It has been brought to my attention that I have a superpower that I didn’t know I possessed – the ability to offend people for the most ridiculous reasons.
Case in point: I recently invited a friend to coffee so that we could catch up. Because I was in a celebratory mood, I put on a pair of new shoes that have an inch-and-a-half heel. These were a happy purchase: the first pair of heeled shoes I’ve been physically able to wear in over three years. Putting them on makes me feel like I’ve made progress that I had been told was absolutely not possible by my doctors.
The first words out of my friend’s mouth were “I hate it when you wear heels. You make me feel short and inferior.” It was not said in jest or fun, but in the tone of someone who has been deeply offended. It was said in a loud, pained voice that brought the cozy little cafe to a standstill. Well now, what to do with that….
I’m certain that the expectation was that I would apologize and be contrite for stepping on her emotional toes (pun very much intended). Or that I would say or do something to validate her indignation at my offensively tall self. Or possible that I would reply in such a way that I would act out the role that she’d tried to cast for me.
There are a thousand replies that I could have made but my mouth opened without filtering through my brain first. I replied in an equally loud voice, “Well, it’s a good thing that it is not my job to make sure you’re always in your comfort zone. Now, if you want to talk about this, I’ll listen, but if not, you might want to find other friends who will dress with your comfort in mind.”
She could have made a thousand replies, but instead opted to flounce out of the cafe in a huff. It was a rather spectacular flounce too – she dropped her phone twice and managed to turn over a chair in her rush to escape from the unsympathetic tallness that surrounded her. In a moment of lovely irony, another patron, who had to be at least 6’4″, held the door for her as she left. That gesture alone has probably left her scarred for life.
I’m being pretty-tongue-in-cheek about this, because this kind of self-created victim-hood is just a single instance in a growing pattern of behavior. Being kind and apologetic in these situations has only encouraged her. The experience was a good reminder that compassion cannot always be the feather-soft tenderness and soothing words. Sometimes, compassion comes disguised as hard truths and tough love. And every now and then, compassion walks in on a pair of heels.