So there’s this article, The Referendum by Tim Kreider, from the New York Times. It’s about my favorite topic! Angst! He doesn’t call it that, of course. But it’s in the same general family, how we all judge each other for life choices different from ours, wonder if we’ve picked the wrong life, et cetera. The Referendum is this thing “whereby people, increasingly aware of the finiteness of their time in the world, the limitations placed on them by their choices so far, and the narrowing options remaining to them, start judging their peers’ differing choices with reactions ranging from envy to contempt.” The author is a 40-something man, single, doesn’t want any kids. He envies his friends their marriages, houses, and children (not really the children), and they envy him his free time and singlehood. Everyone wonders If They Did The Right Thing. And there are rifts, in the friendships, and there is angst.
Seriously, I do this all the time! To great angst! Utterly unsatisfying. But can I stop? No siree. Usually it’s the run of the mill stuff I bore myself with on this blog. Should I be working more? Would it be BETTER if I hadn’t gone to graduate school (the pressure!)? Heidi works full time with kids. IS SHE LIVING MY LIFE? Katie lost her job and is loving staying home. IS THAT WHAT I SHOULD DO? Does someone have The Answer and THEY DIDN’T TELL ME??
Now, oh ho HO, it’s a whole new world of social comparison. I should say, I hungered for this second baby in a seeeeeeeerious way. It was like she was already born but I couldn’t touch her. Panicked. Where is she? Almost worse than before we had Hugo, because then I didn’t know how it yummy it would actually be. Now, I knew, and I wasn’t done. So I’m finally at peace, now that he’s here (I’m just making up sex pronouns as I go here), and I feel a deep resting. Oh, there you are. You’re here. Hello. What a relief.
And also now—and it’s an AND, not a BUT here—there is more of the judging thing. We are buying a bigger house, to hold the expanding empire. Yes, yes, what a stress—I was seriously not cut out to always know where my paystubs and W2’s are. And guess who my targets are now? Baristas! THEY are the ones who have The Answer! They with their flannel shirts and thrift store Doc Martens. Their MOHAWKS. Their BANDS. They know the secret. Just live, create, keep it simple. Oh, and the unmarrieds. The free time! The work and travel! The dating! And people who don’t want children? More power to them. Think of the cash they must be amassing!
I know the answer, sort of (I’m so full of baloney). It’s something like, we really all need each other to do different things. It’s not about proof of who is Doing It Right and then us all doing that thing, but more that we are all in this together, and if we get that then we can ALL have it all. I need people who work really hard so I can work part time. My hard-working boss needs me to work on her behalf and not be after her job, like so many others. Carefree bachelors need my family for the occasional home-cooked meal and illusion of stability, a hug from a child. I need childless friends to know where the latest hot spots are, to schedule breaks from my routines, to remember a previous version of myself. My kids surely, surely, need me— to just be, feel, adore, and wipe the occasional counter. And holy crap, I don’t know what I would do if there weren’t all those women physicians and nurses out there entrusting their kids to others so they can take care of me and my family. Parents need childless people, childless people need children around sometimes. Et cetera.
I know, too, that we really have more than one life, so it’s all not that big a deal anyway. I had my single life, and now I have my family life, and one day I’ll have my empty house life, and then who knows. Maybe I’ll even have a life without angst, one day (ha! HA HA!). Just enjoy it, I want to say to the guy who wrote that Referendum thing. Enjoy what you have. Just enjoy it, and enjoy mine too. He writes about living vicariously through another as if it is some kind of proof of having taken a wrong path. No. We can borrow each other's lives, and all will benefit. But still, the judging thing, it happens. I don’t follow my own advice, hardly ever. So I'll go have some ice cream now, the end.