Sue Burish: They Seldom Do

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A life ruled by fears is a cramped life, and one of the worst of those fears is the opinion of others. Sue Burish has this Perspective.

Over the past few months, while standing in line at a trendy bagel joint in Oakland and flagrantly eavesdropping, I overheard these conversations:

“I’m thinking of switching to gender neutral pronouns with everybody. Is that too PC? What will people think?” Or. . .

“Goth fashion looks really good on me. Maybe I’m too old for that? What will people think?” And. . .

“My son is older than the guy I’m dating. He has a waterbed. What will people think?”


“What will people think?” That is one of the most wretched sentences ever.

A great gift my mom bestowed on me was self-confidence. One day at the dentist’s office, she pointed out a Highlights magazine filler that said: “You’d worry much less about what people think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”

Living that advice ensured she gave wide berth and encouragement for my eclectic interests, that were, shall we say, 1950s unconventional. She never flinched when I asked for a Roy Rogers gun and holster set for Christmas. She let it go when I clearly had no interest in the wedding doll grandma won in a jingle-writing contest. She cheerfully got me a subscription to Boy’s Life rather than Teen.

Mom was right, you’d worry much less about what people think of you if you realized how seldom they do.

True, that advice does not apply to all people in all situations, but it does apply to most people in most situations. Not at an 80/20 level. More like a 98/2 level.


The two percent consists of those who love you and will adjust, and those who don’t and never will. The 98%, the amorphous “people," just don’t care that much about you.

“People” don’t care if you sleep on a waterbed. Or date a much younger man. Or sport Goth fashion. Or prefer gender neutral pronouns.

Why live your life for them?

With a Perspective, I’m Sue Burish.

Sue Burish lives in Oakland with her wife of 30 years and four furry pets.