Yesterday I had an unpleasant interaction with a coworker; she was talking about her schedule and how she had made herself an appointment on December 22 and was hoping I could switch with her so she would have the shorter workday. I replied that the 22nd was actually a holiday for me, so I actually wished I had that day off, and definitely wasn't interested in working even more hours that day. She then asked what holiday it was, I replied, "Yule," and she responds, "Well, I never heard of that."
Later, she brings it up again, and seems genuinely curious about what the holiday is about, so I give her the brief explanation about how Yule is the day of or after the Solstice, to celebrate having made it through the Longest Night, and that the tradition of the Yule Log comes in because in the Old Days, you would save your biggest log to use on the Longest Night. She takes this all in, and what she says next is:
"I don't believe you're really a Pagan, though--I think you're too nice to be one of those."
Even though I should have known better, because this person has demonstrated some bigotry before, for some reason this statement hit me like a hammer, and I have to admit, I lost my cool. What I ended up saying back to her, without even thinking first, is, "I think you are too stupid to know how offensive that was."
Naturally, she decided that she was the injured party after that, and wanted an apology from me for having called her 'stupid.' I refused to apologize, telling her that it's doesn't matter if she knows what Paganism is or not; if she doesn't understand that telling someone who identifies as Pagan that Pagans aren't nice people is offensive, then stupid is exactly what that is.
So anyway, I felt this interaction was untoward enough that I should report it to my supervisor, so I gave an accurate account. The response I got was that I really should not have shared, because in doing so I set myself up for comments exactly like that one.
I have to say, the response has also given me a lot of mixed feelings. On the one hand, I can agree, to the extent that one shouldn't "cast pearls before swine," to use a metaphor that's familiar to 'them', or as the Rede* would say, "With a fool no season spend, nor be counted as [her] friend."
But on the other, it feels a bit chilling, as if I brought it on myself by daring to speak about my "minority" spirituality, even though Christians enjoy the privilege of speaking freely about their spirituality by default. I don't think I like that, and it makes me wonder where the line would be drawn, if it wasn't drawn right there. If I mentioned my wife at home, could someone say, "Really? You seem too nice to be a lesbian." So forth.
Paganwiccan.about.com (a reference I happen to like) seems to both back her up and disagree, which muddles the mixture even more. In the page I linked, on the one hand, it says that a coworker (as opposed to a supervisor) can basically be as bigoted as they want to be unless it rises to the level of harassment, and my recourse is to put my big girl panties on. But on the other, it says that if a coworker is "asking you questions in a friendly way, it might be a good way to educate them." What about a coworker who asks in a friendly way, but apparently does so as a pretext to find out about my beliefs so she can poop on them?
I'm guessing the answer is, I should consider myself 'on notice', to use the Judge-Judyism, that this person has a 'propensity' for bigotry, and be more circumspect around her.
And, more generally, not to cast pearls unless I can handle having a swine step on them.
And then, once I've cast my sphere of protection, to certainly report any unwanted religious overtures as potential harassment, to maintain that protection.
With a fool no season spend,
nor be counted as his friend.
Be soft of eye and light of touch,
speak ye little, listen much.
*: Although I no longer identify as Wiccan, I did 'start' that way, and while I ultimately found all the prescribed ritual to be a bit stuffy, I still have great respect for the Rede of the Wiccae.