06 March 2008

Southern Food Sucks

Janie's post about questioning authority has made me think. My mother never questioned authority in front of me in the presence of the authority figure in question. When I was older she'd complain about certain people, but never, ever to their face. What she was trying to teach me it would seem, is that you do what an authority figure tells you to do no matter what.

I recall her telling me the following story. One time at church the women had gotten together and decided to have a cultural potluck. If I remember correctly, the subject of Southern cuisine came up and my mother commented that she didn't care for Southern food as she found it a little too greasy for her. Among this group of women was a newer woman to the ward who happened to have come from the South. This woman was incredibly offended by what my mother had said. Did she say so at the time? No. Did she say so to my mother in private afterwards? No. Instead, she went to the Relief Society president and told her that my mother had offended her with her remark. The R.S. pres. then went to my mother and told her how much her comment had offended this woman and that she needs to keep her opinions about such things to herself. My mother shut her mouth and has never expressed an opinion that could ever be controversial to anyone in the church ever again. And it's not even like she's bitter; she actually warned me not to express an opinion at church because she got in trouble for it and she was afraid I'd get into trouble, too.

I will now commence with The Rant. Let us get one thing straight right off the bat. What my mother said was perfectly acceptable. It was never meant to be offensive or to hurt anyone in any way. She was first relating an opinion ("I don't care for Southern food") and then a fact based upon personal experience ("because I find it too greasy for me"). She was well within her right to express such, especially since everyone else was obviously discussing various foods and what to bring or not to bring to this potluck. It would be much the same as saying, "I don't like to vacation in Siberia; I find it too cold for me." The first fault here lies with the Drama Queen sister who took offense at the remark. Firstly, she took offense where none was intended. Secondly, even if she had been uncontrollably offended, she ideally should have kept it to herself and worked it out on her own. Thirdly, if she felt compelled to complain about the offense, she went about it in the exact wrong manner. She should have pulled my mother aside and discussed it with her (between me and thee alone, am I right?). Instead, she decided to go up the chain of command, right to the top, and sick the R.S. pres. on her as punishment and out of revenge. That was stupid. Then comes the next problem with this story in that the R.S. president actually did what she wanted. Since when is that in her job description? She should have told her to either pray about it and see if she could look past it, or told her to discuss it with my mother in private. Instead, she pulled my mother aside and berated her for expressing her opinion in front of this whiny woman. And the final fault in this situation is my mother's: she actually stood there and took it. She took it because the R.S. president is in a position of authority and she didn't even question whether she was right about it or not. Now, when it comes to management and welfare of the R.S., I am all for listening to the counsel of the president. She is there, with her counselors, to care for us and see to our spiritual and temporal needs. When an issue does not fall within those bounds, she has no authority. And in this case, this situation fell outside of those bounds and she handled it very poorly when it was brought to her attention. My mother did not recognize that because she doesn't stand up to authority. Period.

I grew up differently. If you have a problem with what an authority figure is doing or saying, it is always best to approach the issue with politeness and tact. But you are within your full rights to approach the issue. Flat-out. Especially if the problem that you have with your authority figure is that he or she is doing/saying something wrong or immoral. Beyond that, you have a right to express your opinion, regardless of the situation. It's always kind to keep others' sensitivities in mind when expressing opinions. For example, it would be kindest to refrain from stating that all female basketball players are ugly morons, particularly if you are expressing it to the WNBA. You are free to have that opinion, but it would be nice if you kept it to yourself if you knew it would very likely hurt someone. In the case of an authority figure telling his or her charges to do something wrong, hurt feelings take a back burner to doing what's right. As I said, tact never hurts the first time around, but the point must be made regardless. And that is what we teach our children. Right comes first, authority second. No one--not the R.S. president, not the president of the United States--is above doing what's right and moral. No one, ever.


Janie said...

well said - though as a southern girl raised on said food I would have been offended - but would have immediately said something like "too bad your tastes aren't refined enough to appreciate pork fat" LOL and I agree the RS president was as out of line as the woman who approached her - NOT HER JOB
BUT... I do have to say I was at one potluck where a Cuban sister brought this black bean soup with poached eggs - so to get the full picture it looked like mud with eyeballs in it - it was so yummy though! From my vantage point near the food table I heard over 30 very rude remarks about the appearance and even more mean faces. Many people that night needed a stern talking to in the hallway. Why cant everyone have equal parts of common sense and sarcasm?

Benteti5 said...

It seems that the common sense line and the sarcasm line were on different sides of the park in heaven. The sarcasm ride was right next to the saggy boob ride because I rode both many times. That story is exactly the kind of thing that adds people to my "got offended at church" list. People are too dang sensitive. If I was your Mom, I wouldn't have changed, though. I can't stand the types that are different at church than at home and I like to see the real people, as ugly as it may seem. If the RS Pres. approached me I would have said, well too bad honey, I guess she won't be on my VT list; bummer.

Abby said...

Well said, Kristi. Janie, as I said, tact and kindness are always a good thing to have. But my mother wasn't commenting on this woman's food. There was no food in the vicinity. She said she simply didn't care for Southern cuisine in general. My dad on the other hand, was raised in GA until 12 and loves Southern food. My mother is from Boston. No such food would ever touch her mouth willingly.

But no, she never would have said anything about a dish that was already prepared. Even if she hated it she'd say how intriguing it was or some such thing.

judiroso said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again, "You can't be offended, you choose to take offense." I don't get people. I was in the RS presidency for a while and I couldn't BELIEVE the things people would complain to the pres about. Like when the music enrichment leader wanted to teach conducting, several of the older sister called in outrage and guess what, they didn't do it. I like the bishop's wife's comment (she was also the 1st counselor.) She just cracked up when she heard and said, You're kidding, next time they call you with something like that, tell them to call me, I'll set them straight. And I have no doubt that she would. And furthermore (as if this wasn't long enough.) I've known your mom a long time and I can't imagine her knowingly offending others, after all she isn't like me!

Abby said...

Or me, either. See, that's why we're friends, Diana. We offend the same sorts of people. :)