All I’m askin’

A cold day in Paris

The French have a saying. “Pfffft.”

Okay, saying is a stretch. It’s really more a sound of derision–the expulsion of emotion in a puff of hair through the lips. (Seriously, it’s a thing.)

Several months ago, the phrase “the new normal” seemed quaint and clever. Isolation. Lockdown. Change.

The new normal.  Pffft. We had no idea. 

I thought of writing something at the beginning of this journey fifteen weeks ago. And then the cacophony of voices erupted from the internet. How could I compete with “Some Good News” by John Krasinski? 

But that was really only the beginning of the great disgorge. It’s as if staying in our homes has caused a divergent response in what once felt like loud talking has now become maniacal screaming. Here me or maybe I don’t exist! And that’s when I noticed something. Something disturbing. 

Some of the caustic posts are discomfiting enough all by themselves but I began to see a pattern. The two-by-four between the eyes moment came when I read a post full of the words “anti” and “pro.” 

When did we start choosing titles over traits?

When did we come to believe that “anti” and “pro” statements are adequate descriptors of who we are?

Shakespeare coined the phrase about wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve. Someone unable to hide how they really feel. Is it just me or have we magnified this ability and turned it into a cultural phenomenon? Our opinions become our titles we wear like badges on our chests to distinguish what camp we live in, who we vote for, what we vote for, who we hate, what we hate… 

I’m “anti-…” “I’m pro-…” 

We have chosen titles over traits.

Who we are and how we see others has been compressed into inane descriptions of our opinions. I don’t want to be defined only by what I think. I want to be defined by who I am. Who I really am. I’ve worked hard to love better, to laugh more, to listen harder. And I know a lot of others who are involved in the same tough work. But it is beginning to feel as though all that work goes out the window if my “anti/pro” statement doesn’t align with someone else’s. 


Is it possible to go back to traits?  I’m talking about things like kindness, honesty, respect. You want to spell that last one don’t you? Or sing it? With abandon? Throw in a finger snap?


And then, of course that makes me think of her. 

Oh yes, the indomitable Queen of R&B. The great Aretha Franklin. Do you see what I did there? I gave her a title. “The Queen of R&B.” I promise I did it on purpose. I’m about to prove a point. Technically, Aretha is going to prove my point. I could not do this moment justice. You’ll have to see for yourself. Watch this!

There’s no way a woman who changed the music industry with her 1967 release of “Respect” could be relegated or defined by a title. It’s a nice title but still—it doesn’t come close to defining who she was. The “Queen of R&B” rocked the Grammy stage in 1998 as “a stand in” for Luciano Pavarotti and smashed it. Aretha a “stand in?” Pfft

The so-called Queen of R&B shook the roof and swept the audience with opera. I want to be like Aretha. I want to be defined by more than titles. I want to be known for my contributions not captions depicting my opinions. I want to learn how to love better, to laugh more, to listen harder. And I think Aretha nailed it. A little more respect has to be a great place to start. 

No more titles. They’re just so “pfft.” 

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not opposed to opinions. But can we have more? Can we expect more? Can we be more? I care what you think. But more than that, I care why you think it. I would rather know you. The you beyond the titles. 

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