Dear Ms. Behaved,
Almost every day after school my friends and I go to Chick-fil-a to hang out, get something to eat and do homework before going home. Lately, because of all the controversy surrounding that company I would rather not go. I have a cousin that I’m really close to who is gay and every time I am sitting in that restaurant I feel bad. My friends are amazing and a couple of them even met my cousin when he spent some time with my family last year. This is my last year of high school and I don’t want to ruin the fun or lose all my friends. At the same time I really don’t want to support that company. What do I do?
It sounds like you are getting your first life lesson, one that can’t be learned from a teacher or a book. I understand that this is not an easy situation for you to be in. When you decide to take a stand, you risk alienating the people around you, but decisions like this one mold you into person you will become.
Throughout history, famous leaders have spoken out about their beliefs, and behind those leaders were everyday people willing to make sacrifices in support of the cause. The sacrifices often take a toll. Think about the level of determination of the people behind the bus boycotts during the civil rights movement. Imagine walking five miles in order to work all day as a maid, then walking another five miles home again. That is where the real courage and strength is.
I would suggest calling one of your closest friends, the one you feel will most support your decision and tell him or her how you feel. Explain why supporting a restaurant that is openly anti-gay hurts you and the people you love. Having an ally will make it easier when you approach the group as a whole. Your friends aren’t hateful, so I imagine you won’t have too much trouble convincing them to support something that means so much to you.
You may end up losing a friend or two, but if you really think about it do you want someone in your life that cares more about a chicken sandwich than the rights of others?
My older sister Amy has a daughter who is six years old. I love my niece and spend as much time with her as I can, but Amy thinks I am trying to influence her daughter too much. My sister is a feminist and has never approved of girly things. She thinks makeup, dresses, gymnastics and dance lessons are stupid. I’m the total opposite. I love all that stuff and so does my niece. All she wants is to be a “pretty princess” and it drives my sister crazy. I’m really not trying to turn my niece into a mini-me, but she likes doing all the things I like to do. When I take her clothes shopping she is the one who picks the dresses and she always asks me if we can get our fingers and toes painted.
I understand my sister has her views but I feel like she’s hurting her daughter by always putting down the stuff my niece loves. Amy prides herself on being so open-minded and liberal but when it comes to her own daughter she won’t just let her be who she is. How do I get my sister to understand this isn’t about me, it’s about letting her daughter be happy?
It’s funny how people can get locked into their ideas and become blind to the fact that they are exactly the thing they are claiming not to be. The whole idea of being a feminist is that women can be anything they choose to be. Unfortunately, in this case feminism means “you can be anything your mama chooses for you.” The truth is your sister is no different than an overbearing father forcing his nerdy science loving kid to play football, or trying to convince a sports loving daughter that her time would be better spent trying to find a husband. Anytime we impose our will on another person, no matter how young, we are chipping away at their freedom to be a unique individual.
The best advice I can give you is just tell your sister she’s being bull headed and to knock it off before, like you said , she hurts her child. The last thing I’m sure Amy wants is a child that grows up thinking who she is fundamentally wrong. That’s the lesson being taught at the moment. Let the kid play dress up. Geez, she’s only six! What harm can come from her taking a dance lesson or getting her toes painted? Most likely your nieces interested are going to change hundreds of times as she matures. This year it’s pretty princess and in high school it may be patchouli wearing hippy. And if her interests don’t change and she remains a girly-girl pretty princess for the rest of her life, there isn’t a thing wrong with that.
Jonna Ivin is the author of Will Love for Crumbs and editor of the newly released Loving For Crumbs – An Anthology of Moving On. She is here to help you over the mid-week hump every Wednesday. Send your questions about love, relationships, life, and grabbing life by the balls to firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of her posts here.