What Do You Expect Me to Do With Your Disapproval?

AngelLargeSquareToday I attended a books and authors event at Leon & Lulu, a great shop in Clarkston. There were 30 writers there showcasing their books and I met some wonderful people.

I brought along only one book, my first novel Angel.  (The cover image here is actually the one for the audio version.)

Angel, of course, is the story of a minister whose sense of identity, his worldview and his relationship to his community are challenged when he becomes attracted to a young man.

Most of the people I talked to about the book were positive and friendly even if it was not something they thought they would like to read.

Towards the end of the event, however, there was one woman who asked me about my book. I told her its theme and she set the book down quickly and said, “I’m certainly not reading this one. I don’t approve of that.”

I was not upset by her reaction. You would have to live under a rock to be unaware that there are people who feel that way. I was, instead, interested in why she felt it important to share her disapproval with me. What exactly did she want me to do with that information?

Feel ashamed? Not likely. Think more highly of her? Also not likely.  Change my point of view in deference to a stranger?

There are a lot of things that characters do in books that one might disapprove of. In fact, there are few books that contain characters that do nothing worthy of disapproval or there would be no drama. But imagine if I had said, “My book is about a corrupt politician.”

You would not expect someone to respond by saying, “I am certainly not going to read that. I don’t approve of that.”

Imagine a conversation that went like this:

“What is your book about?”

“It’s a romance novel.”

“I’m certainly not going to read that. I don’t approve of romance novels.”

This would come across as inappropriate and obviously rude, would it not?

I have to assume that my visitor was not really trying to tell me anything about homosexuality. She was trying to tell me something about herself. “I am the kind of person who does not approve of that.” Not approving of homosexuality is part of her sense of identity.

Some time ago I wrote an article here called The Lifestyle.  It dealt with some of my thoughts after a similar conversation with a friend.

Disapproving is more than not liking or opting out.  It assumes, in essence, that your opinion matters.  It assumes that you get a vote.  You can really only “disapprove” from a position of power and security and the assumption that society is on your side.

In general, we do not welcome the views of others when it comes to our “lifestyle choices.”  How would you feel about someone who said she disapproved of your choice of religion or how many children you had or what you did on the weekends or how many hours you worked or what kind of career you had or how you spent your money?  These are all “lifestyle choices.”

Would you thank such a person for her thoughtfulness and concern for your well-being or would you instead reply with something along the lines of “well who asked you?”

I did not reply with “well who asked you?”

Unlike the stranger, I did not feel compelled to voice my disapproval. But I have been giving a lot of thought as to why.

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