Monday, February 10, 2014

February Day Rant

UH OH, a holiday celebrating families. Rant time.

Today was the second annual Family Day statutory holiday in BC (why we are different from the rest of the country is beyond me). This morning I was in line at the coffee shop near my house, and the fellow in front of me struck up a fairly one-sided conversation (because anyone who thinks I want to participate in social interaction when I'm not in customer-service-mode is gravely mistaken). In the midst of similarly bizarre utterances: "What do you think about having a holiday today? Do you like it? I guess nobody complains about a holiday."

No indeed. In truth, though, this holiday rankles with me. In fact, it's a pretty uninclusive week for those of us who are muddling through life on our own.

It isn't that I'm necessarily envious of what other people have that I don't. Maybe someday I'll find a very special guy, and we will mutually tolerate each other to a high degree. I hope so. But in the meantime, I'm happily single; I do what I want, go where I want, and these days focus on doing what makes me happy. I surround myself with fantastic friends, and have enjoyed as fulfilled a life as I could hope for (and of course still going strong).

But family (that is, the lack thereof) has started to become a thorn in my side. Here's a brief tour of the damage:

1. The Supporters

I am the youngest of five children; all of my siblings are older, have their own houses and spouses, and three of them have multiple children in tow. I wish I could say that I don't feel like an outsider at family gatherings, but I do. Family has always been supremely important to us all, but with everyone increasingly focused on their own new (or not-so-new) families, the importance has become less centralized.

It took years before my family accepted that I didn't plan on ever having children. When my long-term relationship ended, it took several more years for them to accept that it's okay for someone to be single. Nobody could be more supportive and loving than my parents, but the very idea that this is a conclusion that needed to be arrived at in the first place is foreign to me.

People frequently think that I'm apathetic about an extremely large percentage of topics. But I reserve my opinions for subjects that I'm passionate about, and the people who know me best recognize that something is important to me if I express an opinion about it. The fact is, there are an awful lot of things that simply do not warrant an opinion, particularly since opinions tend toward either for or against (and often rabidly so). People concern themselves with nonissues far more often than actual issues.

Just because there are alternatives, doesn't mean that one is objectively better than another. I would be delighted indeed that my singleness is sanctioned, if I weren't supremely resentful that anybody thinks it's their business to do so.

2. The Haters

Not very long ago, my mother was speaking with an old acquaintance she hadn't seen in some time, who maintained that "young people are so selfish these days." The acquaintance asked after my siblings and I; when she heard that I didn't plan on having children, she shook her head scornfully: "So selfish."

If the ocean weren't preventing it, I might physically edge even further away from such backward attitudes.

Maybe I should shrug this sort of thing off, but remarks like that bite deep. The anecdote stirred up all kinds of volatile and resentful feelings. How could anybody make such a judgment, especially about somebody they don't even know? More to the point, on what far-flung planet could it logically be perceived as selfish? And perhaps most achingly, a part of me does long for my own family, but "[good men] are not like buses; there won't be another one along in ten minutes' time."

I become more or less livid anytime I see negativity. I think when you've experienced unaccountable hatred yourself, you're more sensitive to seeing it, no matter who it's directed at. The core principle I try to live by is to respect others and show them my appreciation—something that I wish, so very much, had been extended to me all my life. It's easy to say something terribly damaging, and you can't take back the things you say. To think that I once looked forward to becoming an adult and leaving behind the childish world of bullying.

3. The Pitiers

Even more recently, a couple of coworkers were discussing their families close to my desk. I was focused on my work and not paying attention to their conversation A) because I don't really care, and B) because I had a lot of work to get through. When asked directly about my husband and children, I absently said "oh, I'm alone," which launched a very uncomfortable few moments of them helpfully suggesting that I would need to advertise myself. Not to worry, they assured me in the most patronizing of tones. All was not lost; I would find a boyfriend yet, and everything would be okay. I'm not sure how long it would have continued; my supervisor, overhearing, escorted me out of the office on some pretext. I've never been more impressed by someone's intuition.

I'm not saying that people are deliberately hurtful; I can recognize the sympathetic sentiment that drives them to express something akin to pity. But it undermines self-assurance, which is such a fragile thing to begin with. It makes you doubt yourself, reproach yourself, check yourself, wonder what it is about you that gave someone the impression that your life is inferior to their own.

You just can't win. And with people drawing attention—some encouraging you, and some discouraging you—to something that is truly not worth remarking about, you can't help but dwell upon your stalemate position.

I've meandered far from the Family Day spark that ignited this post, and I think things are too far gone to tidily wrap up now. So I'll just leave it at this: Happy Comrade Day to all my homeslices; you're my family, whether you know it or not.

1 comment:

rt said...

You're the best home slice!