Thursday, November 09, 2006

Wiser with Age

If you were wondering where Jesse gets her bluntness, well, maybe some of it does come from me. With age, we all improve. Hopefully, we all get wiser, but twenty-plus years ago when I was teaching at Mission High School in South Texas, I was much like Jesse (come to think of it, I was about her age). The teacher’s lounge was always a hotbed of discussion. I loved hanging out in the lounge and being a part of those discussions.

One day in the lounge I was having a discussion with a fellow teacher, a lady we called Murphey. Murphey was an Irish Catholic New Yorker who had moved to the Rio Grande Valley with her husband and seven children. I liked Murphey well enough, but she was not a particularly great teacher (believe me, teachers know who can teach and who cannot). Her own seven children were rather wild. The term "white trash" comes to mind if it can be applied to a Northerner rather than a Southerner. I tended to call her "Mrs. Murphey" because as my elder, she deserved some respect. Mrs. Murphey and I were discussing the upcoming presidential election of that day – the one with Geraldine Ferraro running for Vice President. Having been raised by yellow dog Democrats, I was much more liberal minded then. I was certainly more "women’s lib" back in the day. At one point in the discussion with Mrs. Murphey, she said something along the lines of "I don’t like Geraldine Ferraro. I don’t think she should be VP. She just is not feminine enough."

The debater in me recognized faulty reasoning, and I said as much. Like a machine-gun I shot her with, "Feminine! What does that have to do with anything? You wear your hair shorter than most men do, I rarely see you wear make-up, and I have never seen you in a dress, and you think being feminine is important! What does that have to do with anything?" The minute those words left my mouth and I saw the look on Mrs. Murphey’s face, I knew I had messed up. I immediately apologized, although my apology was probably lacking. "Look Mrs. Murphey, I did not mean that the way it sounded. I certainly did not mean it to be hurtful. I just wanted to point out that you yourself do not seem to put any importance on being feminine. Why would you expect it in a vice president?" Mrs. Murphey said she understood perfectly and was not offended. We continued to talk and eventually, the bell rang. We went back to our classrooms (corners).

Later that day another fellow teacher came into my room laughing hard. She told me that she had been in the teacher’s lounge and heard Murphey telling a story about how "someone" had spoken harshly to her. This teacher told that everyone in the lounge had been appropriately horrified as Murphey told her story of "someone" being so cruel to her, but Murphey said she would not reveal the offender. After very little persuasion, Murphey gave in and melodramatically revealed, "It was Lou who said it to me." This teacher said everyone in the room burst out laughing. She said that everyone had been thinking how true the words were, but wondered who would actually say them to Murphey. When they found out it was me who had said the "hateful words," they all got a real kick out of the situation. They thought my words were perfect. It seems that I had a reputation for saying exactly what I thought and I would fight if provoked (or at a drop of a hat).

As I said earlier, hopefully we get wiser. Yesterday while I was teaching art to an older man (new student) at his house, his wife came in and announced that Rummsfeld had resigned. I was very surprised and said so. Then I started to say that I knew nothing about war strategy and how to solve the war problems…when the wife interrupted and said, "Well, I know how to solve the problem. Bring our boys home!"

The debater in me recognized the faulty reasoning. You may want to guess at this point what I said in reply, but you would be pleasantly surprised that I held my tongue. I did not say, "That is rather simple-minded don’t you think?" I had other thoughts too, but I will hold my tongue.


Anonymous said...

I had other thoughts too, but I will hold my tongue.

Good on ya! Wisdom is being able to pick your fights. And there are some folks you just can't argue with...their minds are made up.

Becky said...

As the old saying goes, "You can't argue with a stubborn idiot."

Laurie said...

Today's post had me grinning.