Insensitivity II: The Flip Side

I read Bridget Jones’ Diary years ago. It was possibly one of the only books I’ve read which has a movie counterpart that I liked better. But that’s not the point. What I remember from the book are two things: first, every diary entry begins with her current weight, which is brilliant. (Also, not the point.) Second, the way she refers to married people. She calls them “Smug Marrieds.” (Yes, this is the point.)

Why is it so? Why do married people get a bad rap?

Because some married people say incredibly stupid, insensitive things.

When I was single, I actually started keeping a list of stupid things married people said to me. (I figured, if I’m being insulted, might as well have a sense of humor about it.) I don’t know where the list is now, nor do I remember many of the detailed barbs, just a few:

Smug Married to Single Me: “You have no idea how good it feels to be married.”

Smug Married to Single Me after a break-up: “Don’t worry, you’re not that old.”

Smug/Stupid Married to Engaged Me: “I’m so happy you’re getting married, I couldn’t figure out what was taking you so long.”

Generally, I’ve come to accept that people say stupid things. It happens to the best of us. Moreover, stupidity can be more easily excused than insensitivity.

But at what point do you make the distinction?

At what point do you say, I know everyone says stupid things at one time or another – but this is downright insensitive, and you should know better!

I found myself contemplating this since I bumped into two random friends last week – friends of mine, acquaintances of each other. Both women were around my age – one pregnant, the other not.

And as we all paused for the socially acceptable “stop and chat” to hear what’s new with the other, the pregnant woman started to complain that maternity clothes are soooooo expensive in Israel.

Like I said, people say stupid things. If she said it once, fine. It happens.

But she said it a number of times. And not in a sensitive way. She said: “Who can afford to have babies in this country? Why is everything so expensive?” And on and on.

Now listen – maternity clothes in Israel are expensive (and nowhere near as nice as the clothes in America) – she is 100% correct.

But wake up – you’re talking to a single woman who would kill to be married, expecting and paying through the nose for maternity clothes – and you’re complaining!

At what point did people decide they can say whatever they want with complete disregard for other’s feelings? At what point did we become so enamored with the right to express our own feelings that we forgot that other people have the right not to be around stupid, insensitive people?

I was embarrassed for this pregnant woman, who was, albeit unintentionally, spewing complaints in front of the most inappropriate audience. She had no idea how bratty and insensitive she came off. Which is unfortunate – because there is a time and place for  pregnant women to complain and express their feelings. It’s to others in similar situations, or to a really good friend who despite being single will understand, or to your husband. Not to people who you bump into to on the street who you’re sort-of-friendly-with-but-not-really.

So I understand Bridget Jones’ brilliantly coined phrase, “Smug Marrieds.” I just wonder when will these women open their eyes and ears and stop giving the rest of us Nice, Sensitive Marrieds a bad reputation?

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