“I don’t respect you because of the choices you’ve made.”
She said it as if the weight of her words bore Gospel truth.
I had accused her of misogyny – only ‘respecting’ me when I’ve been in relationships with men she approved of, as if this gave me personhood. She denied it, of course, but throughout my adult life, I’d seen the pattern. She only seemed to think of me as a “real” adult when I had a man. She wasn’t the only one to treat me this way.
I was used to this treatment, sadly, from many churches and small groups, and individuals within the culture that I lived at the time. Even sadder, because I’m now married, I’ve sensed more “respect” in the last few years than I ever did when I was single. I’m “valuable” because I’m married. But less valuable than those women who’ve produced children.
My mother’s value seemed to go “down” after my dad died as well, which was evident in many ways, from many people.
But on this particular day, I called out this woman I once respected and felt wanted and loved by. Hearing her tell me that because I didn’t choose the privileged white suburban life with a house and a white picket fence, I was less valuable to her. Well, stock in my own eyes didn’t go down. Hers did.
And, if, in the moment I hadn’t been so shocked and so hurt, perhaps I could have expressed myself clearly. “Well, thank God for that! I would never be content in suburbia, cleaning houses for a living, and judging others for not making that same life choice.”
At first, I thought my own reaction was petty. That I felt anger and sorrow because perhaps I had done something wrong.
But the reality is, I’ve never been like anyone else – and I wouldn’t want to be. How boring and pathetic would that be? Caving into the American Dream as if it has value in the kingdom of God? As if it has value in life? As if it weren’t built on racist, sexist ideologies?
I wish I had told her I really feel: “Your judgmental attitude about the way I choose to live my life, following my dreams, and serving God in unusual ways is a much bigger reflection on you, than on me. I’m sorry your life is so dull that you must feel the need to besmirch mine to feel better about yourself. That’s truly, deeply sorrowful. I hope you find more satisfaction and meaning in life at some point. In the meantime, I’m going to keep making my unconventional choices. My life absolutely doesn’t look like yours and I’m absolutely thankful for that every single day.”