Saturday, February 25, 2017

Meaningful Or Not?

     Some incidents can justly be taken as representative of larger trends in human relations. They elucidate significant currents in attitudes, beliefs, convictions, desires, or fears. It’s therefore valid to interpret them – their contexts, the stimuli, and the responses – in a wider, brighter light than “just one of those things.”

     But such events aren’t the whole of human intercourse. They’re not a majority thereof. They might even be a small minority. Nevertheless, those with an axe to grind will promote them as revelations of overwhelming truths, often with an eye to founding a political thrust upon them.

     Read about one such incident and judge for yourselves:

     It was July 2014, Nashville Tennessee. I was walking into a gas station for a bottle of water when the man behind me stepped up to open the door for me. With that act of kindness, something inside me snapped and I flew into a blind rage. I began screaming at him at the top of my lungs.

     “No, you can not open this door for me! You wouldn’t have opened it two years ago, so you damn sure can’t open it now!” I scowled and stormed away, completely enraged.

     Typical gender-war feminist behavior, you might say...until you’ve read further on into the article:

     Two years before this, in July 2012, I weighed 365lb, which roughly translates into 26 stone. I was enormous, and had been my entire life. I grew up an obese kid, was an obese teenager, an obese young adult, and by my mid-40s I had ballooned into a hugely obese adult.

     But that summer I started a massive journey to lose 220lb, or almost 16 stone, over the course of four and a half years. As I sit here today, I’m literally a third of the body mass I used to be. I am an average-sized woman who wears a size medium pretty much across the board. And, I am happy to report, I am also a fairly happy, confident person.

     So previous to the incident reported above, the author was dangerously, even morbidly obese. And at that point in her life, men did not open doors for her:

     I had been disregarded, overlooked and ignored because of my size for so long that I didn’t even realise it until people started being nice to me – until, in other words, I was “normal sized”. No one had ever done those things for me before.

     He opened that door for me because I wasn’t physically offensive to him, and I knew. And it was in that moment that I realised how terrible we are as a society to people, based solely on their appearance. This realisation broke me. It broke me in a way that I’ve never been broken before. He certainly didn’t deserve my outburst, but in that moment I couldn’t help myself.

     The idea that the size of my trousers had had anything to do with simple politeness was heartbreaking to me. Never mind men actually asking me on dates, career advances, better opportunities and much cheaper clothes (big girls get done over by the fashion world).

     The contrast is striking...but is it valid to generalize from it? Does it mean what the author wants the reader to take it to mean, or something else, or nothing at all?

     Time for more coffee.

     Many reactions are possible to the events related in the cited article. But whether the story is broadly relevant or a mere vignette is a personal judgment. Moreover, one of the factors that will color such a judgment is the tenor of the time, about which not everyone will agree.

     At 365 pounds, author Stacie Huckeba probably looked awful. She probably dressed badly and moved sluggishly. Her overall behavior might have differed from her more recent, svelte self as well. Whether or not men opened doors for her – let’s assume that in the main they did not – I have no doubt that few of her male acquaintances asked her out on dates. (Zero would be a plausible estimate.)

     We make many, many quick decisions about strangers from their appearance. We always have and we always will. In our time, many an obese woman harbors an intense hatred for others, particularly for men. Men are aware of this and tend to avoid such women. We certainly don’t seek to date or mate with them.

     The opening-doors business is a shadow-zone case. I open doors for everyone, regardless of familiarity, sex, age, height, weight, or appearance. It’s a personal quirk of mine that if I reach a door before someone trailing a little behind me, I automatically hold it open for him. It probably arises from my years as a door warden at my Catholic grammar school. (The shortest guy in the class always got that particular duty.)

     However, there are men who will only hold a door open for others on conditions:

  • For a woman;
  • For an elderly person;
  • For someone “mobility challenged;”
  • For a priest, minister, or public official.

     ...with the unstated proviso that they expect the gesture to be greeted indifferently at worst, courteously at best. That’s public deportment as it once was in these United States of America: say about 1950.

     (The cars, computers, and the canned soups are better today than they were in 1950. The same cannot be said for average public conduct. I have spoken.)

     In this nation in the Year of Our Lord 2017, the probability that a strange woman, no matter of what age, height, weight, or appearance, will react contemptuously toward a courteous gesture from a man is appallingly high. Many American men have experienced such unconscionable behavior, and have understandably become loath to court another such reaction. Such a man will pass through a door without taking note of a woman even if she’s only two steps behind him.

     Can you blame him?

     “What you are speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

     Another of the developments of recent years is the ascendancy of victimism as a political force. The victimists are determined to compel you to apologize and do penance for things done by others – and sometimes the “others” are the victimists themselves.

     Consider the 365-pound version of Miss Huckeba. Who made her that way? I can assure you that it wasn’t I; I rather doubt that it was you. Inasmuch as she did succeed in slimming down and staying that way, the natural inference would be that she did it to herself:

  • She overindulged in food and didn’t do enough to work it off;
  • Rather than correct her problem early on, she continued on a destructive course;
  • Yet she did eventually take stock, change her habits, and shed more than 200 pounds;
  • However, as many self-afflicted persons will, she’s decided that she wasn’t responsible for her former wretchedness and isolation.

     After all, if Miss Huckeba were to accept herself as the responsible party, it would occasion some introspection: a look at the attitudes, habits, and miscellaneous self-indulgences that had made her a land whale. She might have reflected on how natural was her matelessness. She might even have wondered about her similarity to women such as this one, their behavior toward others, and the consequent behavior of others toward them:

     Do you think the...person in that brief video enjoys a robust romantic life? How many of the men who encounter her in casual circumstances bother to open doors for her? And whom does she blame for those things, or for her considerable mass and volume?

     The collaboration of feminism and victimism has been wholly horrible for the West. Stacy McCain writes about it frequently and eloquently. Its political ramifications are unpleasant enough. When it pollutes the self-perception even of a woman who obviously has realized what she’d done to herself and took effective steps to correct it, it descends to a new plane: that of moral and ethical villainy.

     So yes, the events in Miss Huckeba’s article are meaningful. They tell us that we’re teetering on the brink of a moral abyss. Should we embrace the canard about not being responsible for our own health, wealth, and happiness, we’ll step over the edge. Should we proceed thence to treat others – putatively innocent others, at least – as the true agents of our sorrows, we’ll plunge headlong into it, never to emerge.


Anonymous said...

From her use of the term "stone" in reference to her weight, as well as her overall attitude, I presume she is not native to the South. In the South we hold doors for people. Gender, race, and weight have nothing to do with it.

Ugly4126 said...

In the 70's, at the height of the women's lib movement, my father, a true Tennessee gentleman, held the door to his office building open for a young woman. She angrily said,"You don't have to open the door for me because I'm a lady." He calmly replied,"Madame, I do not hold the door for you because you are a lady. I hold the door because I am a gentleman."

We are what we do, not what we say.

jabrwok said...

I love the Trigglypuff video. Not because of Triggly herself (obviously) but because the young woman who's capturing the moment is quite fetching. I know with which one *I'd* rather spend time.

Unknown said...

I am not surprised this happened in Nashville; this is a common and unremarkable occurance in the South (door holding, not outraged feminists!). The worst reaction I've ever had to this is indifferent acceptance, the usual is an exchange of thanks/you're welcome.

To paraphrase Mr. Haskins, since I am a gentleman I will therefore presume you are a lady. How you comport yourself will determine the validity of my assumption.

As always, Francis, an enjoyable read!

Linda Fox said...

Hmmm. I'm in the process of shedding a LOT of weight. I've had nothing but positive comments about my struggle, both at work and at home. But, I didn't harbor rage at others for what was, in fact, MY problem.

Sounds a little like anger displacement. She is furious at herself for wasting time being fat, and missing out on so much of life.

Anonymous said...

Here in the heart of blue territory on the coast I do not hold doors for any other than the elderly or infirm. I have too many times been castigated by 'strong women' for daring to be so misogynistic as to hold the door for them.

I was raised old school to be a gentleman. When doing so only invites trouble then it only makes sense to avoid it.

Chivalry is dying and those 'strong women' are killing it.