Consider Compromise

Our personal rules range from the silly and inconsequential to the very serious.

I don’t personally like the look of square-cut fingernails. I don’t argue with anyone’s preference to have that type of manicure; I just find them unattractive, as I do the very long, claw-like nails. I feel the same way about pearl-color nail polish, which is really surprising, seeing that I wore it constantly as a teenager. But now I think it looks like an advertisement for anemia, or perhaps zombieism. I simply don’t like it.

But pondering over my personal idiosyncrasies concerning manicures made me realize that each of us operates under these little individual rules: things we do or don’t practice ourselves; things we will or will not say; can or cannot accept; like or dislike. Our rules range from the silly and inconsequential, such as my obsession with acceptable manicure management, to the very serious, such as one’s personal spirituality.

This really came home to me recently when, while browsing an antique market, I overheard two customers and the owners, all of whom obviously attended the same church, critiquing their pastor’s latest sermon. All were incensed that, rather than use a scriptural passage as the basis for his lesson, he had chosen a poem on a spiritual theme. Listening to one of the women quote the line from the poem (several times, increasingly wrathful with each repetition), I thought to myself how eloquent and meaningful the words were. But it was obvious that their pastor had, unwittingly, broken the rules under which this small group of people operated. No matter how profound the source, they felt that a sermon in their church was to be based only on words from the Bible. Anything else was, in their view, quite unacceptable.

Eavesdropping quite unashamedly at this point, I listened in as they planned to confront their pastor on the necessity of following this rule.

I left the store feeling sorry for the benighted pastor, and wondering why they so were determined to impose their personal preferences on the entire congregation; why they could not be open to any deviation from their partialities, or to the magnificence of devotional material from another source. I also wondered what the consequences of their action would be, both immediate and long-term, and whether the rest of the congregation shared their dismay, or whether others, as I had done, considered the quote that founded the sermon to be exceptional. I imagined that quite a fracas was about to ensue from the pastor’s innocent desire to share with his parishioners words that he found evocative and eloquent.

That is the real danger of our personal rules: when we attempt to impose them upon others. Enforcing our rules doesn’t allow for individuality, or free speech, or even others’ personal preferences. For instance, that my rule is that beds must be made neatly every morning is not something I can reasonably expect others to follow; and while it might seem a minor penchant, if I were living with another person, it could cause a lot of friction.

I suppose the ultimate example of this quirk of imposing our personal rules on others is the operation of local Homeowner’s Associations. Originally begun with the noble intention of keeping areas free of, say, neighbors who reduce property values by parking four junker cars on blocks in their front yard, these groups have mutated into Neighborhood Nazis, sparking news stories concerning the persecution of harmless veterans who plunk a miniature American flag into a flowerpot, or couples who innocently feed the ducks.

Compromise is an essential function of interacting with other human beings. Sadly, we each seem to forget this on an individual basis. Is it any wonder, then, that nations find it impossible to manage this on a worldwide scale?

I’m always going to wonder how the “improper basis for a sermon” discussion fell out. Did the pastor accept the argument of his small group of parishioners, or was he dismayed, or even incensed, at their position? Was he able to convert them to compromising, however unwillingly, with his viewpoint? Did he listen carefully to their concerns, but in the end maintain his own position? Did the debate result in a fracturing of the congregation, or even the pastor’s departure?

I’ll never know. But for my own part, although, I will always maintain my preferences, I will never require that others adhere to my penchant for fingernails that are no longer than a quarter-inch long in gently rounded ovals; nails that, if polished, are painted only in shades ranging from pale to deep pinks and rich reds, while the wearer’s corresponding toenails are brightly painted in rosy tones or even sparkling shades.

Those are, though, just my personal preferences. In the end, just as with my choices regarding spirituality, I recognize that I must never unnecessarily impose my will and my decisions on another entity.

If you found something to like in this essay, you might also enjoy, “Roses of the Soul”. You can locate it by scrolling to the Archives, below; it was published December 16, 2017.

The Freedom of My Years

§ What I really remember about her essay is how profoundly sorry I felt for this young woman.  She still hadn’t managed to figure out that growing older is inevitable, but growing up is optional. §

As I’ve mentioned previously in this blog (see Barbie Shoes, published November 13, 2019), for many years one of my favorite ways to waste time at the office was to read a Lifestyle section which scoured the Net for interesting personal blog posts. The essays shared there were rarely boring.  Shocking, irritating, enlightening, silly, funny or thought-provoking, but not boring. Some still stand out in my memory.

One that I remember vividly had been written by a woman who was just entering her 30s. It was directed to other females of her age group who, she felt, were failing to take seriously their sudden elevation into true “grown up” status. It was time, she chivvied, to cast off the last remnants of wild, uninhibited youth and start behaving like mature, responsible adults. To this end, she offered a great deal of advice, most of it having to do with makeup, hairstyle, and dress. (Surprisingly, she provided no suggestions about behavior, which makes one wonder if she really comprehended the concept of “mature”, but, well, shrug…).

Her first recommendation was: No Graphic Tees. It was time to give them up, she pronounced. Graphic teeshirts were for teenagers and 20-somethings, and We’re All Adults Now. Plain colors and quiet prints only, please.

Then there was eyeshadow. No colors, she directed–no muted blues or soft greens; no lilacs or lavenders, and certainly no wilder shades, no matter what one’s eye color. Ivories and sandy browns and smokey greys, only, please, with perhaps the barest hint of eyeliner. A touch of pale lip color and mascara, but not much in that department, either. Remember, We’re All Adults Here Now.

Fingernails, too, had rules: no bejeweled nails, nor longer lengths; no sparkle, no swirls, no deep, dark colors. Soft, rosy tones or a French manicure, and a single shade only; never different colors on each finger. Don’t even think about unnatural shades, such as electric blue or diamanté black! The same rules applied, of course, to pedicures: muted colors, no shimmer, one shade only.

And hair! Chop off those long locks. Get a very short, wash-and-dry style, and never, ever, choose a hair color other than the normal brown, black, or dark blonde, or, at a stretch, red.  Highlights were acceptable, but, again, only in quiet shades. Don’t even think about adding a streak of purple at Halloween, or Kelley Green at St. Patrick’s day! Adults, remember! Adults!

This “mature” blogger provided numerous other rules for the adult females of her acquaintance; these are only the ones I recall. But what I really remember about her essay is how profoundly sorry I felt for this young woman. At the minimal age of 30, she had become an old woman. She still hadn’t managed to figure out that growing older is inevitable, but growing up is optional.

At 65, retired, I no longer have to deal with office clothing. I have one dress for weddings, and one outfit for funerals. All the rest of my clothing consists of teeshirts, shorts, jeans and sweatshirts.

And every one of my teeshirts is a graphic tee. Every last living one of ‘em.

I have teeshirts from which tiger and cat faces stare out; teeshirts with funny mottos; teeshirts with cartoons. A wide-eyed kitten proclaims, “Doom Is Near!” The shirt that I wear when feeling particularly grumpy reminds me, “No Bad Days!”

During the months just before my retirement, I took to wearing glittering gold eyeshadow. I wanted some bling in my life, I explained, and eyeshadow was one way to begin. Eventually I tired of ending up with sparkles on my contact lenses, but I still occasionally break out the glitter shadow just for the hell of it   I also have a sort of muted gold dust shadow that I periodically take to wearing. I line my eyes heavily when I’m of a mind to, and I prefer rich mauve and berry shades of lip gloss that stand out and define my lips.

I rarely paint my fingernails because the paint always chips and looks awful, while the feeling of fake nails drives me nuts. But for my daughter’s wedding I wore sparkling, iridescent eggplant-color nail polish that exactly matched my gown, while my toenails shone in my sandals with glittering, besparkled bright purple polish. In fact, throughout each summer, my pedicured toes are almost always topped with glittering polish that shimmers in the sunlight.

And my hair, long for most of my adult lifetime, is long still. I wear it up in topknots and Gibson Girls, and down in braids and twists and ponytails. And every five weeks it is still dyed the very standout shade of a brand new copper penny, which brightens my ultra-pale skin.

And, yes, I sometimes even wear a red hat trimmed with a clashing purple ribbon and a sparkling purple rhinestone brooch. Because I can. Because I no longer chose to follow the “grown up” rules. Because my years have given me the joyously complete and utterly unfettered freedom to be young at heart—a freedom that the genuinely young can never experience, but may (if they are lucky) someday come to understand.