If you are easily offended, don’t read this.
The nature of public spaces is such that we the people will alternately amuse, befuddle, bore, and appall one another. There is no way around this. The best we can do is to be civil, polite, and tolerant. Generally, we do alright together. In fact, I have an increasingly high appreciation for the general politeness of my fellow humans. I hope I can hold up my end of the bargain.
Our church fellowship has been making a point of heading to Liberty Plaza most Friday evenings to participate in food distribution to the homeless and working poor of Washtenaw county. I credit those by-standers who may not appreciate seeing a hundred homeless folks in "pristine" Ann Arbor with at least being tolerant of the activities. The realities of the scene include the regularly scheduled drunks and the occasional fistfight. I think that the average bystander, however, can acknowledge at least the good intentions of the effort, if not fully agreeing with the details. Again, I give my fellow humans credit here for some demonstrated tolerance.
Now, being easily mistaken for a narrow-minded, intolerant, ignorant, homophobic, uptight, self-hating, christian bible-thumper, your humble correspondent has plenty of potential opportunities to get on his high-horse and ride off in offense at the goings-on in the wilds of Ann Arbor. Problem is, I don't feel terribly offended by my fellow humans. The more I talk with people, the more I feel for them. We may differ on many things, but I hope I give them as wide a berth as they generally give me. Getting hit on by a guy does not offend me. Having a druggie throw over my serving table does not offend me (OK, I was MOMENTARILY steamed...) F-bombs do not offend me. Are there things I'd rather not have my 6 year old daughter see and hear downtown? Sure. But I kind of understand why people do what they do, and it gives us things to discuss afterward. We've all got our beliefs.
Being almost Halloween, the zombies were out in force on campus last Friday night. So, too, were the ninjas, secret agents, video game characters, etc... Now, this isn’t the point of this piece, but I've come to a place in my life where I really don't want anything to do with Halloween. I used to do it as a kid. I even used to make some pretty scary haunted houses. I never meant anything truly evil by it. I just like the theater of it all. But at some point, any fun I derived from the occasion became subservient to the realization that we were celebrating evil. Life's too short, and I'm here to point people to Christ, not to devils. I can't slice it any other way anymore. You might not agree. I trust we can tolerate each other. I get where you're coming from. I really do. I hope you can understand where I'm coming from too. I love you. Don't hate me just because I'm different.
All this is simply to say, we all have our differences, but I think we learn over time not to question each others' sincerity. We’ll talk things out, and that is what will determine how much we have in common. We may see things differently, but that’s OK. I don't particularly want to see zombies, but I'm not offended by zombies. Live and let live... er... die and... well, never mind.
Which brings me to the point. It’s not about Halloween. Something else the other night really made me question the intentions of some of my fellow humans. Let me be blunt.
Ladies, I'm struggling with the fact that 90 percent of you felt that the only acceptably creative bottom half for your costume that night was nothing more than a pair of panties. Sure, you had the brilliance to vary the colors, but come on, seriously?
Back up for a minute. When ONE of you walks by wearing something excitingly above average I can chalk it up to your beliefs vs. my beliefs. Pardon me if I bounce my eyes away and don’t look at you. You’ve got your freedom. I’ve got mine. The pavement is my friend. It’s not that you look bad in the least, but if I let myself enjoy looking at you I’ll be taking that bit of attention away from my wife. It may seem awkward that I snap my eyes away from you, but you’re not really offending me. I hope I don’t offend you. I’m just saving my eyes for my wife.
Fast forward. When I see a couple hundred of you over the course of a few hours and it becomes clear that your southbound creativity stops at your navel I’m suddenly overwhelmed by the fact that you are not expressing your individuality. You are corporately expressing the internationally recognized signal for “look at my crotch.”
I know that you probably don’t mean to say that. After all, there’s a good chance you’re only doing it because everyone else is. You want to look attractive, and let’s face it, the “standards” went “up” last night and you had to follow suit to get any attention. But that is exactly the problem. You are asking for “attention” from every man you pass. And what exactly do you think is on their mind as they stare at you?
What’s worse, this means that you are unwittingly attempting emotional robbery from every woman who happens to have a claim on one of those men. I’ll wager that most of you individually, secretly want “your man” to have eyes “only for you.” Be honest. Would you want your boyfriend, fiance, or husband looking at some whore who’s dressed the way you’re dressed? Think about it.
And if common decency isn’t a powerful enough motivator, then you’re also probably naive enough to think that all those guys are just appreciating you for all that “inner beauty” which just happens to be shining out from that spot between your legs.
So, why do I care?
It's not a "spiritual thing". Dressing less provocatively will make not one iota of difference to you in the grand spiritual scheme of things. Not one bit.
So, why not go for it? Whether you get drunk or not, you're going to feel buzzed from all the attention you get. Why not go for it? I bet you like having men follow you around like puppies. Why not go for it? Might as well. Empowering? Sure.
The reason I care is because I don't think most of you can see beyond the attention to the intention. Would it shock you to know that you're being constantly mentally gang-raped by all those "adoring" guys? Every second you're out there, someone's mentally doing you.
Don't get me wrong. The ultimate blame falls on each of those guys alone.
I used to be one of those guys. I know.
And you guys out there know exactly what I'm talking about, too.