Friday, November 18, 2016

Integrity inspiration from a girl in Rodez

Note: OVS—OnVaSortir!—is a website in France where users can create and attend events listed on the site. It's a great way to meet people, kind of like Meetup, but without the groups.

Back in February, E.—a friend in Rodez—put up an event on OVS to grab drinks at a bar in town on Saturday night. In the name of the event, he included "<40," to limit attendees to those under 40 years of age.

Now, if I had made the event, I wouldn't have ever put that because a) it's not inclusive and b) I have lots of older friends, and appreciate the fresh perspective that people not my age—both older and younger—can offer.

But alas, Damien and I wanted to meet people our age as well, so we signed up to attend without second thought.

A day after the event had been posted, a user (age 60) RSVPd as attending, and then commented something like: "I see the age limit, but I'd still like to come. Is that okay?"

E.'s response? No. We'd just like to keep this event to <40.

At bowling that Monday, E. told us his event had been removed by OVS moderators who'd said his age exclusion violated the terms and conditions of the site. While I understand that one should be inclusive, I found it a little funny because I'd seen a girls-only event just the week before. Gender is okay but age is not? What exactly is this non-exclusion policy?

Anyway, he reposted that event several times throughout the week, changing the name slightly each time. We all knew the time and place, and he told us that even if OVS kept deleting his event, it was still on.

Jump to that Saturday night: There are six of us at a table in the bar/cafe: Damien and I, E., Seb, Camille, and one of her friends. After a little bit, E. goes to the bar to get another drink. When he comes back, he said to our side of the table that a man at the bar had just asked him if he was from OVS, and E. had said "no." What?! I was shocked, and also a bit uncertain if I'd understood correctly. (My French was at an earlier level at this point.) I'd never have the guts (nor desire) to lie to someone's face like that. But I didn't say anything. Some of the others laughed but I felt bad for lying to this man and excluding him.

A few minutes later the story passed down to the other end of the table, and Camille's friend reacted immediately with "What?! You said 'no'? That's so mean! You should have invited him to join us—I can't believe it." Now it was E. who felt somewhat ashamed/embarrassed, meanwhile I was in total admiration of this girl who so eloquently (bluntly) said exactly what I'd been thinking but hadn't been brave enough to say.

Would I have spoken up if we'd been in the USA, speaking in my native tongue? Or if this hadn't been our first time hanging out with these people, trying to make friends? Perhaps. But I don't want factors like those to obstruct how I want to act. I had the means to express my opinion and wish I had done it.

One of my goals is to become more like that girl from Rodez: to speak up even when I'm the only one with that opinion. To say what I feel is right in the moment—even around people I've just met, instead of first waiting until they have a "good impression" of me. To push my comforts in order to be true to my values.
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