Food and Passion and Jerks on the Internet
So you know how on Friday I spent 3.5 of my seven quick takes talking about how awesome it is to eat locally/organically/humanely? Well, I received a great comment from Kathleen on the subject, and knew I’d have to write another (yes, ANOTHER) post about food to do all my thoughts on the subject justice.
You know, this local/organic thing is a real sore spot for me–I want so much to do it, but I don’t shop the way most other people do, apparently. I go to Aldi, where the roll of ground beef is $2.99 and the eggs are $1.15 a dozen, and my grocery bills are STILL $150 a week for 6 people. I buy steaks when they are on “manager’s special.” And although I totally, completely buy into the idea of chemical-free, locally-grown food, I can’t see almost doubling my grocery bill to do it. I wish I had a solution.
To which I replied (paraphrasing): “I hear ya, sister! I HEAR YOU.” One of the odd things about being a human being is that each of us is very different from the others. Sure, we find kindred spirits here and there, but ultimately, even the people we absolutely adore will often tilt their heads to the side as they look at us and say, “Hm. I don’t quite get what you’re doing here.” AND THAT’S OKAY. Or we might tilt or heads to the side and say, “I get what you’re doing… but it is just NOT for me.” AND THAT’S OKAY, TOO.
Meaning, just because I’m the crazy natural childbirth lady who goes nuts over grass-fed beef and free-range eggs and loves Jesus and puppies doesn’t mean I expect everyone else to be. If I did, that would be the height of arrogance on my part. Who am I to say that someone else is wrong because they make different choices than I do with their food, their bodies, their money, their time? Because let’s be quite frank, I don’t always make the best choices for my own little family – not even close – and I am just fumbling through life most of the time, trying to figure out what will bring me health and happiness. One of the things that makes me really happy is sharing the things I learn about faith and family and yes, FOOD, but I am constantly on guard against the idea that I’ve got it all “figured out” since I really, truly, DON’T.
Learning these few simple facts was a long, painful lesson for me. As anyone who has ever been a convert to/from some way of life knows that there is a high, a fever, a passion that you get from realizing that OH. MY. GOD. my life has CHANGED!!!1! and it’s AWESOME!!!1! and I need to tell EVERYONE!!!1! about it because they NEED! TO! KNOW!!!1! so they too can experience how awesome it is. And anyone who has ever had a friend or family member who converted to/from some way of life knows that OH. MY. GOD. those people can be really ANNOYING!!!1! with their fevered passion about how AWESOME!!!1! their new understanding of the world is. I could solicit several dozen testimonies of how incredibly self-righteous and obnoxious I was when I got “saved” my senior year of high school, but I would rather you NOT know what a jerk I was, and besides most of those people don’t talk to me anymore. Because I was just OVERFLOWING with the love of Jesus, you see.
Don’t worry, I disgust me, too. One reason: I have a huge crush on Dr. House. Because apparently verbally abusive drug addicts are hot. WTF?
Then came the very very very painful, humbling experience of my church imploding after our super-controlling and very-mentally-ill pastor was exposed as an adulterer and embezzler. That took me down a couple of notches. And then I got divorced (a few MORE notches) and made some really poor decisions with my love life and my credit score (even more) and I drank too much and ate too much and smoked too much and basically just did everything I felt like doing for awhile no matter how bad it was for me because it’s my life, dammit, and I get to screw it up if I want to! Although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going on a complete self-destructive bender as a way to “find yourself” I will say that, in the end, it was a good thing for me. Because as a result, I tend to be a teensy bit not so full of myself, and a little kinder to people who are different from me. (At least I think I am. I HOPE I am.)
Of course, I have many moments of being a total hypocrite Judgey McJudgerson. Just keepin’ it real, folks.
What on earth does this have to do with food, you may ask? Well, everything. Because in our society, even those of us who are completely unreligious manage to make certain life choices into all-or-nothing essential “doctrines” by which we judge the value and worth of other people. If you don’t believe me, spend some time in mommy chat rooms/message boards/communities/Facebook groups. You will be APPALLED at the terrible things women say to each other because of their choices about how/when/where to give birth, how to feed their children, whether or not they work, how much they work, what kind of work they do, where they live, whether they raise their children with any sort of religious training and whether they choose public or private school, classical homeschooling or “unschooling.” AND THAT’S JUST THE FIRST FIVE YEARS, HELP ME JESUS.
Why is this meme so funny? Seriously? Why is ANYTHING on the internet funny? Because it is. Just because.
Using vitriol that really ought to be reserved for folks that drown puppies, people tell one another that their choices are, in essence, unforgivable, just because they are different. Seriously, can we honestly compare bottlefeeding or homebirth to child abuse? No, that is a sensational, unfair, and useless analogy. But that’s what we do. We make mountains out of molehills. We’re especially good at doing it on the internet, but let me tell you, I was good at doing it in person. And I did so much damage to myself and others that I just had to give it up.
This is why when I became a vegetarian a few years ago I didn’t get super evangelistic about it, though I did talk to my close friends and family about it when they asked me why I made the change. (Incidentally, I was surprised by how many people felt compelled to tell me how WRONG I was for not eating meat… as if my dietary choices affected them? Cause they didn’t… but whatever…) And this is why I try to be very cautious when sharing the things that are important to me, and holding my tongue when someone I care about (or even a random person on the internet) makes a choice that I disagree with, even something I think is bad bad bad. After all: A) it’s none of my business, and B) I don’t have all the facts, and C) I could very well change my mind about the subject next week or next month or next year, based on the latest scientific blurb on Yahoo’s homepage or the next bestseller I pick up or some strange twist of fate in my personal life. And then I’ll feel like an idiot for acting like I had all the answers because duh, I NEVER DID AND NEVER WILL HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS.
Am I making sense? (She asked, 1200 words later…) If I’m not I may as well give up because it’s not going to get any better. All this to say that whatever I share on my blog in the future (and all the stuff I’ve already blathered on about in the past) is written with a caveat: Emily is not an expert in anything, at all, ever. She doesn’t play one on TV, and she has to constantly remind herself not to play one inside her own head. She’s just thinking out loud here, and looking for other seekers to sit down next to, people she can learn from and laugh with.