Over the course of my lifetime I have, on many occasions, been guilty of sticking one of my size sevens in my mouth. C’mon, be honest we’ve all been there. It usually happens when I become riled up over some socially sensitive subject and find out too late that the person I am with is totally against whatever crusade I happen to be ranting about that particular day. I truly dislike offending people and am usually quite careful about what I say, especially considering my tendency to climb up on my soapbox. For example, we all know never to discuss politics, religion, or sex in the workplace. I stick by that credo come hell or high water, but among friends opinions occasionally slip unannounced into the conversation, kinda like a Jets fan at a Steeler game. Oops, there I go again! Social slippage of the tongue-age can be awkward, offensive, and lead to misunderstandings among friends.
Hence, the social disclaimer was born. Over the years, I have learned that social disclaimers are a great way to smooth the ruffled feathers of those who are particularly sensitive and jump to the conclusion that harboring an opinion that differs from their own automatically brands the speaker as offensive simply by virtue of that opposing viewpoint. Therefore, much like the disclaimer at the end of a car commercial that basically invalidates every lauded claim made in the previous sixty seconds, my disclaimer purports to do the same. It usually goes something like this:
“This is just my opinion. It doesn’t mean that I don’t respect yours or that I wouldn’t love to hear your thoughts on (fill in the blank). Actually, I don’t have anything against (fill in the blank). In fact, I support (fill in the blank). Just because I have this opinion doesn’t mean that I think that we should put a stop to (fill in the blank) or that someone shouldn’t have the right to (fill in the blank). Anyway, I don’t want you to think I am a (fill in the blank) because I am not one of those (fill in the blank).”
I know this seems like a pretty drastic measure and one that calls for a great deal of effort, but I care too much what those I am close to and people in general think. It’s my downfall, or so I’ve been told.
This brings me to the topic of holiday greetings. Every Christmas I agonize over how to express my good wishes for the holiday season. Should I play it safe and stick with “Happy Holidays”? “Happy Holidays” is such a generic greeting and seems incongruently tame when used in reference to such a joyful season. It would make life so much easier to know exactly how someone celebrates (or doesn’t celebrate) the holiday. It’s simple at work. As a tutor in a college learning center, I assist students from all over the world. Every season, I enjoy myself tremendously by asking each of them how the holiday season is celebrated in their country. So far, I have learned how the season is observed in Haiti, Jamaica, Columbia, Russia, Poland, Venezuela, Canada, Vietnam, and China. I realize I am way too uptight about this type of thing, and most people don’t care what you wish them so long as you wish them well, but there you have it. It’s my social phobia disorder. Given all that, I’ve decided that a social disclaimer for the holidays is needed, as well. Such an abjuration would serve to effectively clear the speaker of any personal connection to or responsibility for what might have rashly slipped out in the spirit of the season. In other words, should I unintentionally irritate a non-believer by happily blurting out a “Merry Christmas”, so long as I’ve trotted out my disclaimer, he or she shouldn’t get too upset with me, right?
Wouldn’t life be simpler if we could all simply wear t-shirts or some sort of label that states our individual beliefs or lack thereof so that all passersby might wish each of us the appropriate greeting? Think how much more fun and festive the season would seem! I guess, in part, this sentiment is somewhat selfish since I would also like to be the recipient of a “Merry Christmas” rather than the ho-hum-ho “Happy Holidays”. I can only imagine that there are others who feel this way and who would love to be wished the appropriate salutations for the whole of their (fill in the blank) season.
So, without further ado, here is my holiday disclaimer for 2014:
“Happy (fill in the blank), Merry (fill in the blank), or Have a wonderful (fill in the blank)! Should you practice or celebrate nothing in particular, I hope you have a lovely day off and at the very least have the opportunity to eat lots of wonderful food. Please join me in dreaming of peace on earth, good will towards all, kindness, compassion, and great joy! Merry/Happy Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year, and if I left anyone out, please see the above stated disclaimer.