And Your Bird Can Sing...
Why it is Critical to Routinely and Critically Check Your Privilege
I sat there on the leather couch in the orthodontist's office waiting room, looking at my phone. It was 10:48. I was quietly seething. My appointment has been scheduled for 10:25 and I was not only frustrated at having to wait, but also hungry because foolishly, I had not eaten before leaving the house. Therefore, I was crooked, impatient, and slightly ravenous. All I could think about, besides being selfish and snotty, was the small litany of tasks that I had planned to complete that day. This setback was only serving to put me even further behind my own self-imposed itinerary.
Someone from behind the veil finally called my name and I was forthwith escorted to the examination area. My frustration was mildly appeased as I told myself “Ah, yes, finally – it will be worth the wait to get these braces off in a matter of moments”.
My mild appeasement was short-lived.
Within seconds, it was replaced with mild fury and astonishment as the poor orthodontic assistant informed me in her jolly fashion that given my latest scan from 9 weeks ago, I could expect to be wearing my braces for the next 21 weeks… “But maybe only 18!”
The way she said it made it sound like I was supposed to be pleased.
I was not.
“Um… no,” I stammered. “I’m getting these things off today. He said so last time I was here.”
“These things” – like they were some kind of foreign and unwanted curse that I was being forced to endure.
She proceeded to inform me that I must have misunderstood… as the scan was done to assess my bite and to order new implements for my teeth.
I could have cried.
Yes, she was right. I guess I had misunderstood. But I was looking forward to having my braces removed and they made me wait 23 minutes past my scheduled appointment time and I was hungry and tired and I just wanted to go home and curl up in a ball and contemplate my sad lot in life.
As I sat there sooking (in yet another leather chair, but this time one that reclines), it hit me:
What a First World White Woman of Privilege Problem I was experiencing.
To elaborate on my point, let us consider my “plight” from this perspective:
• I woke up that morning in a house that I share with my partner, youngest son, and two dogs. We have a mortgage.
• It’s the same house from which I’ve been fortunate enough to perform my public servant employment duties during this pandemic, a job that pays me adequately and provides me with benefits for myself and my family… not the least of which includes dental and orthodontic coverage.
• Before leaving the house, I took a shower in warm, soapy water before dressing myself in comfortable and affordable clothing.
• I drove to my appointment in my SUV – it is not brand new, but it is new to me and I own it outright, having been able to finance it with the proceeds from a recent property sale.
• As I drove to my appointment, I listened to music streaming from my iPhone via Bluetooth.
• Moreover, in spite of leaving a house with a refrigerator and cupboards full of food, I had neglected to eat breakfast.
I’m not bragging – I’m just providing a statement of facts for the sake of context.
So yeah… POOR ME?
I don’t know if, like me, you follow folks on social media. We all have our gripes, aches, and pains. We may not all get along, but if there is one thing we can do collectively as humans, it is complain.
Man oh man, are we ever good at it!
We complain about anything and everything – COVID, politics, the price of gas, the way certain sports teams are being managed, what your idiot neighbour said or did 10 years ago at the community BBQ, what the town is doing (or not doing) about that g*dd*mn pothole on the main street that goes through town, what the weather reporter wore on last night’s news, and whatever other bullsh*t we can drum up to complain about tomorrow.
Sure, these are probably all legitimate peeves!
Nevertheless, social media has made us all experts in the field of “my hurt is worse than your hurt”. It is not about sympathy. We have become a culture of “Hey, look at me. I don’t propose to know how to fix it, but I don’t mind telling you what’s wrong. And I hope you’ll join with me and sing along.”
Somewhere along the line, we have forgotten that the things we take for granted might be the very things that someone else can only include on a wish list.
When that thought finally struck me, it gave me pause.
Was I frustrated, "hangry", and disappointed?
Yes. It is ok to acknowledge that. Feelings are feelings and they are real.
However, was I being persecuted, tortured or punished?
I was being ever so slightly inconvenienced….Simply because my day was not going as planned. Period.
So, yes, I have to wear “these things” – these dental insurance-subsidized instruments that correct my bite, straighten my teeth, and prevent me from gnashing them together as I sleep at night …in a warm comfy bed…with my partner... in a house that has electricity, running water, and adequate groceries… in a country where a woman can own property and vote and drive herself to and from appointments… just so she can b*tch about having a to wait 23 minutes beyond a scheduled appointment time… and whine about, "oh the horror of being me" – for another 21 weeks.
“But maybe only 18!”
It really IS all a matter of perspective.
So my point - and I promise I am getting to it - is that on occasion, it is important to acknowledge our feelings, BUT it is also important to check our privilege. We can be upset… but in the big scheme of things, do we have the right to nit-pick and grumble about a seemingly trivial matter on a larger scale?
But for the Grace of God go I… and all that good stuff.
[Editor’s Note: When I got back home and tried to hang a quilt on the clothes line and it subsequently snapped, I admit that I caught myself shouting, “Jeezus, what next?”. So I had the opportunity to check myself again!]
About the Creator
Ms. Carroll is a 40-something year-old veteran public servant and mother of three adult children. She and her partner Hal live in Amherst NS with a sweet, anxiety-ridden rescue dog. Shelley loves running, red wine, and laughter.
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