writer, listener

Dear Person at the Movies: Beware the Mom Blogger.

Hi, friend! We like going to the movies, too! But we don’t go as much as we want to because we don’t like bothering anybody. And like you, we love the Tropic Cinema! It’s so great, right? But we usually go to the Regal instead, because the theaters are bigger, so there’s less chance we’ll bother anybody. We wanted to see Ford v Ferrari, though, and it was only playing at the Tropic. A loud racing movie is perfect, I thought, because we might not bother anybody.

We chose a Wednesday, hoping it wouldn’t be very busy so we wouldn’t bother anybody. And we chose the noon showing, hoping it wouldn’t be a full house so we wouldn’t bother anybody. And we sat in the front row, knowing it is usually the last chosen because it’s hard on the neck, hoping we wouldn’t bother anybody. But you came in late, and sat right next to my son.

Before we went into the theater, we did a lot of noise-making, talking, singing, humming, tapping, and drumming. We were also active in our seats before the movie started, hoping to get a lot of it out so that we could do a decent job of masking vocal and motor tics once the show started. Sometimes this preparation helps us stave things off for a while (because we don’t want to bother anybody).

We bought snacks and drinks to keep our hands and mouths busy, hoping we wouldn’t bother anybody. We reminded each other in advance that sometimes it’s better to whisper an in-context exclamation or question during a time the movie is loud, hoping not to bother anybody at quieter times. Sometimes that works short-term and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s one of many replacement behaviors that are difficult to master, but we practice a lot so that most of the time, people just think we’re momentarily chatty or wiggly. Sometimes people don’t notice at all. And sometimes it feels better to be scoffed at for being intentionally too noisy than to be thought of as strange in a way you have no control over. It’s not a fun choice–not that it’s always even a choice.

How did you prepare for the movie today, friend?

We don’t need or want your sympathy (or anybody else’s). In fact, we sometimes feel guilty about what we call the superpowers that far outweigh the challenges. We are so grateful to be who we are and we’re so fully aware of our privilege in this world that being told we should just stay home, among other things, doesn’t bother us like you may have hoped.

He’s eleven, by the way. My son. He doesn’t fully understand, yet, how awful people can be. But he’s learning fast from people like you. And yes, we know that’s life. The world doesn’t revolve around him and he knows that. He knows I won’t always be there to put my body between him and somebody awful. And he’ll continue figuring out how to handle people whose behavior he doesn’t understand. We wish the same skill-development for you, but so far, he’s kicking your ass in the realm of thinking about how personal choices affect others.

I know you’re not evil. I know everybody has challenges and things going on in life. I know that maybe you were having a bad day, and so many other possibilities we can’t know about you. But what if instead of digging in your heels once you realized how wrong you’d gotten it today in the front row, you’d used it as an opportunity for kindness? It would have meant a lot to us right then. A LOT. Obviously, you have every right to be unkind. But would it kill you to strive toward at least as much self-awareness and self-control as a kid with Tourette?

There must be a million reasons that other human beings annoy you on the regular. Damn, that seems like a taxing way to live–so much work! So I guess, as stressful as it is to prepare and sometimes fail in our efforts not to bother anybody, it could clearly be so much worse–we could be like you.



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