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Unsplash/Toa Heftiba, heftiba.co.uk

Your compliment is a microaggression

Jeffrey Denny

Thanks to my Facebook news feed confirming my liberal biases, I’ve been following and cheering all the marginalized, misunderstood Huffington Post writers and also the people they courageously speak for who aren’t trying to have a writing career.

I definitely appreciate how HuffPo is teaching me not to be racist, sexist, lookist and other hate-ist that’s ingrained in my DNA, breeding and upbringing as a Western white-privileged cisgender capitalist male-identifier.

Even as a lifelong progressive, I had no idea I needed to respect people who are different from me. Thanks, HuffPo!

My reeducation into being “woke” came to an untimely end, however, thanks to a HuffPo piece headlined, “Stop Telling Me I Look Younger Than My Age.

The writer powerfully huffed:

What is meant as a compliment is really a steaming pile of internalized sexist horseshittery that compels us to deny that very thing that makes us so powerful.

We need to reject the harmful and hurtful garbage of internalized ageism, stop fetishizing youth and stop spoon-feeding each other crap like, “You look 10 years younger than your age.”

We need to stop making the natural progression of time anything other than what it is ― a triumph, and a testament to our wisdom and experience.

The writer testified with her youthful picture and timeless wisdom and experience from having reached the triumphant age of 39.

At a gnarly 62, I found her gripe a bit, forgive me, twee.

It made me want to pat her head and say, “you poor tragic dear.” Or ask if HuffPo has run out of provocative plaints to snag views and ad revenues. Or suggest the author was merely pandering to late-model Millennial whining.

Or — gasp, fetch my smelling salts for my fantods —perhaps she’s micro-aggressing older people who want to look 10 years younger and compliments make them feel good.

You might huff back that I’m being a typical white Western patriarchal cisgender male micro-aggressing a younger cisgender female speaking her truth. But you can’t attack me. That would be ageist.

In fact, given how I’m a white Western male and responsible for every horrible thing that’s ever happened in history, ageism is the only microaggression card I can throw.

So if my comments here trigger anyone, go ahead and ageist-ly micro-aggress me back. I don’t really care what people think of me anymore. I let go of personal pride around age 39. It was exhausting to keep playing such a ridiculous charade. I now love being triggered. It gets the heart pumping, blood flowing and thrill going for being alive, even more than my low-impact Zumba Gold classes.

Call me “feeble-minded,” “stuck in the past” or “tragically un-woke.”

Or maybe I’m just weary of HuffPo and other online “journalists” — left and right — who have no actual journalism experience that starts with covering daily local police, fire, city hall, zoning, school board and elections and sorely tests your political attitude, assumptions, objectivity and mettle.

Don’t get me started on “culture writers” who graduated private colleges majoring in culture studies taught by professors with PhDs in culture studies who were also trying to leverage their brand to make a buck while fighting the implication of capitalism. And then wondering why non-collegiate Trumpsters mock them.

In fact, culture studies is the best scam for students because all it requires is saying the right thing well and passionately that the professor agrees with. Plus, if you don’t get a 9.5 average, you can file a complaint and get the professor fired, occupy the college president’s offices and demand his/her resignation, smear the college on social media and get your dad’s lawyer friend to file a Title IX lawsuit. Even if you don’t identify as female or as any specific gender.

I’m kidding!

I apologize to anyone without a sense of humor that I’ve triggered because what I’m saying about culture studies is not true or maybe close to the painful truth.

To be fair, culture studies are important. They help us understand ourselves and other cultures, and teach coddled woke kids on helicopter parent free rides and furnished dorms about hateful Western hegemony and how to use cool academic jargon such as “interrogate” instead of “find out.” And also how they can’t support themselves as a HuffPo “journalist” writing articles that preach to the choir or make people feel bad for not being as woke as they are.

(I recently “interrogated” a CVS clerk about where the locavore suppositories might be, their ingredients, exactly how far away the Phenylephrine HCI active ingredient was sensitively farmed, and could it trigger my allergies or contribute to climate change. “They” — I’m respecting the clerk’s gender choice — micro-aggressed me in an ageist way by shrugging they’s shoulders.)

The point of this elder-rant: It’s getting too hard for folks who want to be woke to stay woke.

No, ageists, I don’t mean during the afternoon after a big lunch of hateful meats and simple carbs. I mean keeping track of the the latest sensitivities to avoid triggering them.

For example, in olden times (i.e., The Roaring Oughts) we called people who came to parties but refused to socialize “buzz kills.”

Now we have to welcome, respect and indulge them as “introverts,” avoid micro-aggressing by not inviting them, and take special care they’re entertained with fascinating conversation sprinkled with trenchant wit.

So: Avoid talking about traffic, weather, sports, binge-watchable TV or yourself and your struggle with chemotherapy. Bring your best Neil DeGrasse Tyson or Ta-Nehisi Coates, or better yet, a TED Talk about the remarkable contribution to society by introverts, delivered by a famous introvert speaking before tens of thousands of people.

Before Millennial wokeness and condescension, we also encountered people called “neurotic pain in the ass” and tried to avoid them.

Now they’re “Highly Sensitive People” we have to understand, embrace and love for who they are, and not just suffer gladly, but celebrate for the powerful gift they bring of making everyone tiptoe around them. They’re not “oversensitive,” which is blaming the victim. They have undiagnosed hyperacusis and misophonia so you better not chew, breathe or be human in their vicinity lest HR target you for the next “right-sizing.”

I should welcome our newfound respect for difficult people.

We can now turn our toxic personalities into baskets of clinical DSM-5 maladies that need to be honored and protected from micro-aggressions, building a ring of emotional minefields around our personal agencies for the unwoke to inadvertently trip and lose a limb, figuratively speaking.

To be safest, we can just stay home and avoid people. Freedom’s just another word for being left alone.

Best of all, since everything we say — even compliments — can and will be used against us in the court of HuffPo and social media, it’s best to say nothing at all to anyone, ever. Good. At my age, even awkward silence is golden.

But feel free to compliment me.

Lay it on thick with a wedding cake trowel. I promise not to be offended. We’ll both appreciate your outrageous lies such as:

· “Not to be lookist, body non-shaming or sexually harass you, but you look amazing like an emaciated prepubescent Versace model in those ultra-skinny jeans. Have you been working out?”

· “You completely don’t need it, you already look absolu fantaz, but have you tried the Tata Harper collagen-boosting serum? Town & Country totally recommends and even straighty men are using!”

· “I read this piece all the way to the end and think it’s brilliant, as usual.”

Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer.

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