1. In Defense of Being a “Dick”
    Dear Veronica,
    I was sitting in the entrance hallway of South City campus when I found this week’s Globe. It was my first time perusing this publication, and your open letter of opinion stood out. How could it not? That nice little header demonizes the identity of this “dick” character before anyone even understands what you were talking about. It’s cheesy, and it really just makes it entirely impossible to take you seriously as an unbiased individual with a unique, critically developed, or even well thought-out argument to bring to the table. It looked like a cookie-cutter commentary before I even read it, and I figured you must have just been aiming for sarcasm.

    Then I read on, and realized that you were being completely serious. And that prompted response.
    Let’s start with the first scenario, of the sneeze and the ensuing chorus of blessings you think should be mandatory when a person sneezes. This is flawed on many levels, the first of which being that anyone present was raised in or believes in a setting where the custom of answering a sneeze with a “bless you” was standard. You might be talking to an atheist, or a person who just never had any exposure to the custom to begin with. Sure, they could indulge you, and bless the person who sneezed, but why exactly are they required to? Why would it be a standard by which you judge a person’s character? Further, would you go so far as to indulge the atheist by not saying bless you when he sneezes? Or is your entitlement to be talked to and treated a certain way so dominating that every conversation you have is really just another monologue that keeps getting interrupted by your friends?
    The entire tradition of saying bless you following a sneeze was derived from Puritanical beliefs that every time you sneezed you bared your soul to corruption by the devil, and that quickly saying “bless you” could scare it off. It’s just a cultural thing, not a requirement for positive social interaction. Get over it.

    On to the door holding problem.
    So, Veronica, do you like your right to vote? How about thinking that you can and are equally treated as men are? Or, again, do you think you are entitled to preferential treatment?
    Door holding is a part of the old system, what we liked to call chivalry. In this system, men and women were treated differently due to the rigidly defined roles of their genders and the separate social spheres through which they were forced to act. Women were treated as dainty and delicate, as well as generally considered to be property to be traded or owned as a symbol of status or as a binder in a business deal. The same things that you might consider romantic or proper conduct are really just centuries of men shaping the way women think, and the only things that hang around from it are things that were folded into the Romantic movement that eventually kicked off the whole “women are people, not things” politicking. Sure, door holding might be nice, but it’s ultimately just another instance of the male superiority complex pulling a trick on you. You gain that reward, but you also reveal that you are open to manipulation and usury. I mean, which is fine. It is entirely your choice to support the de-facto objectification of people based on the type of sex organ they have.
    That, and you aren’t entitled to a thank you for door holding if you decide to do it. Sure, some positive reinforcement for doing nice things is great, and helps you learn to keep doing it. But it’s like saying that you want to give some people you don’t know gifts, and expect them to have a gift ready to give to you immediately. It’s just presumptuous. People are people, and again, I challenge you to just “get over it” and do what you think is right regardless of what some herd tells you to expect. Dropping a sassy “you’re welcome,” doesn’t change the simple fact that they forgot acknowledge your presence and service.
    It would be better just to smile and think about how you just helped some obviously more urgent people make it to their destination a little faster, with little expense to yourself beyond the five seconds you held the door open and the two calories you burned doing it. You made them feel that they were in control, which can turn around a day entirely. If you drop a pointed comment in their face though, it’s just the equivalent of projectile vomiting your own discontent and nastiness onto them. It isn’t fair for anyone to do that, and I think that right there is more of a “dick” move than ignoring people.

    On to phones.
    Distracted people who run into things aren’t aggravated, they’re just adrenalized. Think about it, we’ve all accidentally bumped into something when we weren’t watching where we were going. Sure, some people might get a little more showy or aggressive in response to the surprise, but that’s probably just due to some insecurity you can’t know without getting to know the person first. I personally just smile, nod, and help them pick up things if they dropped them. It’s nothing I lose my cool over, and for you to respond to aggression with more aggression is just silly. Why make yourself a dick just because you ran into one?

    On to the emotionally charged anecdote that is actually about your sister’s hospitalization, not at all about the actual dick in question. Again, we return to this ideal of chivalrous entitlement: that because people look, live, or act a certain way, that they have a right to be placed in a category of preferred treatment. What if your little old lady turned out to have premeditated and acted on the murder of her six grandchildren? I’d imagine letting her stand would be somewhat less problematic for you than the other situation: that twerp who is denying her automatic respect just because she managed to be born before he did. I’m not saying that we should not respect our elders; but their life experience no more entitles them to my seat than anyone else. They can ask me if they choose, and I’m sure I’d be more than accommodating to the arthritic grandmother; I just also acknowledge that I would behave somewhat less sympathetically to the crazy cat lady with whiskey on her breath jockeying for my bus seat.

    Veronica, times have changed. There are new manners coming forward, one of which is not judging people for variables and factors that they can’t personally control. Things like gender, sexual orientation/preference, age, race, religion or nationality are widely considered to be protected by our government. And sure, we have a ways to go, but you aren’t helping. My opinion is that we should judge and interact with people based on their history of interaction with you, not their biology or a convenient situation. People need to stop using a cookie cutter to define each other, and lamenting the death of preferential treatment by demonizing behaviors we don’t immediately relate to or understand.

    All I’m saying, I guess, is that all it takes to stop noticing dicks is the conscious decision to be empathetic and nice to people rather than dismissive or superior.

    Derek Devine

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