Can’t Take A Joke? NOPE! Not When It’s Cruel

 In Featured Stories

Age 15, USA

When I was in high school, a group I was in traveled to an out-of-state event. I was assigned to share a room with Linda. When we got in our room, she used the bathroom and then it was my turn. I sat down on the seat, there was something…awful on it. Sticky. I fought back tears and cleaned off the seat (and myself.) When I returned to the room, Linda was laughing. Turns out, it was petroleum jelly on the seat. When I lied and said I’d put paper down and so I hadn’t sat in it, she said, “Damn Jew.”

I pretended that was okay. I pretended it didn’t matter. I tried my best to be nice to Linda, to be her friend, to write it all off as a dumb joke.

I owe myself an apology for that. I was too afraid of what people would think of me…to think enough of myself. I should have spoken up and I should have called out Linda on her anti-Semitism. If people called me a whiner or complained that I couldn’t take a joke, so what. It wasn’t a joke–it was cruel. And by saying nothing, by almost encouraging it through my silence, I likely empowered her to do the same thing to someone else.

I owe those people an apology, too.

What did I learn?

I learned that I can’t control what others think or do, but I can control how I react and respond. I have a voice and I can’t be scared to use it. I’m the only one who can speak for myself. It feels awful when I let myself down.

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