Your Life Need Not Rebuke Mine

So lately I’ve had this Death to the Trend Story thing bouncing around in my head, but honestly, it’s not so much I can’t stand a trend story as I can’t stand a defensive trend story, which is what these things always turn into. They always turn into a detailed list of reasons why not only do you not do what someone else is doing, but you don’t WANT to do it, you don’t NEED to do it, and by the way, this makes you BETTER.

I don’t always eat organic food, but hey, that just means I’m not, like, a pussy, man. I live in the suburbs, because I turned 29 and then the city didn’t matter to me anymore because any TRUE adult like me knows having a half-acre lot is where it’s at, you pinko. I have kids, and you’re not a REAL person until you have them. I live in the city, because I’m not capable of enjoying the valid lifestyle choice to screw a member of my immediate family. When I got out of school I got a job right away, so just fucking grow up, you extended adolescents.

(This is focusing merely on the lifestyle bullshit, by the way, and not even getting into NO MOSQUE HERE NO MOSQUE HERE, in which the existences of Muslims means your way of life is threatened.)

I mean, can we not do this all the time? It’s like the evidence of someone living differently is an affront and we have to build up a whole structure and mythology that’s about rejection and abhorrence. This shit gets particularly toxic all around election time, when the Mustard Wars start up and we’re all trying to divine which political party won’t make us question our condiment choices.

I’m not immune to the idea that we encounter each other and push and change and question. Whenever I see friends with a big beautiful house, for example, or a passel of kids, or hear tales from colleagues of fantastic travel and amazing experiences they’ve had, I wonder if I’m kidding myself, if what I have is what I really want. I think that’s normal, and necessary; how would we know if we wanted something different, if we didn’t know what different was?

These stories seem to go beyond that, and take difference as attack. It’s not enough we notice each other’s differences and remark upon them. We have to then come up with reasons why we live the way we live, and all too often instead of settling on “because I wanna live this way and I’m fine,” we come up with “because you’re a stupid hippie who doesn’t live in the Real World,” ie, the world I live in. As if anybody lives in anybody else’s world.

Live in the city. Live in the country. Live in Schaumburg. Have ten kids, two kids, no kids, nineteen kids and counting. Have them at 18 with your high school boyfriend or have them at 50 through IVF. Move ten times for ten different jobs before the age of 40. Work one job from birth to death. Believe in God, or don’t, date/live with/marry/fuck men or women or some of each or none of the above. Pray five or ten or sixty times a day or never.

But understand, by not doing that myself, I’m not saying anything about you. I’m just saying … shit, I’m just sayingwhere are my keys and I’m late for work AGAIN and I forgot to feed the dingos and now they’re circling my feet and my hair is sticking up fucking humidity and why is THAT there eww and we are all of us, all of us, doing the very best we can to live lives that won’t make us shoot up the freeways like that Michael Douglas movie. And I know that won’t fill the pages of the New York Times magazine, but even so, I think the only trend story we really need is one about the emerging trend of thinking that no matter what kind of grill we own or car we drive or how long we live with our parents, eventually all that matters is if we are okay.


6 thoughts on “Your Life Need Not Rebuke Mine

  1. Two old American aphorisms that have fallen out of favor: “Mind yer own business,” and “live and let live.”

  2. Isn’t the problem so many of us face the fact that we don’t really have confidence in our own choices? It is painful to question our own choices, wondering how we ended up doing whatever we do. But, much less painful to attack the choices of others who made different choices. So, we pick that one. The more screwed up we find our own lives the easier it is to choose to treat others who don’t seem so screwed up with contempt.
    You morons who live in actual houses instead of condos are just so lame, you know?

  3. Athenae, you’re so right, this stuff gets so tiring.
    You know what subject generates the most nastiness & bile at Eschaton? Not the economy; not pro- or anti- Obama politics; not media criticism. It’s Atrios’ rather innocent little posts about his own personal preference for city living.
    Man o man. Every poster there who lives in a suburb or the country gets so fucking angry. How dare he not validate their chosen lifestyle! He obviously doesn’t have a clue! He doesn’t know how to live! He has no idea what he’s talking about! He’s a childish impractical dreamer who should just stick to dissing Rush Limbaugh!
    Etc. etc. And it doesn’t matter how many times he explains that he’s not criticizing anybody else’s life choices. It’s the same thing every time.

  4. Dockery and Son
    ‘Dockery was junior to you,
    Wasn’t he?’ said the Dean. ‘His son’s here now.’
    Death-suited, visitant, I nod. ‘And do
    You keep in touch with-‘ Or remember how
    Black-gowned, unbreakfasted, and still half-tight
    We used to stand before that desk, to give
    ‘Our version’ of ‘these incidents last night’?
    I try the door of where I used to live:
    Locked. The lawn spreads dazzlingly wide.
    A known bell chimes. I catch my train, ignored.
    Canal and clouds and colleges subside
    Slowly from view. But Dockery, good Lord,
    Anyone up today must have been born
    In ’43, when I was twenty-one.
    If he was younger, did he get this son
    At nineteen, twenty? Was he that withdrawn
    High-collared public-schoolboy, sharing rooms
    With Cartwright who was killed? Well, it just shows
    How much . . . How little . . . Yawning, I suppose
    I fell asleep, waking at the fumes
    And furnace-glares of Sheffield, where I changed,
    And ate an awful pie, and walked along
    The platform to its end to see the ranged
    Joining and parting lines reflect a strong
    Unhindered moon. To have no son, no wife,
    No house or land still seemed quite natural.
    Only a numbness registered the shock
    Of finding out how much had gone of life,
    How widely from the others. Dockery, now:
    Only nineteen, he must have taken stock
    Of what he wanted, and been capable
    Of . . . No, that’s not the difference: rather, how
    Convinced he was he should be added to!
    Why did he think adding meant increase?
    To me it was dilution. Where do these
    Innate assumptions come from? Not from what
    We think truest, or most want to do:
    Those warp tight-shut, like doors. They’re more a style
    Our lives bring with them: habit for a while,
    Suddenly they harden into all we’ve got
    And how we got it; looked back on, they rear
    Like sand-clouds, thick and close, embodying
    For Dockery a son, for me nothing,
    Nothing with all a son’s harsh patronage.
    Life is first boredom, then fear.
    Whether or not we use it, it goes,
    And leaves what something hidden from us chose,
    And age, and then the only end of age.
    Philip Larkin
    _The Whitsun Weddings_

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