I saw a post recently from a mother chastising people with pets for calling themselves parents. She felt offended by it, but didn’t want to say anything in person because she felt that would be rude. In the piece, however, she had no problem being condescending, saying it’s fine that people choose to be childfree and lower themselves to taking care of animals, but it certainly, most definitely, wasn’t the same thing. Nope. Uh-uh. She wanted to make sure that everyone reading that got that point, so she repeated it several times.
Here’s the thing. Most people who have animal companions/friends* fucking know that being a parent isn’t the same as taking care of animals. Even the ones who call themselves parents mostly do it as shorthand. I don’t use the term myself, but mostly because I don’t want to be a fucking parent, not even in jest, not even of my cats. I don’t freak out if someone else calls me my boys’ mom, though, because I know they don’t mean it literally. I know my cats are not little people (though they might think I’m a big, dumb cat), and I’m fucking glad they’re not.
A couple of my Tweet pals pointed out that her assumption about childfree people being that way out of choice was faulty and hurtful. I agree with that, but personally, I’m just miffed because of the hectoring tone. I find this to be a problem with much of popular online media, and I have to point the finger at Buzzfeed and to a lesser extent, Upworthy. Listicles, hot takes, contrary views, all aimed at garnering more clicks. Recently, there has been a spate of ‘why you shouldn’t eat this food’ articles which basically boil down to, “I don’t like this food, so you shouldn’t, either.” The first I noticed was about mac and cheese, and the most recent was on onions (by Buzzfeed themselves). I read the mac and cheese one despite my best intentions, but I gave a hard pass to the onions one. There was one in the middle about lemons or some other innocuous foodstuff that I’ve blocked from my brain. If you look at the title of the first article, it’s called, Mac and Cheese is the Worst. The title of the second is For Everyone Who Fucking Hates Onions with the url being, It’s Time to Admit that Onions Are Disgusting. After reading the first article, my takeaway was, “I hate mac and cheese, and I want everyone else to hate it, too, so I don’t feel bad about myself.” If you hate mac and cheese, hate mac and cheese! No one is forcing you to eat fucking mac and cheese. You’re grown. You don’t have to like what other people like, for fuck’s sake!
I think I’m so indignant about this because I like tons of things that no one else does. Plus, I’m a single, childfree woman in a society that still believes a woman’s highest calling is to be a mother. It can be alienating, and I do write about it, but I’m not scolding other people for their life choices that differ from mine. Yes, being a parent is a tough job, oftentimes thankless, but it’s also a pretty common one. Literally millions if not billions of people are doing it right now. I don’t know how to say this delicately, but get the fuck over yourselves. I’m tired of parents who think everyone else should cater to them, and I’m done with biting my tongue. I understand there are times when I have to put up with crying babies such as on planes, and I feel sorry for the little mites because they don’t know what the fuck is going on, and it feels terrible. If I’m at the store during kid hours,** then I will deal with the rambunctiousness of said children. If I’m at a family-friendly restaurant, the same. But, if I’m in a nice restaurant at a late-ish hour, then I won’t be pleased if there are disruptive kids. Same with a non-kid movie,*** or other adult-orientated places. If I’m at the grocery store at 10 p.m., it’s because I’m trying to avoid other people, specifically kids. Yes, kids are part of society, but that doesn’t mean they should be present and very vocal whenever and wherever.
In addition, I’m more irritated by parents not correcting their kids’ egregious behaviors than by the kids themselves. I was at a Twins games many moons ago, and there was this kid behind me constantly kicking the back of my seat. I put up with it for an inning or two before turning around and telling him to knock it off. His parents did not seem to appreciate it, but I didn’t appreciate their kid kicking my seat, either. More to the point, I really didn’t appreciate them not doing a damn thing about it. Kids are a valuable part of society, which means they have to learn the social mores. Which means don’t fucking kick the back of my seat. Yes, I know that’s petty and personal, but it’s indicative of a bigger problem. Online, parents demand that everyone else accommodate them without the reciprocation. I deliberately chose not to have kids because I don’t want to deal with their shit.
I want to emphasize that I don’t hate kids. I like them in general, and I am find with interacting with them for a short period of time if they’re not total assholes. And, let’s be clear, there are kids who are total assholes. Most of us have been bullied at one point in our lives by another kid, and some of us have been mean to other kids ourselves. I feel like we have a weird taboo in this country against saying that kids are people, for better and for worse. My main gripe in this post, however, is not unruly kids; it’s the strident tone of many posts these days. I can be the same way, lord knows, but I at least try to approach things with more nuance than I normally fine in online posts. I usually look at things from several different angles, even if I don’t agree with them all. I’m stubborn and opinionated, but I’m able to step outside of myself and look at my own beliefs critically–at least most of the time.
This mentality bleeds over into the Twitter-verse. An example that sticks in my head is a person who was talking about being severely suicidal. The thread was RT’ed into my TL, and I checked it out because I’ve been depressed most of my life and have thought about suicide often. The person took a berating tone that immediately set my teeth on edge. He went on a twenty to thirty tweet rant about how to deal with a person who was suicidal. The first ten or so were devoted to how hard it is to be suicidal. I would agree that being chronically depressed is no fun to deal with at all. I’m not taking any issues with that part of his rant. However, he soon plummeted into scolding his friends for not being supportive enough, and that’s when he lost me. I will say that many people still don’t understand depression and how difficult it is to deal with it, but that’s not what he was talking about. Essentially, he was saying that his friends should just endlessly reach out to him without expecting anything in return. They should not ask how he is, but they should also show that they care. He ended up by saying, “I know it’s hard to be my friend, but it’s harder being me, and I can’t hand-hold you through the process.” My first thought upon finishing the rant: Why the fuck would anyone want to be friends with you?
I wouldn’t have been so pissed if he’d at least been thankful for his friends being supportive of him and for standing by him. He wasn’t. At all. The tone of his voice was of a superior to an inferior and implied that his friends should be grateful just to be able to bask in the glory that is him. I know that sounds contradictory to say about someone who’s depressed, but I’ve written before about how depression is based in self-absorption. Even when I was severely depressed, however, I was grateful for my friends who stood by me through the dark times. I made sure to tell them so whenever I could muster up the energy. The last thing I’d even think of doing is yell at them for not supporting me in the right way or asking how I am. Sure, if one of them was telling me to just get over it, I’d want to talk to them about it. But if they’re generally being warm and loving, I’m not going to spit in their faces.
I am irritated by dogma because I want to have thoughtful conversations about important topics, and I don’t feel that’s possible if the original poster is just handing down edicts and mandates. I’ve said before that if my mind isn’t going to be changed on a topic, I don’t discuss it with people who disagree. It’s a waste of my time and theirs. I feel like a lot of these posts are just masturbatory, and my inclination is to avert my eyes so I don’t see the splooge. Again, I know it’s pretty intoxicating to put your words down on paper and have people read them, but that should just be step one in the process of writing. To me, the main goal of writing is to communicate. Yes, when I write, I write for myself, but ultimately, I want people to read what I’ve written and to find something worthwhile in my words. I’d rather have someone disagree with me and give me a well-reasoned why they have the opinion they do than to have someone to reflexively agree with me. I’ve learned the most from people when we’ve had disagreements, and I feel like the art of disagreeing without becoming disagreeable has become lost in the era of clickbait and hot takes.
Yeah, yeah, I know I’m close to ‘get off my lawn’ territory, but it concerns me how close-minded people online can be. They only talk with people who agree with them, and they preemptively block anyone they think might demur. Now, I’m not talking about obvious trolls. The best thing to do to them is block them and move on. However, if someone is ignorant, but earnest and trying to learn, it wouldn’t hurt to engage. I realize it puts the onus on the OP to do the yeoman’s work of lifting, but that’s part of putting your ideas out into the ether in the first place. If they can’t stand up to scrutiny, then maybe they’re not good ideas in the first place.
I understand that the negative response online can be overwhelming, so it’s easy to slip into defensive mode. That’s why I’m not entirely convinced that having such immediacy all the time is a good idea. With a little space, you can cool down and not take everything so personally. It’s not easy to do, I know. Even the mildest criticism of your writing can feel like a dagger to your heart. But, again, and I hate to be a broken record, that’s part of allowing the public to read your writing. If you don’t want any criticism for it, then write it on LiveJournal and be done with it. If you want to grow as a writer, however, then you have to listen to people’s critique of your work, even if you ultimately reject it. That’s the trick, though. Not every criticism is valid, and it’s up to you to discern the difference.
I know it’s shutting the barn door after the horses got out, but I wish we could go back to the days before the Buzzification of listicles and hipster edginess. If only.
*I don’t like the word pet.
**Before 8 p.m.
***Looking at you, dad who brought his seven to eight-year old daughter to Batman Begins. I wasn’t mad that she kept asking questions; I was mad that he brought her in the first damn place.