Sorry, I was wrong (and other holiday traditions)

Chase: I listened to Christmas music in the car today. Not like I was flipping through stations and happened to hear a Christmas song; I intentionally tuned my radio to a Christmas station. I guess I’m not a Christmas purist, after all.

I was thinking today about what I expect from Christmas. Not in terms of gifts – I mean how I imagine Christmas Day will play out. And even Christmas Eve. The Romgi and I both grew up with Christmas traditions, some stronger than others, some more enjoyable than others. In my family, we went to see the luminarias in Gordon Valley on Christmas Eve. Then I’d try to go to sleep…it was a lot easier once I discovered Excedrin PM (once I was old enough to take it, of course!). I still have trouble sleeping on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas morning, I’d wake up at some ungodly hour and go open my stocking. The rule at our house was that you could open your stocking when you woke up, but presents waited until everyone (meaning our parents) was awake. Our stockings usually had some cash from grandparents, some trinkets or toys, goodies like Lindt truffles, and a chocolate orange. I’ve come to associate Christmas morning with feeling sick from eating too much chocolate on an empty stomach. You know you’ll be sick but you just can’t help eating more…

This is how we did our present-opening: one person would go find a present for each person, and we’d go around and open them one at a time. The problem there is that you can definitely see who got the most presents that year! After all the gifts were opened, and the living room was pleasantly covered in wrapping paper, boxes, and new toys, my mom would go make her to-die-for crescent rolls. I will make them for you sometime. Maybe. If I feel like sharing. Christmas comes but once a year, and it’s the same for those crescent rolls. Sometimes I looked forward to those more than to my presents. Try one and you’ll understand.

Christmas dinner is in the early afternoon, right? That meant we had several hours to eat more candy and more crescent rolls, play with our new toys, and take a nap. The rest of the day always seemed like a freebie. You could snack whenever you wanted, enjoy your gifts, sleep as much or as little as seemed right, and finally go to bed content and full.

When the Romgi and I got married, it finally occurred to me that not everyone does Christmas the same way.

In the Romgi’s family, they have a Christmas Eve program. There are specific scriptures and hymns as well as a script telling the story of Christ’s birth. Later, they eat plum pudding that has coins baked in it. Whoever finds the smallest coin gets to open a Christmas present first. I have to say, I’m a big fan of opening a present on Christmas Eve (as long as there are still presents left to open the next morning, of course). And on Christmas there are traditional dishes for dinner, like goose and a surprisingly good brussels sprouts dish.

The worst thing about growing up is that now I have to help cook dinner instead of napping or playing with toys. The best thing is that now I can (to some extent, while we’re sharing Christmas with family) help decide what dishes we’re going to eat. And this year the Bwun will be big enough to understand that he’s getting new toys. That will definitely be worth it.

What Christmas traditions did you grow up with? What are new ones you want to start?


Politically Incorrect

Something happened in class the other day that really got me thinking.  Let’s start from the beginning.

This semester, I have been taking a class on employment discrimination.  We talk about ways that employers and businesses become liable for how they treat protected groups.  Different groups are protected based on statutory provisions.  For example, Title VII of the United States Code provides protection against discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, etc.  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), not surprisingly, requires employers and businesses open to the public to make certain accommodations for disabled people.

During the class period where we were discussing the ADA, our professor told us a story about her husband.  Her husband has a condition that confines him to a wheelchair.  In this story, she told us that they took a trip took to New York.  They were standing in line at a deli; the line was long enough that it went outside of the store.  An employee came out multiple times and asked them to come inside.  When my professor asked why, she was told that it was because my professor’s husband was disabled.  They both politely declined, saying that they could wait in line just as well as anybody else.  Finally, the manager came out and brought them inside to a table.  He explained, “If a city official were to walk by and see you in line at my store, I could get a fine for making you wait in line.  It doesn’t matter if you think you’re OK to wait.”

As my professor told us this, she said something like, “While the statute was without a doubt meant to make things easier for disabled people, it ended up making my husband feel like he was singled out!”

Right after she said this, a student in the back mumbled a comment.  The professor asked the student to speak up, and the student said, “Not ‘disabled person,’ but ‘person with a disability.'”

This really made me upset, and I’ve been trying to figure out why ever since that class.  I couldn’t help but wonder if this student had heard a black person refer to himself/herself as “black” would she have correct them?  “Oh, sorry.  It’s ‘African American.'”  If they had been calling each other the “N word” would she have corrected them?

"I'm sorry, you can't say that."

My problem is this:  why does this student think she can correct my professor when the professor is talking about her own life.  Here was my professor, talking about her own life, talking about the challenges she and her husband face on a day-to-day basis, and the student has the audacity to correct her.  Has being politically correct become such a social necessity that we have to right to correct how a person refers to their own group of people?

Don’t get me wrong, I think that some there are certain words that are so offensive, that I think they shouldn’t  be said.  But who am I to correct a person who is talking about their own life?  Since when do I have the right to tell people how to refer to themselves?  to a person they love?  Telling people what they can and can’t call themselves seems overbearingly paternalistic.  It is as if we are saying they aren’t even competent to pick a name for themselves.