When I was in high school, I declared to my mother that I would not be getting married or having children.
It's a rather bold (and typical) statement for a 16-year-old to make. Sixteen is an age at which we're each figuring out who we are (or, at least, beginning to assert our independence—it's a process that goes on every day of our lives afterward), and making such hyperbolic statements is normal. At 30 I can safely say I have no idea whether or not this statement still holds true, although I can tell you that I'm still the kind of girl who isn't necessarily chomping at the bit to get in the family way. But when I told my mother this, she had what I thought was a very strange reaction; she burst into tears and declared that I'd basically just told her that I thought her life was meaningless. Because I didn't want to get married and have children—the two things she considered the most important things she'd done with her life—I obviously thought anyone who made such a choice was an idiot. I was dumbfounded. It seemed like a rather ludicrous leap in logic to me. What I'd said had nothing to do with her in my mind. But it's a fairly common leap in logic to make. Most people do it.
Most people think that other people are judging them all of the time. And most people would be right. The question, though, is why do we care?
I was discussing this phenomenon with a friend the other night. It never ceases to amaze me just how much people feel the need to justify their choices when most choices don't need justification. The best illustration of this that I've ever encountered is the whole monogamy “debate.” I put “debate” in quotations there (although I'm not really sure why I did it the second time) because I think it's debatable as to whether or not there's really a debate over monogamy. People who don't want to be in monogamous relationships always seem to feel the need to have a highbrow intellectual argument to support their slutty horndog ways. “Mankind just isn't inherently monogamous,” they declare, as if this somehow proves that their choice is more right. But who are they proving it to? I've been in monogamous relationships; I've also fooled around with three different people in one week. I don't think I need to have an argument to justify either choice. Why? Because I choose which way I'm going to run my business, and my only responsibility is to make sure the people (or person) I'm sleeping with and I are on the same page. If I've promised monogamy, I need to be monogamous. If I haven't promised anything, then I get to get off however and with whomever I please. Neither requires that I go around telling everyone why I think it's somehow better that I've made whichever choice it is I'm making at that moment. I don't need to recruit people into being on “my side”--although, if I'm sleeping around, I guess I do need to recruit people into being on their backs. When people give me some reason for their whoring ways that incorporates man's essential nature, all I want to say is, “Who cares?” The existence of monogamous couples isn't an indictment of your lifestyle.
So why the argument? I think people feel uncomfortable with the existence of “the other side,” even if the other side is mostly an illusion. I'm currently happily monogamous, but I don't see all the sluts of this world as being on another team out to destroy the very fiber of my beliefs. I just see them as dogs out to get a bone, ya know? As long as they're not sleeping with my partner, I have no opinion on their existence whatever. They don't make me question my choice in exactly the same way that happily monogamous couples don't make me feel like a dirty whore when I'm free to sleep with whomever I choose (man, this is making me sound way sluttier than I've ever really been known to be). Basically, I don't care what anyone thinks of me when I'm getting laid on a regular basis. But, really, the monogamy argument is a symptom of a larger problem; insecurity. When it comes to religion and politics (politics especially), I believe that there's more than one way to skin a cat. I believe that more than one solution may be right depending on the specific details of the situation, and sometimes there is no real solution at all. Rarely is there one single solution—one right belief, one right action.
But (and here's the shit that's really gonna blow your mind), I think all these arguments are silly because not only is there more than one solution to this living problem we all seem to have, but there's no problem at all.
Now, I know what you're thinking. “No problem? Man, I've got problems.” I hear about people's problems all the time. “My boyfriend won't get a job.” “I'm in thousands of dollars of debt.” “I don't have six-pack abs.” “I have six-pack abs, and my diet is making me a raving lunatic bitch!” People have problems all over the place. But all of these problems are problems in perception. My mother burst into tears over her 16-year-old know-it-all daughter's declaration because she perceived it as an insult. Actually, she burst into tears because she's kind of mentally unbalanced, but she's mentally unbalanced because she perceives herself as the center of the universe. See? A problem in perception!
The bottom line is this: if you have a problem with the way someone is living his or her life and those choices don't impact you directly, you have a problem with yourself. Whenever I'm perceiving an “Us vs. Them” scenario, what I'm saying is that I feel that someone else's choices call my own into question. If I know where I stand on my personal life, what difference does it make where you stand on yours? We're all basically on the same team: a bunch of people trying not to starve to death and maybe have a good time every once in a while. All this defensiveness is either insecurity or a desperate need to kill time.
And I'm not above a desperate need to kill time. I routinely get annoyed by the tweets of people I don't even know. That's irritainment!
Book Notes - Patrick Nathan "Some Hell"
1 day ago