Saturday, February 06, 2010

oh, for freak's sake...

I get the magazine Country Living. I enjoy it a lot even though it's a total fantasy for me (My house will never be that neat, I will never find just the perfect antique whatever).

But, like a lot of publications these days, I kind of wish they'd drop the letters to the editor. Because they get some complete wtf letters that make me stabby.

I'm not going to quote the letter - it was about their Christmas issue, where they gave gift suggestions - but it was such a SMUG, insane-lifestyle-mentioning letter that it kind of destroyed my enjoyment of the rest of the issue.

It was from some person who sniffed and said, "I was very disappointed in you for offering gift ideas but not listing all kinds of charities that you could send your money to instead of buying gifts." OK, fine, fair. I know lots of people who do that. And maybe it would be nice. Though I would note the magazine is called COUNTRY Living and not PHILANTHROPY Living.

But then there was the little barb: the person made a comment like, "As long as there is one hungry person in the world, for me to spend my money frivolously on such things as gifts is WRONG."

Oh, good Lord. Step off, lady, step off. (I wonder: does she purchase a subscription to the magazine? That $24.95 could surely feed a starving orphan somewhere. Or maybe she goes to the local library and reads it, all the while making snide comments about the people who live in houses larger than three rooms...)

The other thing is this: typically, CL features gifts made by artisans. Or sold by small businesses. Would not it be taking bread out of those folks' mouths to self-righteously refuse to spend money on anything but the necessities of life and charity?

I don't care, as I said before, if someone chooses to go the route of donations-instead-of-gifts (but please, if you do: let the recipients know in advance. It might feel a bit shabby to them if they went out and spent time and money picking out a gift, and then found you made a donation in their name - which you very likely could write off on your taxes. Okay, so I'm a Philistine, but I like getting gifts - even small gifts - on Christmas and my birthday).

But, what bugs me is the implication of the final comment this person made. It pretty much screams, "I know I am much better than the rest of you, and I want you all to know it."

I also remember once someone sending a screed in to an editor (and it got published!) because a "health oriented" magazine published a recipe (horrors!) for a chocolate cake. Because, "No person who CARES about their health would EVER eat CAKE."

Okay, lady. Let me take you off my birthday-party invitation list then.

I can't STAND people like that. Especially people who look at something I happen to enjoy, sniff, and go, "Well, you know, it's really better to do without because..." Whether it's the people who won't eat "white" sugar (and also will very vocally let you know that their children do not, and nor should you or your children), or who don't watch tv, or who tell people they should only eat locally grown food, or whatever. I think it irritates me because (a) I recognize that everyone is different, and the "right" solution for me is not necessarily the "right" solution for you, and (b) I don't like feeling judged. Which I invariably do by these lifestyle-mentioners. I know, I know, I shouldn't let myself feel that way, but it's hard for me. And it does bug me that I feel like someone is contenting themselves that they are a "good" person at my expense, and that they don't see anything wrong with driving a wedge in what could have been a friendship between them and me just in order to feel like they are "good."

Living that kind of black-and-white life, where certain things that most folks regard as morally neutral are EVIL, must be tiring. It must be exhausting to constantly explain why you can't consume anything with refined sugar and flour in it. (I exempt people with celiac disease or any real medical condition; they tend to be normal and polite about the things they can't eat. I'm talking about the people who recoil when you suggest that you once in a while like a piece of cake, as if you had just said, "I like to boil and eat puppies.") It must be a very small life to live in, where you have such strict tight limits on yourself, and even the sort of ordinary daily celebrations - a birthday, a holiday, a promotion - must be turned into moral crusades where you tell others the error of their ways in enjoying something you have closed yourself off from.

It makes me very tired to deal with people like that. (And the funny thing is some of them refer to anyone who has even a shard of traditional Christian faith as a "Puritan" who is bent upon making life dull and gray. I'd tell the person I know who is like that about the mote and the beam, but I doubt he'd understand it and probably only take it as further evidence that I am trying to CONVERT (oh noes) him)

Just because you cannot - or choose not to - enjoy something, do not make it your crusade to destroy others' enjoyment of it.

But the other thing is the Law of Unintended Consequences: if a critical mass of people decide that they will not buy anything but food and the bare minimum of replacement clothing, businesses that make other things go out of business. Authors don't sell books. Artisans wind up having to wait tables - except, because no one is eating out, they can't get that job. And we become poorer and less interesting as a nation. All because people like the smug feeling of "I'm better than that slob down the street; look, he even still uses INCANDESCENT bulbs!"



Kate P said...

I'm surprised that letter got published--did the editor have any response?

And you're right--they rant on about how EVERYBODY should be doing this totally righteous thing they're doing. . . but somehow they seem to be the same people who are the first to yell, "Don't you impose your beliefs on me!" at the innocent mention of God or prayer or something.

The Fifth String said...

Okay, I'm way too tired and (to be totally honest) kinda ripped to be completely coherent, but anyone who goes all that "you shouldn't be buying stuff for yourself when there are starving children in Africa" can FTFO. Sorry, but any donations you might make for the starving children will not go to the starving children. It will go to thieving, corrupt despots. And the children will still starve.

Oh, and does anyone else see the amusement in someone excoriating the readers of "Country Living" magazine for reading "Country Living" magazine, while apparently reading "Country Living" magazine every month just to have the pleasure of excoriating the readers of "Country Living" magazine for reading "Country Living" magazine every month and not eliminating poverty in Africa?

The mind reels. Even if I've confused myself in this post.