We had recently broken up and moved into the awkward stage, which for me, was numb and slightly bitter.  I had to see them in eighth hour AP U.S. History, but I just kept my head down, and that was fine.  It was March or so and we had just studied World War II.  A’s grandfather had been a U.S. soldier involved in the liberation efforts, and he had brought home a Nazi flag from the liberation.  A got permission to show it in class.  Seeing the black symbol on that red flag made me sick- physically nauseous- to think of what it stood for.  His best friend, C, casually asked me about it in Drivers’ Ed. class that night, so I told him.  And two days later I was (wrongly) accused of calling A’s grandfather a Nazi.

Would a “sensitive” person feel sick, knowing the lives that were tortured and destroyed at the hands of those that wore that symbol, when seeing it?

I worked all day.  Had four hours of musical rehearsal.  It was late at night, and since we had grudgingly accepted our familial responsibility to pick my grandparents, aunt, and cousins up at the airport since no one else was available, I had gotten a rather unpleasant and highly miserable sinus infection.  We sat for two hours late at night outside the baggage claim waiting.  We couldn’t reach anyone.  Around midnight we got a call from my aunt- “Oh, you didn’t get the message?  I called (my husband) when the plane was late to let him know and asked him to call you!”  He called our house… even though my dad had checked with my grandfather to be sure that he had my mom’s cell phone number and asserted that my mom and I wouldn’t be home; we’d be coming from musical rehearsal.  So we sat for two hours waiting for them because they didn’t let the person that was picking them up know that their plane was late.  

Would a “sensitive” person not get in contact with the ride that is waiting for them at the airport?

I most recently worked on the musical production Once Upon a Mattress, which for those of you who are unfamiliar with it, is a musical adaptation of “The Princess and the Pea.”  I played the cruel Queen Aggravain who did all in her power to prevent her son from marrying and taking the throne from her.  My character sang a song called “Sensitivity,” because she claimed that putting a pea under twenty soft, downy mattresses tests for sensitivity, and it got me thinking about being “sensitive.”

My voice teacher always tells me “You’re so sensitive.”  But then he always clarifies what he means by that.  Somehow in today’s society, the idea has crept up that if you’re “sensitive” you’re a whiny cry-baby that can’t take a joke and always has to get his way.  I think that’s a very “little kid” understanding of what sensitivity is.  When my teacher clarifies, he says, “You’re always in tune with your thoughts and feelings and those of others.”  That’s a much more grown-up outlook on sensitivity.

Males, especially, in today’s American society are expected to be “tough” and “macho” and “not a pussy.”  They’re told they’re weak or teased about being gay if they show their emotions (this is not me saying there’s something wrong with being gay).  But what’s so wrong with a guy being sensitive?  What’s so wrong about a guy knowing how he feels and not being afraid of expressing it?  What’s so wrong about a guy caring about other people’s feelings?  I, for one, love guys like that.  Guys like that don’t stifle their women.  Guys like that are likely to be good fathers who know how to teacher their children how to love and respect others.  Why is that so bad?

I honestly don’t have an answer.  I don’t really know why we feel the need to have such rigid conceptions of gender and the connotations of words such as “macho” versus “sensitive.”  Or better stated, I don’t understand why being sensitive has to be a negative thing (especially for men) because I think that we could all do with being a little more sensitive.  Maybe it would start to break down the harmful aspects of gender constructs.

Everyone is always so caught up in the me, me me! of it all that they forget to be sensitive to others’ needs.  You are not the only person who has places to go and people to see.  And yet when it comes to something we need, we all act as if everyone else doesn’t have a life too.  If we would all just realize that working together, cooperating, taking turns, sharing, being sensitive to/for/with other people, everyone’s lives would run much smoother.  Everyone would be much happier.

A little kindness, a little sensitivity goes a long way.  Open eyes, open minds, and open hearts; that, my friends, is the secret to peace.



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