As in, stick fingers in ears and repeat as necessary.
This is the reaction I have been getting to my blog, and, oddly, one I got in person yesterday.
To provide some context: I emailed a friend to ask him why I can’t seem to get any feedback from anyone except him. Don’t get me wrong, his feedback has been invaluable to me, as it’s always dead-on and helpful. I was asking him because I had sort of taken an informal poll of many of my other friends, asking them how they thought I could improve the blog and so on.
Every single answer I received was evasive, from suggestions I find a forum for blog writers, to just not responding at all. In between there were comments such as, “I don’t feel qualified to say”, and things of that nature.
I was very put off by these responses, so I asked my friend what he thought.
He told me that these people are most likely uncomfortable with what I write, so they either don’t read it, or they don’t know what to say in response to it.
Aside #1: I did get some unasked-for and unwanted feedback from someone who is tangentially related to me, who wrote me several times that I am too negative and therefore am attracting negativity, and that I ought to “just not care” about all the bad things I see and hear on a daily basis. That was so far off-base as to who I am and what I am trying to do, that I couldn’t really count that as “constructive criticism”.
Anyway, he added that I should keep writing, and keep trying to raise awareness of what it’s like being poor, disabled, and over 50 in the US. I appreciated that a lot more than anyone will ever know.
But his point about people being uncomfortable was borne out in an interaction I had just yesterday, on Christmas.
I am currently visiting my son and his wife in Memphis. They typically have her parents and 2 family friends over for Christmas dinner and what-not. It’s always an enjoyable time.
But after dinner, when a lot of them were hanging out in the kitchen (cleaning up and watching the cleaning up heh), I sat in the living room so I could keep one of their guests company (this was one of the family friends).
She asked about Pennsylvania. I told her I liked it, in general, and I was volunteering at the local hospital gift shops (they have 2), but that I was glad to be elsewhere because it was starting to get me down and drive me a little mad.
She asked why. I began to relate the “holiday dinner incident” (“Let Them Eat Cake, Replied the Food Bank Staff”), in which a friend of one of the gift shop managers made some really uncalled-for remarks about people who use food banks and food stamps.
I had just gotten to the part where I was repeating the woman saying, “They shouldn’t take so much bread”, when my listener said…
“Stop! I don’t want to hear it!” And put both her hands up in the “stop” position – palms out, facing me.
I stopped. I looked at her and blinked. I thought, “Well, now, this is unusual and a bit rude.”
She went on to state, “Tell me something good. Otherwise, I don’t want to hear it.”
So I stammered, “Um, the older ladies I volunteer with are all really funny, and I enjoy their company…”
“That’s great!” she exclaimed. She continued, “I don’t think you should have let the woman in the gift shop say those things. I think you should have told her to be quiet because she was being negative.”
I blinked again.
“I can’t really do that,” I explained, “as I like my volunteer gig and they can actually ‘fire’ me for saying something like that to a customer, no matter how out-of-line she might be.”
I went on to state that I use these kinds of experiences to blog, so I can let others know what it’s like out there in the real world where people say awful things. That I hoped it would foster some kind of understanding in people as to how people like me live from day to day.
I also told her that, had she let me continue, I would have told her what I said to this customer in order to attempt to raise her awareness.
“The best thing you can do is just tell them to be quiet, then walk away. Then forget about it,” she advised.
I replied, “The thing is, I have done things like that, and have lost nearly every job I have ever had for either telling people they were wrong, or otherwise antagonizing them.”
She said, “But that’s a good thing.”
I thought, “Easy for you to say, you aren’t going to risk YOUR job by telling others to be quiet.”
But I didn’t say that out loud.
Instead, I changed the subject and we chatted about inane things – I can’t even remember what – until the others came in.