Leber: No offense, but enough already

Love & Other Indoor Sports

A former colleague of mine once said, quite aptly, "when someone says 'no offense,' it means 'this may offend you.' "

Well, no offense, but I feel like we've become the society that cries wolf.

From psychological disorders to bullying to misogyny, we've become so quick to paint ourselves as victims that we forget to let go of our own problems sometimes. We are far too easily offended.

Don't misunderstand. There are serious problems. There are legitimate reasons to be offended by the ways in which people are treated in this world. Kids are being tormented. Women are being assaulted. People are being badgered and belittled and harmed on a daily basis.

It just isn't always the case for everybody.

You may remember how I've talked about my hypochondria, how I get worried that every ache, cramp, bump, bruise and freckle could be cancer, but IT'S NOT? Same deal.

Every kid who daydreams sometimes does not need to be on Ritalin. Every unwelcome flirtatious comment is not sexual harassment. Every schoolyard teasing session does not equal torture.

"Kids aren't allowed to develop a social immune system," a male friend observed recently, as we, along with another compatriot, reminisced about our respective childhoods, which yes, did include some general nastiness.

We all turned out OK.

I fear that if every perpetrator of hurt feelings or mild annoyance is treated as a criminal, literally and figuratively speaking, the really serious issues will get buried among a plethora of hypersensitivity.

Recently, pictures of actress Ashley Judd looking "puffy" appeared, leading to speculation that the actress had undergone plastic surgery, was putting on significant weight and more.

Judd responded to these rumors, in a rather verbose fashion that ultimately translates to "it's horrible to judge women by the way we look and say mean things when we look bad."

Of course it's not right, but I don't think it's necessarily an "assault on womanhood," particularly when a) there are actual assaults, violations and harassment happening, and b) there are plenty of women out there who are happy to get ahead with their looks but label criticism not just inappropriate or bothersome, but a violation that offends them. And it offends them not as individuals, but "as women," or as fill-in-the-group-blank, as though our feelings must represent the whole.

The result of us not being able to handle some ephemeral criticism, besides the minor incidents overwhelming the major problems, is this annoying culture of political correctness that's developed.

I hesitated to write this column, worrying that people would, well, be offended by it. With some encouragement from friends and colleagues -- including several choruses of "I'm offended you think we'd be offended" -- I decided to go forward.

I was raised with manners, and I consider myself a kind, polite person. I sincerely wish to offend no one, but I hope I'm not alone in my belief that there is more than a fine line between criticism and assault, teasing and torment, meanness and cruelty, annoyance and offense.

Because "no offense," but I'm just over people crying wolf.

Contact Holly Leber at hleber@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6391. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/hollyleber. Subscribe to her on Facebook at facebook.com/holly.j.leber.

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