Why I Can't Tell People That They're Wrong
A couple of weeks ago, my friend said that Reese Witherspoon was in the movie Clueless. I did not correct her. “Yeah, she plays the, uh, the blonde one, duh.”
I knew Reese Witherspoon is not in the movie Clueless. The second those words came out of my friend’s mouth, my mind went, “No, that is wrong she is not at all in this movie.” But I did not even think about correcting her. Instead, I smiled and changed the subject to my new haircut, which just happens to be my favorite topic of conversation.
This was not a one-time situation; I do not correct people whenever I can possibly help it. In this instance with my friend, I didn't tell her she was wrong, because why would I want to chance embarrassing her? Why risk ruining this pleasant conversation with a polite correction? Why not just call her mother a penniless whore while I am at it?
Once on the subway, I saw a group of college-aged boys in a heated discussion. Actually, not really a discussion; one boy was talking and the other boy was correcting. I do not know if the boy who was correcting was right, but regardless, it was the most painful conversation for me to overhear. It was the first time it really hit me that: “Some people care more about being right than other people’s feelings.” I changed cars because I could not take it. (I also leave rooms when a character in a movie is embarrassed.)
Of course, a lot people do not feel the same way. I know this, because I have been corrected many times in my life. Regarding both trivial facts, like mentioning that Miracle Whip is great on fruit (I was informed that I actually meant “Cool Whip”), and important information, like when I said that Arizona is next to Arkansas (it is not.) Even on opinions, like when I said that Whiplash is an okay movie (it is the best movie of all time, says Brandon.)
I do not really mind being corrected, and I don't judge others for correcting. I even applaud others’ abilities to risk conflict. Though my applause is more like an "awkward golf clap while holding your phone." I know that these corrections are not coming from a malicious place. (Except the Whiplash one. Everyone knows that movie opinions come from a seemingly innocent but ultimately vicious area of the brain. Do not believe me? Ask the person next to you what they think of Avatar. I digress.)
I have no real desire to correct others, which I think you'll agree is a beautifully selfless character trait. But my friend corrected me (see?) and said that my lack of desire is actually based on a fear of looking mean. I agreed with her (see above) and then when I thought about it later, I realized I actually did agree with her! I once did not correct the spelling of my name on a college sports broadcast segment I worked for, and so it appeared under me spelled Katheryn Dudas (It is Katherine. Katherine). I did not correct a therapist when he talked about my anxiety over college exams (I was not in school.) And a waiter once brought me sherbert instead of ice cream and I think we can all agree that is the WORST ONE.
Do I regret not correcting these imbeciles? I am afraid I do not. My friend was correct. I fear looking mean. But is this anti-feminist? Am I spitting upon Gloria Steinem's grave? She is not dead, so, no. But also no, because I think I have a right to fear appearing mean and still respect my glorious womanhood. I think correcting is important when someone gives a Reese's Cup to your child with a peanut allergy. Or when someone gives an angry bloated squirrel the Republican presidential candidacy. But menial corrections bother me. So what if you just said "I took my Adele to the boyfriend last night." I know what you mean and I respect you, goddamn it.
I think it is also important to say that I am not good at correcting. Below is a fictional example closely based on real events:
Wrong person: “The earth is supes flat.”
My internal monologue: It is round though, it is round how do I — okay, just casual, be casual like it is no big deal but also sound correct, like do not let it be open for discussion yes perfect you got this do something cool with your hands maybe fold them or touch your hair because casual.
Me: (in a voice I have never head before) “It is round, I think? Yeah I could be wrong but it is round??? Haha who even knows. Everything is very subjective have you ever seen Avatar??”
Maybe this will be me until I die. From being given the wrong medicine. Because I did not correct anyone. But I will die happy because the nurse will not be embarrassed. Not on my watch!