim here! beats me how.

    • Pepper said

      SnS and SAB, I haven’t ever experienced this overly sensitive behaviour that you guys are talking about. Thank God! Of course it is stupid to not be able to call something ‘bad’ and a ‘lie’ when it clearly is one. Say what you have to to me directly, that’s all I ask for. If you want to call me bad, just say that, do not glorify your own self and talk poorly about the attributes I possess, and then say that’s “just my opinion”. If your opinion is genuinely so spiteful, then don’t state it. Or be courageous enough to be open about it, without using indirect ways.

      Regarding your last paragraph SAB, don’t you think it has more to do with who you are arguing with? If it’s friends, or people I know well, I don’t think I hesitate before saying, “Oh that’s so much bullshit!”, or when it is people I am cordial with, I say “No, that’s completely untrue”. When it is about arguing with people in a professional set up, or with people I am not too comfortable with, then I might be forced to play with words and put across my point very subtly. Then I will have to cushion the impact with “Hey I read something else..etc”. That’s stupid, I agree, but I don’t think we have to do this with everyone. We have to be politically correct only with a chosen few. Or am I the only who is blunt?

      Having said all that, I still think, if we have to choose between a society that is overly sensitive and one that is overly insensitive, I will pick the overly sensitive one. The insensitivity stings a lot more in my opinion. The excessive sensitivity can just be brushed aside and laughed at.

      And SAB, if I find people who will want to “just agree to disagree” when it comes to issues like gender, dowry and harassment, I will just wring their necks. These are clear cases of black and white, like you said. Anybody with a different opinion will be shown the door by me.

      • i think i somewhat went on a tangent there, pepper – what i was talking about was that we as a society are quick to judge and also quick to take offense(not in attacks on personal choices, but in general debates and discussions) – I’m not defending the ones who make scathing attacks on another’s personal choice here. Nor am I saying that you should be immune to personal attacks while the ones who do it go on and on about it(and get away with it)

        • Pepper said

          Okey, I have been talking only about personal choices, not general debates and discussions the way you have. And hey, of course I know you are not defending the ones who make scathing attacks on another’s personal choice! C’mon, I know you better than that.
          In my response to you, I was just thinking out aloud.

  20. Preethi said

    Pepper, you write so well.

    I completely agree with you that we need to be more sensitive to others. Just saying ‘this is my opinion only’ doesn’t help at all.

    I am a working mom and I faced some rude comments from SAHMs in my group(they were not directed at me). It hurts me so much that I don’t contact them for months. There are many people who said that they don’t like the concept of having a maid to look after their kid, but they were just stating their opinion without meaning to hurt me. It is the tone that makes so much difference.

    • Pepper said

      I used to do the same Preethi. When the remarks hurt me, I just stayed away from the person who made them. That doesn’t help much. A wiser thing would be to make them realise their doing. And yes, the tone makes all the difference.

  21. deethi said

    you must have heard this a hundred times by now.”let people say things and if t hurts someones sentiments go ahead and tell them why they are wrong”

    I used to feel this way a lot and used to get frustrated.who am i kidding i still do.However over the year,i am not letting these things bother me.

    Just yesterday a kid from my colony was asked “where are you from?” and he said “i am from America” and said “I hate to be in India”.his mother was so proud and said “my kid loves Amrika and i think India is shitty” earlier me would have punched her in her face and given that kid a lesson.But,the now me just smiled and walked past saying “oops,but you live here now,so suck it up”

  22. Musica said

    You read my mind. Just posted some thing on these lines in my blog, so came to your which I do everyday to lurk as usual , but found your post and had to de lurk. Loved all your posts till now.

  23. vethal said

    In Team lunches , I have heard some North Indians ask Southies how they manage to eat stems and leaves and branches !!., they were referring to curry leaves which is used liberally in south indian rasam/sambar.I have also overheard a North Indian team mate state : Sou janam tak Idli na kaoo” ( I wouldn’t eat idli for a thousand yrs)

    In some cases it is done deliberately to hurt the sentiments.
    This happened many yrs back and that I continue to remember it !! that means it hurt me somewhere deep down !!

    Yes many ppl are insensitive and some do it deliberately ..can’t help

    • Pepper said

      This is terrible, and crazy. I didn’t know Southies use more curry leaves than Northies. I’ve seen them being used very liberally in a lot of Northie food. That apart, while what they said was clearly very insensitive, it was still direct. The Northies “asked the Southies how they managed to eat stems and leaves..”. Compare this to a Northie saying “I would never eat something as terrible as a leaf . It’s the stupidest thing to do. I don’t understand why people feel the need to add leaves to their food. Anyway, I am not judging you, this is just my opinion” You see the difference?

      If a Northie asked a Southie that directly, then the Southie should have given a fitting reply to a Northie. But when the Northie just speaks for himself, it’s hard to talk back.

      I am sorry you’ve had such bad experiences that hurt you so much. People are mean hearted.

  24. Harini said

    This is becoming sooo common that I have lost all hope of people changing for the better, or even worse we becoming one among them just to survive in the race. I am sick of the way people keep judging us ALL the time, irrespective of our choices. I always had a dont care attitude about these kind of people, but with age it seems to hurt. Dosent the proverb go ‘the older you get the wiser you become’? 🙂 ..Ah sigh looks like getting older is not making me mmuch wiser!!

  25. I loved what you wrote! Been a regular reader for the longest time..hiya!

    Being a working mom who leaves her child at daycare, a wife who doesn’t wear the thaali, a practicing agnostic..these are a few of the numerous reasons for which I’m judged by people around me. Whenever I hear a comment on any of these themes, I usually state that I’m going with the option that’s most appealing to me for my own reasons. It stops short any further discussion.

    I’ve noticed that if people want to judge, they will, regardless of all the enlightening conversations they can possibly have. ’cause unless they’re ready to step down from their high horse in the midst of a non-argumentative, peaceful discussion, it really isn’t much use discussing the benefits of having your opinion and respecting others’. The change has to come from within and it’s frightening how we’ve become a society of individuals each waiting to pounce upon the other for their different choices.

    • Pepper said

      You are so right in all that you say. I don’t think people will change unless they want to. There are however a lot of people who say things without realising the impact it will have on the other. It’s not a bad idea to talk to such people and make them realise the consequences.
      And hey! Thanks for commenting..

  26. I think giving unasked for justifications could indicate not being confident about one’s choices, the examples you gave sounded malicious and defensive.

    • Pepper said

      It definitely indicates a low level of confidence. We should look to correct that instead of correcting our responses, isn’t it? Although I know it’s hard.

  27. Neha said

    Everybody has an opinion but being too vocal or too criticizing for it is not right . People make different choices in life and while zeroing it they would have had their own share of brainstorming, dilema, discussions etc. They would have weighted other choices too and then after the entire process they would have arrived at that choice. It is so ridiculous for others to just banish their decision and criticize them especially when it’s none of their business.

  28. Which is it feels right to say that while speech is silver, silence can be golden.

    While in some cases, like the examples you have stated, the intention is quite clear and is quite nasty. All we need to learn as an entire race is to breathe deep and put thoughts into words.

    In some cases, I have noticed, people keep repeating and restating the reasons for doing what they did or deciding what they did, as if they are trying to convince their own selves more than any other. It is quite sad actually. Have you come across such cases as well?

  29. Gayatri said

    You’re telling me? I’ve had shit like this said to me for almost a decade now. Some gems from that pool of passive aggressive comments are: “I cannot imagine NOT changing my name after marriage. It’s like we’re one soul now. One identity.” OR “Hats off to all those women on H4. My client was on vacation, I had 3 days off, I got SO BORED sitting at home. Again, you H4 women are so adjusting.” OR “I never had a job while I was at uni. My parents wanted me to focus ONLY on studies. These part time jobs are so distracting.”

    I could go on and on. But you get the idea. And being at the listening end of these comments has made me a little more aware of how I should structure my sentences as well. But only to the people who are nice to me 😉

    • Pepper said

      God! Gayatri, you made me feel that rage all over again. Sometimes I want to push these idiots off from a cliff so that I don’t have to hear such crap again.

  30. locutus83 said

    I think this is my first comment on your blog. You write evocatively. I have really enjoyed reading some of your previous posts. Hope to read more in the archives. Keep it up!

    A few years back, I sometimes used to get carried away with my opinions in heated discussions (primarily involving general topics, and occasionally personal topics). When I started realizing how criticism and opinions expressed forcefully/self-justification could hurt others, I started speaking with more thought and control. Sometimes it would be wise and considerate to be silent. (As for attacks, I consider it cowardly to be malicious and indirect; I would rather say it directly and plainly on someone’s face if I had to!)

    From your well-written post, and a few other books/articles, I gather it is best to err on the side of sensitivity during a conversation. A few other lessons to be a pleasant conversationalist:
    1. Listen more that you talk 🙂
    2. Do not offer unsolicited advice or opinions.
    3. If you have nothing positive to say, don’t say anything!
    4. Do not justify your choices to anyone. Excessive and constant justification means you are not confident and clear about your choice!
    5. Respect others’ choices and decisions, even if you may not agree with them.

    Even now a few “well-meaning” relatives try to influence/advise me regarding my higher education vs. career choice, which I feel is frankly unnecessary since I have made up my mind and am happy in my chosen path. (Not everyone has to do a PhD, and not every one is cut out for research!!). Even though I am not hurt and don’t start second guessing myself; it can get quite tiring; and I wonder about the motivation behind their periodic badgering.

    I think I have controlled myself well in this regard (personal opinions) now! Even though I am an alcoholic, carnivorous “Westernized libertarian” atheist who abhors ritual, idol worship, superstitions, astrology, horoscopes and the caste system, I am the best of friends with an orthodox vegetarian teetotaler Tamil Brahmin guy who is deeply into rituals, astrology, superstitions and believes in caste based, horoscope based arranged marriages! I guess this is because we accepted each other as we are; We never forced our opinions on the other, never criticized each others choices, and never “justified” our own choices!

    • Pepper said

      You guys say it so much better than I do. And you’re an alcoholic, carnivorous “Westernized libertarian” atheist who abhors ritual, idol worship, superstitions, astrology, horoscopes and the caste system? I like the sound of you already!

  31. Jack Point said

    I read somewhere that a woman does not know what a kiss is until she has kissed a good moustache.

    Perhaps you friend can enlighten you other friends?

    • Pepper said

      ROTFL! Is that so? My friends are so against a moustache because they say they feel put off by the idea of kissing a moustache. I should tell them what you say 😀

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