Free Speech

“What color lipstick do you think would look good on me?” I asked the salesgirl, who appeared to be in her early twenties.  “Oh, definitely our newest color: Kog Nak.  Let me find it.  Yes, here it is: Kog Nak.  You should try it on.”  I did, and it was a great color for me.  As I walked up to the register, she handed me fresh one in a box.  Thinking that it was a strange name for a lipstick (or for anything for that matter), I looked to see how it was spelled.  “Cognac” was written on the bottom.  I paid for the lipstick and started to walk out the door. But I couldn’t do it. I turned and walked back towards the girl.  “Listen,” I said quietly.  “I need to tell you something. It’s pronounced Cone-yak.  It’s a type of drink.”

After holding Sam’s bar mitzvah last May, I decided that I didn’t ever need to do that again.  It was exhausting and emotional and expensive.  I figured I could talk my daughter Lauren into a trip to Israel instead. She wasn’t buying it.  So I begrudgingly went this week to look at a potential venue for her party. The chipper catering lady excitedly asked me what stage I was in in the planning process. I looked at her with a very serious expression, took a deep breath, and I answered “Denial.”

In today’s society, when the topic of freedom of speech is being debated worldwide, I think it’s important to remember that 99% of the time it’s perfectly fine to say what’s on your mind.  No one gets anywhere by being polite, and God knows I am the last person to withhold my thoughts on the majority of issues out there.

For the past few weeks, I have been driving Sam and his friends home from their late night rehearsals. On these late night drives, they often lovingly make fun of Sam for a variety of silly reasons. Lately I have been joining in on some of the teasing. His friends love it when I join in, and all of us enjoy a laugh or two at his expense. Everyone, except Sam. Last night he told me that he’d had enough.  He wasn’t interested in having “the cool mom” anymore. He did’t think it was nice for me to try to fit in with his buddies by becoming a jokester.

I recently saw “The Interview.”  I thought it was hilarious, clever, and I enjoyed it immensely.  But I can totally understand why North Korea would not. Most of us know how to take some form of criticism, or to handle subtle humor.  Psychopathic maniacal North Korean leaders do not.  And neither do teenage boys. I suppose that we need to respect that in both of these cases.

Sometimes a situation absolutely calls for humor or brutal honesty, but it’s always wise to think before you speak.

So, to the kid working at Jimmy Johns who handed me an empty plastic tray when I said I was there to pick up a tray: I’m sorry. But it was very hard not to laugh at you.

And to Sam: no more joining in when the carpool laughs at your obsession with your Instagram. But as far as your request to remove my previous blog with my “selfie emojis” because I look ridiculous- I have to draw the line.

It’s ok to tread lightly and be cautious when laughing at others. But I refuse to stop freely laughing at myself. In today’s politically-correct world, it’s all I have left.


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