I’m all for thoughtful conversation. I’m also all for challenging others’ preconceptions–in the context of a personal relationship or an appropriate platform.
But many times, you just have to let things go.
I seem to be doing this more than usual lately. Probably, the “more than usual” is because I’m planning a wedding. While I encounter these situations somewhat regularly in regards to issues I’m passionate about (like education, mental/emotional struggles, singleness, or Christianity), because of wedding-planning, right now I’m a person focused on meaning and practicality in a veritable world of theatrics and froufrou.
I don’t find “congratulations” to be a fitting response to someone getting engaged (it contributes to the detrimental marriage-is-an-achievement mindset). But even though this is my personal conviction, am I going to reject people or get angry if they tell me congratulations? No. It’s not the time or the relationship and, pretty much without exception, these people are well-meaning. (I will admit, however, when someone says “congratulations” to me out of context, I do sometimes respond, “For which…?” If they say it’s for my engagement, I’ll explain my confusion: I also recently ran a marathon and my master’s research is getting published).
I also don’t believe in bridal showers or “household-starting” wedding gifts. I started my own household years ago, and my fiance and I are gainfully-employed grown-ups. Of course, when people ask about throwing me a bridal shower, I try to respond graciously and gently explain that it’s not something I want. If people decide to give us wedding gifts anyway, I’m not going to reject them or make them feel badly about it. It’s a “thank-you”-and-move-on kind of situation.
I did feel a little badly a few weeks ago when my fiance and I went to a wedding expo*. All of the vendors expected us to be excited to talk to them and to be doing all the “wedding-y” things. They seemed a little confused and disappointed when we tried to walk on by or politely explain we weren’t doing “that part” (bouquets, tuxedos, entertainment, etc.). I felt especially apologetic when, at two different times, I had to turn down the exact same sales rep when I didn’t want to register at Bed Bath & Beyond. I like Bed Bath & Beyond. I appreciated the percentage-off-entire-purchase coupon they sent me when I moved into my house. But we’re not registering. I didn’t need to explain why to this stranger who was just doing her job. Just a smile and a “No, thank you” was enough.
You can’t really walk into something like that and expect people to be ready to engage in conversation about your different ways of thinking and doing. Just like I’m not going to walk into a fundamentalist church and start pointing out every way I disagree with their approach to Christianity. I’m the one who walked in, and I knew what I was getting into. Especially without a relationship with these people, it’s not the appropriate context, much less would it be conducive to thoughtful conversation.
Thoughtful conversation is vital to progress. But we need to choose circumstances that have the potential to be productive. Otherwise, we’re setting ourselves up for constant discouragement and wasted energy. Sometimes, it’s better to be gracious and move on, saving our energy and resources for the times when we can make an impact for change.