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I’ve never been the rebel type. I was a people-pleasing, rule-follower for most of my childhood. Yet rebellion seemed to be hard-wired into me. In first grade I was sent to the coat closet (more like a hallway with hooks) because I was talking too much in class. I cried for the 15 minutes I was in there because I was repentant for having displeased the teacher. I later became a champion of surreptitious note passing. The mind circus had to be served. One way or another, I felt the need to express myself, proper conduct notwithstanding, but in a quiet, unassuming kind of way. As I grew, and my world expanded, I found other harmless means of circumventing the rules of civility without ruffling too many feathers.
In middle school I was confronted with a book barrier. I had been reading above my maturity level since the 4th grade, so it only seemed inevitable that the 12-year-old me would be hankering for more Jacqueline Susann and less Robert Louis Stevenson. Needless to say the school I attended could not supply me with the goods I required through the academic library. Neither was my own mother inclined to accommodate me with these controlled substances. I did not make a fuss over it. I was, by then, an expert at executing the go-around. I obtained my own card through the town public library. I never lied nor hid my selections from anyone, including the checkout-desk librarian. I made a perfect use of the busiest times of day at a public institution via a harried civil servant and a long line of moms and kiddies. No one noticed. Flying under the radar was my superpower in a bloodless rebellion. I hope I have been a good role model for today’s bookish children facing bans on all the best literary works. I applaud all the book-banning mothers for boosting the appeal of both classic and trashy literature alike. I foresee an underground book sharing organization run by young page turners like my prepubescent self.
As I grew up, my little rebellions became less self-serving and more charitable toward others. Using my own status to invite people where they were not wanted, buying lunch for the guy who wasn’t permitted inside the deli anymore, allowing someone with crutches to cut into the check-out line in front of me when six people were waiting behind me. I didn’t consider my rebellious actions offensive, unless they pissed off some sanctimonious bastard who wanted control but had no sway over my behavior. When done with a smile and a clueless look on my face, it could be quite fun. By then, I was less inclined to worry over displeasing people who were displeasing me, especially if I managed to thwart their bad behavior in the most confusing and congenial manner.
In the late 1980’s I worked for a large, well-known insurance company which was planning its annual Christmas party at a swanky local hotel. Each employee was allowed to bring one guest. Except my coworker Michael, who was told he could not bring his partner, also named Michael, because he had AIDS. Employee Michael told me of this management decision and sadly informed me he didn’t want to go out and have fun without his honey, and so, would not attend the party. My internal circus went straight to work on a plan to quietly stick it to the evil corporate overlords who employed us. I would rsvp and take dear Michael (the partner) as my plus one. We kept this little secret to ourselves. I had this truth on my side: No one told me I couldn’t bring him.
On the night of the event, I picked up both Michaels and drove to the fancy hotel. I walked in with Michael, the partner, who sweetly offered me his arm as we escorted each other to the check in, which I assumed was present in order to keep out any party crashers. Michael, the coworker, stood in line behind us, a loner with no guest registered. My nerves were on edge, but the person checking us in was completely clueless (or simply refused to make a fuss). My Michaels and I enjoyed the catered dinner and we three hit the dance floor where we shook it with moderate abandon. Neither of us got fired the following Monday. I considered this caper to be my finest moment of petty, but justified, rebellion.
Now all my quiet rebellions are (mostly) compassion oriented. I refuse to try to school people who are being cruel or exclusive as it only makes them dig in and fight back. My last public caper was to situate myself between some obnoxious men and a gender bending person on the bus. I got up from my seat, sat next to the object of their derision and began a conversation as if we were old friends who happen to meet enroute to the same destination. That’s all it took to take the heat off. I did not confront the abusers. I felt they were foolishly trying to outdo one another to prove who was the manliest man. In my opinion…none of them. It’s far too easy for insecure people to pick on a lone person to bolster their egos. Doesn’t take much to stop them in their tracks either.
I think I should start a new problem-solving business, sort of like The Equalizer, but without all the guns and violence. The go-around solution will be my specialty. Got a noisy neighbor who keeps you from sleeping? Are you being harassed by your employer? Are there arbitrarily imposed rules which unfairly stop you from living your best life? There’s always a peaceful, underhanded way to change things. Quiet Rebellion Inc. will dazzle your irritants with kindness until they become confused and disoriented and you can gently slip around their blockades before they even realize it. Or, as in the case of my early teachers, they won’t notice at all.
Our current political climate is such that people with nothing better to do are trying to make everyone conform to their own narrow standards. We could, of course, shove them all over a cliff and be done with this nonsense or beat them at their own game. Most tyrannical behavior is wrapped up in religious garb and fake piousness. We could disrobe them and talk publicly about their transgressions, but it would be easier to let them believe they are having their way while we quietly continue to undermine their self-imposed authority.
Quiet Rebellion Inc. is ready with our famous work-around schemes. Fight The Man! without him even knowing you have just crushed his genitals. Through our ingenious, tried and true methods of moderate, milquetoast-like behaviors, you can secretly sneak around any blockade they throw at you. No ranting about your rights. No raving over injustices. Simply doing what you want to do with a smile on your face and a quiet, law-abiding demeanor. I know this scheme is a bit of lofty dreaming on my part, but I like to think that humans can be gently nudged from time to time into being more humane and less “Go to the coat closet!” There is always a Plan B. C. D, etc. for what is needed in any given situation, especially the most egregious ones. May we choose wisely.
Staying stealth (for now),