Sometimes you don’t see it.
This is not an excuse. It is simply the truth that can either be the beginning of a journey or the end of one.
Sometimes we say or do things that are hurtful because we just don’t get it. If we are lucky, someone takes the time to clue us in.
Yesterday someone reached out to me privately about my post, A Little Beverly Hills . They were troubled by what they described as “a post basically ridiculing the pretty clear cultural influence on home decor.”
They continued by allowing:
I get that that house is "over the top" and "loud"... which is how my eyes see a lot of the decor and behavior that is widely acknowledged to be based on cultural differences.
I’ll admit I was unprepared for this response. But it was this next bit that made my heart sink. They pointed out that what I had written amounted to:
...publicly ridiculing the home of a local family who might well see these comments and no doubt be hurt by them.
I realized I had made a number of assumptions in writing my post. I had assumed that design choices were made by contractors who built the house, decorating choices by professional stagers and that the things I disliked were commercial choices, not ones that reflected the personal taste of a particular homeowner. And I assumed that, for a home that’s been on the market over 180 days, whoever had lived there was probably long gone.
In other words, I was able to indulge my armchair criticism because I had separated the human element from this equation. The person who reached out to me clearly had not. And that made me think.
At first I felt that familiar sense of self-justification rising up in me. I asked my daughter:
Do you think I was that mean?
Well at least it was a house and not a person. Pause. You were kind of harsh, Mom.
So the truth is I had a perfectly lovely time indulging a style of real estate critism that comes from too much HGTV combined with a smattering of McMansion Hell. I wasn’t thinking that I could hurt anyone. And I should have because, after all, it was a local story and that’s why I was writing about it.
Local stories concern local people. I should have known better. I could have done better.
As far as the suggestion that my piece dealt with cultural influences on home decor, or that I judged harshly things that are widely acknowledged to be based on cultural differences - - I just don’t know. I’m open to examining that in a more comprehensive manner. I’d love to know what my readers think. When I look at a house and condemn “...an unnecessary luxury finish or a headsmackingly awful decorating choice” am I inherently judging the cultural influence of the owners? Am I in the same territory as suggesting the house is objectionable because its owners have a particular color of skin, or religion, or ethnicity?
I don’t see that in this particular case. But just because I don’t see it doesn’t mean I don’t need to think about it.