Like I said, I was hesitant to post this, but I am going to leave names unnamed. I haven’t told a soul about this because I’m embarrassed for this person. If I stuck my foot in my mouth that bad, I’d be embarrassed too. Actually, I have been embarrassed. Short story: before going to college, the word retarded was a word I used without care. I didn’t really think twice when using it, and while I didn’t say it all the time, I used it — sadly, in a derogatory sense. “That’s retarded. You’re retarded.” Really wreckless and inappropriate.
Then I got to college. I met so many wonderful people here, and coincidentally most of them had either worked with or were related to someone who was mentally handicapped. Before knowing this, I remember non-chalauntly saying the word in front of a friend. She didn’t say anything to me about it, but my other friend did. I felt terrible. And to this day, I won’t say the word because it’s been turned into a degrogatory word, for whatever reason (when it is not). The important thing I learned was that you never know who you will affect and in what way, which is why it’s so essential to watch not so much what you say, but how you say it.
Nobody’s perfect. Don’t get me wrong, I make a ton of mistakes. But last week I was piled in a car with a few other girls — some I knew well, some I didn’t know at all — when we got on the subject of bling. One of the girls started talking about this wedding ring she saw and how huge it was. That’s when another girl interjected.
“Well, I know ______, and I have known him since kindergarten, and his mom has a huge ring. But that doesn’t mean… (her husband is a great guy, that he loves her that much, insert foul thought here).” Yeah, we all knew where she was going with that comment, before we interjected.
This would have been a statement I could have cared less about (albeit it was rude in any regard), except for the fact that “________”, the guy she knew since kindergarten, was my cousin; his parents she was criticizing were my aunt and uncle.
It’s not like I haven’t heard that type of thing before. Sure, just like every other time, my blood kind of turns cold and I feel like I’ve lost all feeling in my fingers. That’s normal when you hear someone say something bad about people you care about. But once she said it, I felt sick to my stomach because I was completely humiliated — for her.
Afterwards, she apologized and wanted to let me know she was sincerely sorry and didn’t mean what she said. I accepted but let her know that she should probably watch what she says about situations she doesn’t know anything about. Eh, maybe I was a little more stern than that, but you get the drift. And not like you guys care, but my aunt and uncle are happily married. Also, she said those things not knowing I was related to those people, so it was clearly something she meant. Otherwise, why would she have said it?
Most importantly, she needed to know that it wasn’t a big deal in my eyes. I’ve heard comments like that so many times that it literally doesn’t scratch the surface, but every time it happens — every time people unknowingly say something like that in front of me — I feel bad. If they’re a good soul, I know they’ll end up feeling bad and I don’t want them to feel that way. Perhaps maybe they’ll learn something from it. But the last thing I want is them feeling embarrassed. Inevitably, they will feel that way, just like I feel for them.
No, it was not a big deal. Not hurtful to me (ok, fine, a little bit), not anything shocking, but just… ironic.