KALAMAZOO, MI–A full 95 percent of the opinions held by Justin Wilmot, 26, were kept to himself Sunday during a Father's Day visit with his family.
"No one in my family really gets my worldview, so I find it easier just to smile and nod and agree with everything," Wilmot said Monday. "When I'm with them, I tend to be a lot quieter than when I'm hanging out with friends."
Wilmot, who grew up in Kalamazoo and now lives in Chicago, described the visit as "seven hours of self-censorship."
"We're totally not on the same wavelength at all," Wilmot said. "I'm not just talking about dangerous subjects like politics or religion, but pretty much everything they bring up–the shows they watch, the things they buy, the people they know. So if someone says Daddy Day Care was hilarious, I may be thinking, 'I can't believe Eddie Murphy was once respected as a subversive comic genius,' but I sure as hell don't say it."
Among the subjects Wilmot declined to weigh in on during the weekend get-together: new Tropical Sprite, Survivor, the selfishness of childless couples, Iraq, golf, AM talk radio, and his brother-in-law's fantastic idea for a calling-card side business.
Wilmot said he used to voice his opinions, but has long since given up.
"There was a time when my sister would mention how much she wants an SUV, and I'd be unable to resist launching into a whole thing about how irresponsible and wasteful they are. But after receiving my thousandth blank, confused stare from everybody at the table, I realized it was futile," Wilmot said. "Now, I don't even flinch when my dad mentions he's reading 'this amazing book called The Celestine Prophecy.' That's how bad it is."
In the course of Sunday's meal, Wilmot estimated that he heard 100 statements he could have strenuously contested. Instead, he responded with such neutral phrases as, "Cool," "Uh-huh," "Wow," "I know," "Definitely," and "Oh, good."
"My brother-in-law belongs to the NRA, which used to appall me," Wilmot said. "Well, it still appalls me, but now I'm appalled silently. Same goes for my mom's assertion that El Taco Loco is 'the best Mexican restaurant in town.' I don't even bother mentioning Arturo's, this little place over on Third Street that's the only authentic Mexican place in all of Kalamazoo. I'm sure she's never heard of it."
When he was young, Wilmot actually enjoyed engaging his family in debate, but now he would rather smile pleasantly as his brother's wife talks about the latest exciting arrival on the local shopping scene.
"Meredith said they're putting up a huge new Target Greatland right by their house," Wilmot said. "She says she's psyched because Target is way better than Wal-Mart. I just nodded and said, 'Yeah, totally.'"
"Once you let go of the need to express your thoughts to your family, you suddenly feel much lighter," Wilmot said. "You just float along blissfully, finally liberated from the burden of having any presence at all. It's sort of like getting to return to the womb. Which is way more enjoyable than trying to explain to a tableful of Celine Dion fans why you can't stand her."