Andi Cumbo - Writer, Editor, Online Writing Courses, Classes & Lessons

Barry Manilow, Judgment, and the Whole Story

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We used our little arms to pull the ottoman just a couple feet away from the couch arm. I’m not sure why – was a dance floor even a concept we could have at 2 and 4 years old? Were we just being sure to cushion our fall?3874874019

But there we were – my brother and I – spinning and spinning with fervor as Barry Manilow’s “Whose Been Sleeping In My Bed?” blasted through the 8-track player.

We danced to that song over and over again; it was our favorite of Mom and Dad’s selection that included John Denver, Anne Murray, Roger Whitaker, and Down by the Creekbank. Maybe the beat got us – maybe Manilow’s energy. Maybe the impressive hair on the album cover.

And Mom would stand at the doorway to the kitchen, her left shoulder against the frame, and just smile.

It wouldn’t be until many years later that I learned what that song was about, and when I did learn, I didn’t care.

***

Years ago, before she married, a beautiful friend told me about how she was so nervous because her boyfriend sometimes slept on her floor, and she didn’t want her neighbor’s to think they were having sex.  They decided he couldn’t sleep on the floor anymore because they wanted to be a good example.  She was concerned about her example, and I commend that, even though I wonder if that should need to be her concern.

These days, I don’t put some things on Facebook or Twitter or even here because I don’t want the judgment of people I barely know, and I don’t want the judgment of my friends. I don’t put the adorable picture of P with Meander on the pillow next to him in my bed because, well, “we” know what the Bible says about sex before marriage.  And we know we are to judge that.

I fear what people will say – not because I question my decision or my reading of Scripture even – but because I’m weary of the way we judge without the story.  I’m weary of having to say to people I love and to people I barely know – you know what? I can’t tell you the comfort I get when I have that awful dream about the man I love leaving, about his refusal to take my calls, about his decision not to explain his departure – I can’t tell you how comforting it is to roll over and find this man I love there, with an arm on my face while I sob into the night.

I weary of not being asked for the story before I am written off as heathen or sinful or misguided.

I weary of that for you, too, for those of you love people of your own sex, for those of you who have decided not to have children, for those of you who have to decided to have one or ten children, for those of you who are divorced, for those of you who adore your cats like children and dress them in pumpkin outfits.

And I’m sorry – for the way I have decided I know you because of your stance on guns or same sex marriage or your deep affinity for those memes with women in Victorian clothes making statements about wine.  I am sorry. I don’t know your whole story, and I should try to learn it.

There are stories here, and behind stories, there are people. Real, broken, hurting, strong, gorgeous people.  People we miss when we choose to take one fact and not the whole story.

***

I have no idea of the story behind Barry Manilow’s song. . . maybe someone cheated on him. Maybe someone cheated on someone he loved. Maybe he made the whole thing up.  I don’t care.

The song makes me want to spin in circles all day long. . . . it gives me joy . . . just as my mom knew it would when she chose to let us dance rather than teaching us to judge.

When have you been judged because someone didn’t take the time to know your story? 

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Author: Andi

I am a writer, editor, and writing teacher whose most recent book, The Slaves Have Names, tells the story of the people who were enslaved on the plantation where I was raised. When I'm not working, my husband and I are working to make our small farm - God's Whisper Farm - a retreat here at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

  • Jennifer

    Beautiful.

    • http://www.andilit.com Andi

      Thanks, Jennifer. :)

  • http://www.rethinkingpatientsafety.com Lee Tilson

    We all struggle with negative personal judgments, both those made about us and those we make.

    Two thoughts have helped me avoid making unnecessary negative personal judgments of others in recent years. First, people matter. Other principles seem secondary to that one. Rarely are additional important principles necessary.

    The second was shared with me by an elderly physician: “You know, most people really do the best they can with what they have been given.” Once we understand someone’s childhood years, self esteem issues, education, family relationships, friends and co workers, we realize that they may be better than we would under the same circumstances. So many lessons can be learned in the effort to understand that they usually make the judgments trivial by comparison.

    We need to learn your lessons. We should remember that we must understand before we judge. Usually, understanding makes judging unnecessary and irrelevant. And we need to remember to dance and sing, for we need fun and play. All to often, we have time to judge because we don’t take enough time to dance, sing, and understand.

    • http://www.andilit.com Andi

      Thanks for reading, Lee.

  • http://deuceology.wordpress.com LarryTheDeuce

    About 1 1/2 years ago, I was run out of my church because they decided that I wasn’t suitable to teach my Sunday School class any longer. No real explanation. Just BOOM! You’re done.
    Bu the way, I’m a fairly conservative guy who loves guns, believes marriage is between men and women, but who loves to come here and read viewpoints that I don’t agree with. I believe that accepting and approving are two different things. Most of the people I like and love are doing stuff that I don’t really approve of. I’m sure they feel the same about me. For example, I’m not sure ai approve of Barry Manilow.
    LarryTheDeuce recently posted…From The Archives: Running Like ChildrenMy Profile

    • http://www.andilit.com Andi

      Larry, those things that end without explanation are some of the most painful, I think. I’m so sorry that happened to you.

      And thank you for reading even when you don’t agree. I truly appreciate that.

      • http://deuceology.wordpress.com LarryTheDeuce

        Andi, I hope I come across in a respectful way. I’m not going to rip you or anything when we disagree. I believe there is room for disagreement and we can disagree agreeably.
        LarryTheDeuce recently posted…Resignation, Part 25My Profile

        • http://www.andilit.com Andi

          Oh, not at all, Larry. Not at all. You are always respectful. Thank you for that.

  • Ken Gire

    You are a wonderful writer, Andi.

    Thank you for putting your heart on the page, and for doing it so truthfully and so graciously.

    Ken

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