I love gossip. I don't really care much for spreading the stuff, but if I catch a whiff of a story, I'm immediately on the trail, asking, "Ooooh, what's up? What did he say? What did she say? OMG WHAT WHAT WHAT?!" I like knowing everything about everybody else's business. I can keep a secret, but I can't stop myself from asking you not to.
Earlier Sean was telling me he'd listened to an episode of Real Time with Bill Mahr on which Jon Hamm was a guest. Bill Mahr asked Jon Hamm all these questions about how he and his girlfriend, Jennifer Westfeldt, have been together for, like, forever, and aren't married and have no babies. And my gut reaction is a big fat...so what?
It never occurred to me growing up that my adult love life wouldn't look however I wanted it to look when I got there. I remember spending my 12th year OBSESSED with the idea of growing up to get married, have babies, be a STAY AT HOME MOM...but then I got my period for the first time, decided I hated everything, and swore of marriage and babies FOREVER. Now I'm 32, married, and still sworn to no-babyhood for the foreseeable future (i.e. forever barring any unforeseen birth control malfunctions. LET'S GET PERSONAL.).
I moved in with my boyfriend when I felt like it. My parents gave me what appeared to be obligatory speeches about how they disapproved, but they seemed to understand that they couldn't do much about it. I just don't remember it being a big deal. I remember it going pretty much exactly as I'd pictured it -- without much fanfare.
It wasn't until all this cultural what the fuckery started with the birth control and the apparent OMG WHAT'S IT LIKE LIVING WITH YOUR GF AND NOT MARRYING HER AND PUTTING A BABY IN THAT SHIT? moment we seem to be having that it even occurred to me that we were still living in the shadows of a land where the Supreme Court actually had to decide that unmarried folks could legally possess birth control. I just figured grown ups decided how they were gonna live their lives based on their own ideas of what was right for them. Looking back, was I just incredibly naive? I mean, I understood there was supposedly some cultural pressure lurking out there somewhere saying something about babies, but I'm not actually supposed to take that so seriously that I let it influence my behavior...am I? And is it really all that interesting to everyone if it doesn't? One day, when I am famous, is Bill Mahr going to grill me on OMG NO BABIES NAN REALLY?
I found myself pondering earlier why all the hysteria. To be clear, if someone says, "I just don't want to pay for anyone else's shit ever, okay?" I can understand this ideological argument. But that doesn't seem to be what this conversation is about. People aren't just trying to avoid spending money on other people's shit -- they're trying to avoid spending money on birth control for women, and they're using language to defend this that includes phrases like "moral objection." A woman using birth control has no real substantive impact on anyone but herself and her partner. So why all the freaking hysteria? I'm going to need a better reason than "because God said so." I can't think of a single logical one.
But I can: because it feels good.
Apparently a bunch of people are pissed because there are black people in the Hunger Games movie. Characters they didn't think were black turned out to be black, and they wrote some racist stuff on Twitter in revolt. Why? It's so silly, and I just can't imagine why anyone would just spout off awful...wait. I can. I can think of a reason. Because it feels good.
Operating under an us vs. them mentality is attractive, and we all do it. I may feel all morally superior in the face of the type of racism I see on Twitter or folks who have nothing better to do than worry about the sexual habits of people they don't even know. But I can understand the impulse to say hateful things about people I don't like -- and I can justify not liking the people I don't like much more easily than I can justify other people not liking the people they don't like. I read a piece recently calling out Bill Mahr for calling Sarah Palin a "cunt" and a "twat" during his standup routine. The writer called this sexist and on-par with Rush Limbaugh and his "slut" slur. And dang it, I think that author was right! You can't justify calling one woman a "cunt" just because you disagree with her while denouncing calling another a "slut" because you do agree with her. Sexist slurs are either sexist or they're not. And while I would love to denounce what I see as evil while believing myself righteous, my duty is always to do the opposite -- check myself for where I have done evil before anything else. I can change my own behavior. I can do fuck all about society most of the time.
My "because it feels good" theory isn't meant to be an excuse. Instead, it is meant to be an understanding -- an understanding of this impulse that lives inside of all of us. Sometimes I decide to try not to ask questions about things that are none of my business, and that's when I realize how hard it is not to do things that feel good, even when I believe they're wrong. Far from an excuse, understanding the failings that all humans house may be the seed of the compassion we all need to actually change that against which we scream to no avail.
"Small people talk about other people." So wouldn't it be really great if we didn't?
Book Notes - Jarret Middleton "Darkansas"
13 hours ago