One of my co-workers apparently has a rather cool Jesus mural in her basement. I’ve yet to see the mural, though I’ve expressed my interest more than once and have been to her house. Within my first week of employment, co-worker and boss lady were talking about some kick-ass party that had been had and how groovy it is to hang out in this room with the Jesus mural.

“I want to see it.” I said, perhaps a bit eagerly.

“Yeah,” co-worker said, “you’ll have to come to the next one.”

“Unless,” boss lady piped in, “I wouldn’t want you to be offended by the mural, I could see how some would be offended by it.” and she gave me a significant look.

I couldn’t tell if I was being tested, like if I could figure out the secret handshake, or if they genuinely thought I may be someone who would be offended by this mural, and wanted to give me an easy way to decline the invitation.

Since I had already expressed interest in seeing it, I started to feel a little like the desperate, nerdy kid just begging to let him/her come over ‘just for an hour or something.’ Then I realized that there seems to be no good way, short of saying something like “I hate Jesus, and I’m sure I’ll love anything that casts him in a less than holy light”, to really emphatically convey that you want to see the damn mural.  I wasn’t even angling for a party invitation so much as just 30 seconds in this woman’s basement, but there is no good, concise way to say that.

Like I said, I still haven’t seen the mural. I’m not going out of my mind here, but I really want to know if there is a good way to assert your true feelings in a situation like this, or if I should just brush it off.

When I was in high school, there was an incident that I still remember vividly as just being bizarre and not knowing what to do with it. I used to hang out with the local rock stars (which still sounds super cool, I think). They had a band, and the lead singer’s parents had given him their garage to practice in. They turned the space into what was pretty much an apartment- couches, fridge, tv, amps etc., and we spent all of our time there. One day, some friends of the family were visiting from Winnipeg, MB and they came out to the garage to say hi. The woman expressed a thirst and was offered a can of Coke.

Then my friend who had offered it to her, turned to me and said, “Unless, did you want this, Andria?”

I was not thirsty at all, perhaps I had accidentally looked at the can with longing, or swallowed in an exaggerated manner– I don’t know. “No, I’m not thirsty.” I said, thinking that would be the end of it.

“Are you sure?” he asked now pulling the proffered can away from the other woman and getting ready to bring it to me.

“Yeah, really, I’m sure.”

The woman grabbed the can away from him and brought it over to me. “Here, take it, it’s ok.”

I pulled my hands back, “No, really, I’m not thirsty.”

“I can stop and get something on our way out of town, you take this.”

Finally, I could think of nothing else to do, so I just looked at her and said, “Seriously, I don’t want it.”

She seemed offended, but took the can back and opened it. “Ok, well, thanks.”

Then there was a moment of awkward silence as we all tried to think of ways to shift the conversation away from the controversial can of soda.

So I’m all about sensitivity to others’ sensitivities, and sensitivity to others’ thirst– but sometimes it just gets ridiculous. If I say I’m not thirsty and I really am– that’s my problem. If it’s awkward to hang out with me because I’m your employee, then we’ll all just say that we plan to hang out and then never follow through on it– everyone wins.

I do really want to know, though, is there a good way to deal with this? Is there a thing that you can say that asserts your true feelings without seemingly overly emphatic, or is it all just doomed to awkwardness?

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