I met someone once who felt they had to preface a lot of statements with “No offense, but…” At the time, I found it amusing because a lot of the things that followed that little disclaimer were fairly innocuous and unlikely to cause offense. But I remember thinking that throwing that out there before saying something truly offensive to someone probably wouldn’t help. It’s like saying, “I’m not racist, but damn those n-words.”
That’s just an example, for the record. Not something I actually think. But the fact that I feel a need to explicitly tell you that was just an example and in no way reflects the views and opinions of yours truly underscores what’s on my mind today: I worry a lot (probably too much) about offending people.
Oddly, that worry doesn’t seem to extend to my writing all that much. That’s fiction. My characters aren’t always politically correct. The cuss and fight and make poor decisions and have their own ideas about everything. Where it crops up for me is where I’m speaking or writing for/as myself, whether that’s here in this blog, on social media, in an email, or in person.
I used to go out of my way to avoid talking about anything of substance on Facebook. Politics? Nope. Religion?
Hell Heck no. After the 2016 election, I told myself (and my Facebook friends/family): No more! I’m going to speak my mind and champion the causes that are important to me. Period.
Did I? Eh. Timidly. For a while. In the end, I just don’t like to make waves. I don’t want to get involved in those infamous Facebook arguments. I just wanted to look at cat memes and recipes and photos of family and friends living their lives.
Yesterday, I was preparing a promotion announcement for my author page. The theme of the promotion is “dead things.” Vampires, necromancers, ghosts, etc. I came up with something I thought was reasonably clever, but when I read through it again… I was suddenly plagued with worries that it might offend someone at a time when people are dying left and right of COVID-19.
“Mortality is overrated.”
“If death is a doorway, are you ready to see what’s on the other side?”
Is it good ad copy, or in poor taste? Where is that line, now or any other time?
I also ran into trouble with my recent post about The Handmaid’s Tale. The original draft had a reference to Mormon polygamists and child brides. But there’s more than one type of polygamy out there, and what consenting adults do I generally consider none of my business. And if I didn’t word it right, I’d piss off Mormons in general, most of whom do not practice polygamy at all.
Lather, rinse, repeat. This shit tumbles around in my mind like towels in a dryer, day in and day out.
If I tell you I like goth music, will you hold it against me? What if I hate dogs? What if I am indifferent to disinterested in Star Wars? What if I said Sting makes me want to claw my ears out? What if I prefer Pepsi to Coke? What if I read bigfoot erotica? (I don’t. Not that there’s anything wrong with— Gah, I did it again!)
No offense, but sometimes I hate being so empathetic.