Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Separate But Equal

I drove to my parents' house to celebrate Memorial Day with a pool party. In honor of fallen soldiers, we listened to loud music, some people drank beer, and my sister floated in the middle of the family pool with a cigarette dangling from her fingers.

"You ashing in the pool, Kate?"

"Sure. It's not going to hurt it!"

My parents' house is in a relatively rural area about an hour from the urban area where I live. As I drove from my place to theirs, I watched the landscape go from downtown to suburban shopping centers to scattered country businesses like gas stations and trailer retailers. Around the midpoint I saw a billboard advertising golf course houses for sale. My first response was to scoff slightly. I am not the kind for golf course living. I am the kind who associates herself with noble poverty. But then I had a thought. A week before, I'd spent some time on a golf course for a work function, and remembering the houses that backed up to the golf course, I thought, "What's so bad about golf course living, anyway?"

I didn't suddenly want to live on a golf course. I did, however, have a moment in which I understood just how much I defined myself as not being the kind of person who lives on a golf course. There's a difference between simply not being into golf course living or even just never considering it on any level and my mocking reaction. I thought about making a joke about the billboard to my companion, another individual probably even more defined by his anti-golf course nature than I. I didn't make the joke, however. In that state of mind, I recognized it as just making conversation by parading about our mutual disdain. Instead, I got to thinking about personalities.

While at my parents' house, an old family friend asked me about work. I'm extremely unhappy with my job. I said as much and asked if we could not talk about it anymore. Then she asked me about my "aspirations." I've never had much of a stomach for this requisite conversation, but I figured that at 31 I wouldn't have to have it anymore. People who aspire to live on a golf course also aspire to work hard at certain kinds of jobs to get there. As a lifestyle, it's the antithesis of freedom. People who live on golf courses shoulder all kinds of responsibility--mortgages, giant electric bills, home owners' association dues. This is why I'm ultimately not a golf course girl. I'm constantly trying to arrange my life in such a way as to have as much freedom as possible. Maybe that's why I feel the need to turn golf course living into a judgment call. Honestly, if someone wants to take on the burden of such a lifestyle, I'm sure it's got nothing to do with me. Perhaps I feel in some way like it's a spotlight on my desire to take on as little responsibility as possible.

As if that is a bad thing.

People who live on golf courses aren't a threat to my freedom. My freedom isn't a threat to their golf course lifestyle. We see ourselves at odds only because when one person sees another person living a different kind of life from the one that they themselves have chosen, it brings to mind several possibly uncomfortable questions. Questions about why we each want the things we want and whether or not we even really want those things. Maybe we want those other things. Maybe we don't. Maybe we don't know what we want, and maybe we need to be pro-this and anti-that to hide from that fact.

After all, it seems like there are a lot of up sides to golf course living. I'm just pretty sure I don't want to do the things I'd have to do to live there.

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