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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

[765] i don't want to wear your moccasins.

I'm sitting in my living room watching Hoarders (and unconsciously tidying as I do), when the show ends and switches to the new show Sister Wives. Considering I'm barely willing to share my husband with his job - and I only do that because it's necessary for survival - there are few things I can relate to less than women who voluntarily enter into polygamous relationships. And that IS the case with these women. This isn't some FLDS compound where creepy old men are marrying twelve-year-olds. This is suburban Utah. This is a group of people who could very well live next door to me. If I lived in Utah.

As I do when I watch anything that piques my curiosity, I took to Twitter to see what people were saying about it. I found indignation, disgust, condemnation. In a word, intolerance. Oh, snap! I just dropped the I-bomb! Look out!

But really. As I read through these comments, I saw a lot of references and connections to the Duggars and their apparently abhorrent lifestyle. People were downright angry that TLC would have the audacity to portray these people as complex and even (gasp) GOOD people. Heaven forbid we should look at them as anything other than some monolithic group full of people with no personalities outside of the evil Mormon or fundamentalist Christian programming they've received. If we're gonna portray them as normal, they'd better at least have some secret dark side like on Big Love. They can't be like us.

This has always bothered me. Let's look at this kind of judgment on a scale that's more at the forefront of our society right now: Some people have been complaining about the fact that homosexuals are portrayed as human beings on TV lately. If we see them as people who go to school, eat food, listen to music, and engage in extracurricular activities like the rest of us, it's a heck of a lot harder to hate them, or to see them as some malicious "other" hellbent on changing our beliefs and ways of life. Most of us can agree that this is pretty ridiculous. It's good for us to see how people live who live differently than we do, whether we agree with it or not. As it turns out, the overarching American culture, or at least regional culture, tends to be a lot bigger than lifestyle choices or sexual orientation. We're all a lot more alike than we give each other credit for.

But we refuse to walk two moons in another man's moccasins in order to understand him. In fact, we're more interested in the Jack Handey take on it: We want to walk a mile in another man's shoes so that, when we criticize him, we're a mile away AND we have his shoes. It's kind of hard to do that if that man looks like someone I might actually want to hang out with.

So, we're in agreement. Portraying gay people as gay PEOPLE on TV isn't a bad thing. But what about those icky polygamists? Or those irresponsible whackos with 19 kids? Surely they're too far outside the mainstream to be included in the acceptable category for positive portrayals. But why? They support themselves financially, they pay taxes, they're not abusive, the adults involved in these relationships consent to them, and the children in the families are happy to the extent than any child is happy. I have yet to meet any teenager who agrees entirely with their parents' views and choices. Both of these families give their children the freedom to choose whether they want to continue in these lifestyles once they leave the house.

Now, maybe we have a problem with the exploitative nature of reality television in general, and that's a whole other animal, but why is it that we seem to think it's some form of indoctrination to see that people whose lifestyles we disagree with are still thinking, feeling human beings? After watching two episodes of Sister Wives, I'd totally let my (future) kids hang out with their kids. Do I "approve" of polygamy? Nope. Not a lifestyle I can get behind. But I've never made agreeing with someone a qualification for being friends. I'd probably have a lot fewer if that were the case.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

[761] remember high school? me neither.

A couple years ago, this guy added me on Facebook. We have lots of mutual friends, so I figure I must know him, but I've looked over all his pictures and info and still can't place him. I'm not a Facebook, snob, though, and I accepted the request. After all, having "too many" people on my friends list really doesn't adversely affect me. The newsfeed only shows me the ones whose pages I visit frequently anyway. If I don't care what Danny Douchebag from third grade is doing, I just won't visit his page. No rejection necessary. I do, of course, avoid adding people with whom I have absolutely no connection, but mostly that's because I don't want people I KNOW calling or IMing me, let alone people I don't.

I'm off on a tangent. Let's go back to that guy I don't remember.

The other day I found a journal from high school. I started reading through it, with all of the appropriate cringes and giggles one might expect as one browses through the unfiltered ramblings of one's former self, and who did I find mentioned repeatedly? That's right. Forgettable Facebook Friend. Now, it's not like I'm looking back on something I wrote twenty years ago. I was seventeen when I wrote this particular journal. That's... um... hold on, calculating... that's only eight years ago! Eight years and I have COMPLETELY forgotten a guy with whom I was so closely acquainted that he made it into my journal multiple times!!! How is that possible?

This isn't the first time this has happened, mind you. In college, a friend informed me we had a mutual acquaintance. When the name didn't sound familiar at all, I found this person on facebook, did a rather in-depth stalking job, and found that I had no memory of ever having met her. But here's the kicker: There were pictures of us together! "I'm sorry, what? I must have misheard you," you say. Nope. You heard me right. There is photo evidence of our friendship, and if I saw her on the street, I would not recognize her.

This probably makes me sound like some sort of egotistical witch-with-a-B (as I might have said in high school), but that's really not the case. Or at least I don't think it is. If anything, judging by my journals, I was entirely too focused on everyone BUT myself. Man oh man, did I ever whine about how many friends screwed me over once they'd gotten all they wanted out of me. Parts of my journal are like a Dashboard Confessional album on a loop. And yet, after all those traumas, I barely remember any of it. It all seemed so important at the time. It all seemed like it would last forever. Teenagers are like Tinkerbell. They can only really feel one thing at a time. And for most, that one thing is usually negative. It's just part of the deal, I guess.

But the funny part is that it seriously doesn't matter. We aren't ready to hear that at the time, when parents and counselors and old people in department stores try to tell us, but it's true. It's only been eight years since I wrote in that journal, and I've forgotten things I would've sworn were either the best or worst things that would ever happen to me in my entire life. I was wrong. The worst thing so far happened my freshman year of college, and the best came a year after I got my first degree. I expect the superlative rankings of these things will change. I'll remember them a little better than the events of high school, but the details will get fuzzy and the feelings less tangible. That's life, thank God.

I keep reading about all these kids killing themselves over taunting and bullying from peers. Can you imagine if being a teenager was going to last forever? If that were the case, I doubt many of us would get out alive. But it doesn't last forever. When you look back, it's a strange, awkward blip on the radar. It just feels inescapable at the time. I wish someone would tell these kids, "No, seriously, I had the biggest thing for this one guy for four years, and I can't even remember his name." The pain is real, the kids are mean, and yeah, some of them live their whole lives and never get what they deserve for making someone else's life a living hell, but it's well worth waiting it out.