March 14 - Appropriate or Inappropriate? That Is My Question!
Last Updated on Sunday, 30 December 2012 15:00
Almost every day I hear about situations where people I know think they have given in to the temptation of addictive behaviors because they felt embarrassed or humiliated about something in their life. They had either seen themselves as inappropriate or someone had told them that they had been inappropriate, and as a result their feelings were so hurt that the only option they could see at the time was to numb them.
While I certainly understand this dynamic far too well, having experienced it over and over in my past, I must say that today I don’t feel we ever benefit from numbing our feelings unless a physician deems it absolutely necessary. Not ever, ever…I promise.
I also have to wonder what “inappropriate” actually means anyway. Who defines what is “appropriate” or not? Do we always want to be “appropriate” or would the world be a little better place if we stepped out of the box of appropriateness every once in a while? Isn’t that how change and hopefully progress actually occur?
I hear things like “age-appropriate,” “gender-appropriate,” “inappropriate for their stations in life,” or “just not appropriate in this day and age.” Who sets these rules? In what book can we find the standards of measurement for appropriateness or inappropriateness? How are we to know? What happens when two or more people disagree...who is to decide?
I looked up “inappropriate” in the dictionary. It says “not belonging” or “unsuited” or “improper.” So I guess that means if you are “appropriate” you do “belong,” or you are “suitable,” or you appear somewhat “proper.” But you “belong” or are “suited” or appear “proper” for what and for how long?
It seems to me there are so many things that are thought to be appropriate in today’s world that were never appropriate in the world of the generation before us. How do we learn to stay flexible with the everchanging definition of appropriateness? Do you want some vague everchanging standard to determine how you live your lives today?
One of my most vivid memories as a child in Florida was when I had been asked to go to the movies with some friends of mine. I was about ten years old. No matter how much I protested, my mother told me the only appropriate way for a young lady to go to the movies was wearing white gloves!!! So off I went, with my white gloves on, to meet my friends who were all clad in shorts and cute shirts. I felt humiliated.
Today I know my mother, who was from New England, was just trying to teach me the “appropriate” behavior for her era and region of the country, but unfortunately her definition of appropriateness was very different from the definition of my generation. As a result, the fear of wearing the “inappropriate” thing still plagues me today. Every time I go somewhere, I have to remind myself that no one will even remember what I have on, nor will it change my life if they do. In the movies as a child it meant humiliation and being teased and wanting to hide. As an adult it can mean my distinctive style and preference and individuality. As a child I was powerless to determine my experience…as an adult, the declaration is totally up to me.
It is my responsibility to form my own definition of appropriateness for myself now that I am an adult, and it is important for me to allow others to form their own definitions for themselves as well!!!
What is your definition of appropriate and inappropriate? Do you think your definition is the truth, or are you able to include the opinions of others as well? What would happen if we were all curious about each other’s perceptions instead of trying to impose our own on others? Do you ever make your friends or loved ones “wear their white gloves to the movies”?