When controversy becomes too controversial

These days it seems many young and up-and-coming celebrities use controversy as a means to gain publicity. Yes, I’m referring to Miley Cyrus. No, I’m not only referring to her. Miley Cyrus is using sex and her inability to twerk to gain public interest. ((Seriously?? Naked swinging on a wrecking ball? Girl doesn’t even have a good lookin’ bod!)) Lady Gaga has used outrageous costumes to grab the attention of her ‘Monsters’ (rightfully called if they follow her so religiously). She has tagged along on the gay/lesbian/other train with her hit ‘Born This Way.’ Rihanna has ultimately failed in every women’s rights categories. She had the world behind her when Chris Brown kicked her ass. But then she comes out with songs like ‘Love the Way You Lie’ and ‘S&M’. Her most recent hit ‘Pour it Up’ is about making it as a stripper.

But it’s not just celebrities. Politicians pave their political path by supporting or not supporting the important controversies: gays rights to get married, women’s pro-or-not choice, social security (which my generation will never see), and healthcare (Which my generation is seeing for the first time – outside of 26 years old). 

If it wasn’t for this controversy being brought up, we wouldn’t be where we are today. It was a big deal 50 years ago for someone to admit homosexuality, or birth control or abortion. Now two men or women in love can get married with a former president as a witness! A woman can be encouraged to use birth control and sometimes even getting an abortion. Not everyone is meant to be a mother. And women shouldn’t have to be forced into it if it could be a danger to their health (mental, physical, or emotional). It’s our body right?

 I watch as ‘friends’ on Facebook state they will ‘unfriend’ anyone who prefers one way or another. I can understand, I’ve been there before…but mostly because I no longer know the person/care about their personal life and/or their posts are dramatic and overzealous. 

This is all fine and dandy. But upon actual face-to-face/voice inclusive conversation with friends (new and old) I realize how uncomfortable it is to have a controversial opinion. So much so, that I don’t even want to mention what my controversial opinion is.

Yet, I feel trapped and confused. I’m watching and hearing ‘big’ controversies being discussed on television and radio but when I bring smaller or subcategory-type discussion up, I’m shot down. A writer should be able to face these controversies straight and tell it how it is. An opinion is ONLY an opinion. It doesn’t change who I am or who they thought I was. I still act the same way and wear the same clothes, but now they know something about me that they probably wish they didn’t know. But the danger of opening up and giving my opinion is that it now changes someone else’s opinion about me. In someone’s eyes, I have just lowered myself in their totem pole of respect. 

Perhaps I’m a hypocrite. What I am bothered by is in direct relation with something I support passionately. Can this be? Am I fooling myself? I’ve always considered myself open-minded. I went to massage school with hippies who literally had to be told ‘please shower or wear deodorant’; ‘please wear clothes’; ‘respect others eating preferences.. not everyone is vegetarian’… but can I tell them how annoyed I am by drum circles?! No. Because then I stand against their musical 5th amendment. They had a day dedicated to nudity. I’m a massage therapist, yes I know what the body consists of, HELL NO I don’t want to see yours! Especially as they run wild among the grass and wildflowers. Veganism? Vegetarianism? Sure Yea I get it. And luckily, my friends and family who are among the not-meat-eating-type are respectful enough to not preach about it. In fact, they’re so cool, they’ll say ‘BYOM – bring your own meat (hopefully cooked already)’. But it sure is difficult to be yelled at by a strict vegan for giving her child a banana brownie (VEGAN!!) using white sugar and all-purpose flour. What? It’s vegan! Yes, but you used bleached aka unnatural flour and sugar. —Hmmm. I went out of my way to figure out how to make vegan brownies so your children don’t feel left out during a bake sale. I hope their banana-chocolate farts fill your sunflower-covered-van. 

But I know my intentions. I know them well enough actually. I know when I’m trying to be spiteful and hurt someone. I’m a writer. I’m an actor. I know how to hurt on cue and twist the knife for good measure. But I don’t use that. And my intentions are not to bring harm. My intentions are good and I always do my best to clarify my intentions. I understand that I can be misunderstood. I have mastered the ‘stone face’ but that doesn’t mean I don’t care or am not listening. In fact, it means I’m blocking every thing else out so I can care and listen more to/for you. 

There’s nothing harder than for a person to admit something they know may not be good in another person’s eyes. It’s hard to stay quiet about something truly controversial. I can FEEL the controversy in my own heart and battle it in my mind. But it’s harder to watch the disappointment in someone’s eyes when you admit those opinions. Anyone can master the stone face, but the sparkle in one’s eyes can dull out a bit if they disagree. I know because I’ve felt the sparkle diminish in my own eyes. 


Not Just Another Beautiful Face – A Dedication

I saw my great-aunt for the first time in years. She was in the hospital getting ready to go for surgery. She called me a few months ago and when I asked to see her before I left for Korea, she said ‘No my sweetheart. It’s better this way.’ I’ve felt heartbreak before. I’ve felt it from young love, and the death of a beloved pet, and realizing that my dream would not be my reality.

But to be told by a dear family member that I may not see her again… that was new. I’m not happy about the circumstances that allowed me to see her. I ‘facetimed’ with my uncle while she writhed in pain in her hospital bed. But I saw her. I was as close to her as I may ever be again.

I looked at her aged face: the deep wrinkles, her teeth, her white and thinning hair. But what I saw for just a moment was such a beautiful smile. I know the smile masked the pain she was in. But we got to see each other. After years of not reaching out enough, her family surrounded her. Her nephew and sister in law (my uncle and grandmother) were by her side. They turned the camera away while she was in pain, and we talked of things far less important than her health: sports, tv shows, wedding details. I may not have been in the room to witness it, but I could hear her cries of discomfort.

Maybe this is a horrible thing to say, but I’m glad I wasn’t there. I mean, in the room. If I was in Florida, I would have dropped my life and been there in the fastest way possible. But to see her in pain, in a hospital bed, pale and frustrated… this would have torn me apart. Here was a woman who talked me through some hard times, hugged me in the few instances I saw her, and I couldn’t be there for her today.

Perhaps I’m making this sound morbid. She had a successful surgery. She woke up to her husband and only daughter, her brother and his wife (my grandparents), and her nephew. She had family surrounding her. This is something she had not experienced in YEARS. I can only imagine how happy she was to see all their faces. Maybe a bit humiliated too.. she doesn’t like others to see or feel her pain.

Now she’s headed to a rehabilitation center. She suffered from broken metacarpals (fingers/knuckles) that has her in a cast up to her elbow. She needs a walker too, which will be interesting I think with a cast. But she’ll have the help she needs, that my great-uncle could not provide.

Her strength empowers me. The thought of losing her weakens me. I suppose this is part of the balancing act of life, huh?

Here’s to you Shirley, you’re not just another beautiful face!

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