I was adamantly pro-life in college (and by “adamantly,” I mean “anyone who has an abortion is an evil sadist who deserves a life sentence in prison,” without any ounce of empathy for the circumstances that lead to abortion being an option in the first place: namely poverty). I had a friend who was very pro-choice. In fact, she interned at Planned Parenthood. By agreeing never to discuss abortion, we were able to sustain a friendship – a friendship so close that she stood next to me on my wedding day.
I look back on this as a reminder that I am capable of agreeing to disagree, to live and let live. Sometimes this is very hard to do, but it is nonetheless what mature grownups do. Grownups understand that people believe different things, often due to unique life experiences, and we respect their right to do so. I imagine most of us would rather not live in an echo chamber – I certainly don’t.
WWAMAD? has been my mantra this election season: What Would a Mature Adult Do? I repeated this question for every pro-Trump post I saw on Facebook; every “But Hillary is just as bad!” and “He just tells it like it is!” post. I could overlook these comments, even as I shook my head or rolled my eyes, because I’m not an ardent Hillary fan, despite believing she’s the more qualified candidate. In fact, I do think she is a very flawed candidate, and my reaction to her electoral win (let’s face it, it’s pretty inevitable at this point) will be rather anti-climactic.
But this post isn’t about Hillary.
It’s about the moment I saw posts, comments, and shared articles from a handful of acquaintances, past and present (and many of them Christian), continuing to laud Trump even after a recording that bragged about assaulting women was released to the media. Even after news surfaced that he had raped his former wife, was accused of raping a teenage girl (true, we can’t prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt, but he’s making his accusers look awfully credible), and made disturbing comments about what he would do to his own daughter if she weren’t his daughter. Even after multiple women came forward to accuse him of assaulting them. And no, “Sorry if you were offended” does not count as an apology – in no way does it acknowledge that the original statements were wrong and never should have been said.
Worse yet are the women and men alike reiterating that Trump’s comments were nothing more than “locker room talk.” I’m outraged that women don’t hold the men in their lives to higher standards than this, and mystified at the small number of men I know who have come forward to stand up for their gender and insist that this is not acceptable.
I’m outraged, anxiety-ridden, and triggered. Two weeks ago I broke my months-long sobriety streak because I couldn’t handle the stress (if you’ve never experienced it yourself, then let me tell you: PTSD is a real bitch).
It’s hard to explain how much of a gut-punch it is to hear in conversation or read Facebook posts from people who know about your past – people who might have told you they believe you, and insisted that what happened to you wasn’t your fault – and still find a way to excuse confessions of assault as “guy talk,” “lewd comments,” or my favorite, “mean things.” At this point, a line has been crossed. We are no longer in the land of “agreeing to disagree” when sexual assault is involved. No, this time, it’s too personal to do that.
What Would a Mature Adult Do?
I’ve talked to my husband, my brother, and a few close friends. I’ve prayed about my response. There is no right or wrong answer to this question; not if it’s answered after a great deal of reflection and humility. For me, as a mature adult (so I hope), it is best to act in the interest of self-care. If anyone’s posts trivialize what was done to these women (which was also done to me), I don’t need their presence in my life. My recovery matters more.
So I did something I once swore I’d never do, because it just felt petty: I did a clean-up of my friends list. Most of the ‘unfriended’ (I can’t stand that word) were people I haven’t spoken to since high school and will likely never see again, anyway. Others were harder: they are people I see in places like class or church, whom I cannot avoid without being overtly rude. Short of finding another church or dropping courses, which is not exactly convenient, I had to repeat the question again: What Would a Mature Adult Do?
A mature adult, I figure, will still be kind and courteous in public spaces, but will not go out of her way to meet for coffee or other activites. Those will have to rest.
I don’t intend for this to be permanent. But when trust has been broken, the only thing that can close the gap is time. Hopefully, if the offenders are also mature adults, they will understand why this separation is necessary.
Like this post? Check out Confessions of a Jew-ish Skeptic, now available on Amazon.