Friday, 4 September 2015

I'm a Black Magic Woman

Depending on whom you ask, I am either exceedingly nice or an obnoxious bitch. 

Not long ago, I expressed some opinions and held my ground and found myself in conflict with my brother, on social media, where he chose to make it public instead of private.  I do possess some very strong opinions and some of them controversial if you happen not to be a left leaning atheist, for instance.  My brother objected to my making my opinions obvious, and insisted that they offended his wife.  He then picked a public fight, in which while I did not back down I also said much less than he did.  I did not pull my punches for the sake of niceness, but I kept my responses succinct while he lectured, attempted to shame me, threatened and finally made good on his threat to 'unfriend' me.  This all happened less than a month ago and I am still reeling from it but I do not regret the way I behaved.  I have always had a very good relationship with my brother and if ever I was going to chose to be nice just for the sake of it, that might have been the time, but I do not back down when told I must shut up because I am wrong and it is not nice to express my opinion. 

I was raised to be nice.  There is a definite slant towards ladylike behaviour in my upbringing and my parents are people who do not believe in rocking the boat.  My mother, in particular, seems to believe that one should only ever say nice, agreeable things and spend life striving to be as inoffensive as possible.  While I do tend to present a ladylike demeanour and have had this pointed out to me often, I cannot be someone who keeps her opinions and ideologies to herself, though hopefully I have some sense of when to let them loose and when not to.  I generally do not use this blog as a forum for my world view, though neither do I attempt to hide it. In my encounter last week with an opinionated and at times seemingly arrogant man who did indeed do most of the talking, I was not just being a nice, polite, Canadian doormat.  It was not a confrontational encounter as was the one with my brother.  When I'd had enough, and wanted to leave, I said good bye and I did so and I am not left with any bad feelings about it.

Regrettably I seem not to have made it clear that I did chose to stay, to listen to what he had to say, to at times point out where I thought he was talking nonsense and to express my own point of view. I happen to enjoy a philosophical discussion, and he happened to have some convoluted ideas.  I did not feel put upon.  I often felt somewhat smug as he defended his slightly bonkers ideas quite poorly with a great deal of educated sounding bluster, but I was also genuinely interested and formed the opinion that he was well educated.  I could and would have left at any time.  The fact that  three hours went by does not mean I was trapped, it means I was engaged.  I may have cut it off sooner if I'd actually known the time, but I didn't.

I found the encounter, amusing, a bit odd, and yes, I do tend to be polite, and nice, but I also enjoy encounters with other people that go beyond small talk.  I crave such interactions with others and am perfectly capable of doing a great deal of talking myself.  I consider it my civic duty to sometimes let others talk more and try to direct some of my verbosity onto my blog.  Like now.

I am known to some as a very nice, mild, gentle person and to others as someone who has the strength of her convictions and isn't afraid to be who she is.  I suppose I am both and if you only know me one way, you do not know me well.  I am a very candid person, which has mislead more than one person to think I reveal all.  I am capable of dismissive scorn and warm acceptance and I am generally in control of which aspect you see because I allow very few people to see all.  If I value you, my relationship with you or wish to keep a given situation pleasant, you will get the warm, accepting and nice version of me unless you do something to change that.  The difference between how my brother behaved towards me and how this stranger in the cafe behaved were vast.  My brother underestimated me; he expected me to be passively nice and when I did not perform accordingly took me to task for it, as though this niceness should define me entirely.  The stranger in the cafe expected me to have my own opinions, expected me to question or challenge his and credited me with the ability to remain unflappable in the face of our difference.  He indicated an initial hesitation for fear of offending me with one of his ideas and I assured him he would not.  I told him I would just as likely offend him and I may have. 

Thank you for all of your comments on my previous post, for your sympathy over my plight and the offered advice.  When I wrote it, I did not imagine it would come across as it apparently did but I do assure you, I can safely visit local cafes and not be taken advantage of.  I will even take on anyone who wants to criticise me for ending a sentence with a preposition. 


  1. About ending sentences with prepositions, I'm all for it! I read a world grammar guru who advocated their use at the end of sentences. Hurrah, no more twisting sentences into pretzels to avoid the dreaded hanging preposition.
    I am sorry to hear about the conflict with your brother. I have broken off many relationships because people I had known for a long time could not accept my rebuilt self-confidence. Ingrained perceptions are very, very difficult to change.

  2. Hi Shawna! It's nice to read one of your blog posts after I've been away for 2 months. I suspect his relationship with his wife has something to do with his reaction. It can also be that he feels uncomfortable at how strong you pass as you express your out of the ordinary opinions. Or is none of the two but I speak for myself and the relationship I have with my brother and his wife. What I'm absolutely sure though is that if we ever met we would have enjoyed great conversations together on all topics!

  3. like melanie i´m sorry to hear that you had trouble with your bro ON SOCIAL MEDIA!!! and yes - i´m too broke up a many relationships for same reasons - especially family members could not accept that i´m no longer the helpless, devot little girl....
    welcome to the club ;-)

  4. I'm sorry about the public spat with your brother and subsequent FB unfriending - that can't have been comfortable. It's always a tricky balancing act, between being true to your own views and the possibility of boat-rocking, but I reckon most of us eventually reach a point where we don't want to be told what we can and can't say/think, and the truth bursts out! I need to go back and read your previous post now to find out about your encounter with the opinionated man.
    On the whole, I'd rather say what I think and live with the consequences - it feels more honest. xxx

  5. Sounds like there was some "family" discussion about what you were up to and he was the designated one to level the blow to you. Remember you can pick your friends and not your family. I think his ego got in the way of honest discussion about what was the real problem. Don't worry it will blow over eventually and if it doesn't you still have friends who appreciate the real you.

  6. I'm sorry, dear, that speaking your mind caused trouble. We've all encountered those situations. Ultimately, we need to be candid about our views even if others are too dumb to accept them. Hang in there.

  7. Facebook battles are the worst, I have seen them unfold and unfortunately I do not think they encourage any positive outcome. The written word is powerful, and it is far to easy to descend or stoop in response to words being flung at us. Despite your differences and your brother's petty response I hope he comes to his senses - family differences are not easy I know but it's one thing to lose an acquaintance over a Facebook squabble, another thing entirely when it comes to family rifts - Mark Zuckerberg has a lot to answer for! I cannot remember what I wrote in response to your Cafe encounter, will have to go check! I perhaps did think of times I myself have been barraged by overbearing types, glad you didn't feel overwhelmed anyway! :-) xo

  8. Shawna, I feel so sad about your brother. We all go through misunderstandings and even break-ups, and they are never easy, but with someone you love, it is the hardest... I know that we need to be true to ourselves, but it just breaks my heart when the difference in opinions is more important than the whole person and love you share. I hope it is only a stage, and love will win. I went through so much in the past few years that breaking up with my family would just crash me... but they are unique, and we really treasure each other. I wish you all the very best, always.

  9. strange how people sometimes get hostile on social media, it's like it brings out the worst in them...even more strange how many people get offended simply by us having our own opinions and not agreeing to their "only true educated perfect" point of view.


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