Saturday, April 28, 2012

Why Does Regular Life Suck, Or, Who Wants To Be An Aristocrat?

Joseph Caraud, Das Kirschenmädchen, 1875, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
I don't know if you saw this video, posted at BoingBoing last week, in which a three-year-old has meltdown because can't carry her tiny plastic bowl to the kitchen sink because it is TOO HEAVY.

Don't bother watching it.  I can tell you all about it.  The kid's father asks her to carry her bowl to the kitchen sink.  In a dramatic tone of voice she insists that she can't.  Her father calmly asks her again and again, and provides advice and encouragement along the way like "You can do it!" and "Maybe if you take your thumb out of your mouth you'll find it easier."

It's funny because 1) the bowl must weigh about 2 ounces; 2) the kid is ultra dramatic in expressing her views; and 3) even though eventually she has no choice but to just go the extra two feet and put the bowl in the sink, she never stops saying how incredibly HEAVY that bowl is.

Whenever I see little kids freaking out like this I don't just sympathize, I empathize.  I feel their pain.  I'm like, "Hey, yeah, me too! I'm with you."  And when I saw this video I was like "You tell 'em sister! No one should have to put up with such stupidity. Sorry about the human condition! Sorry the world is organized so poorly!"

The kids and I know:  regular life is kind of an outrage.  Paler than it has to be, more boring than it has to be.  Too much bringing-bowls-to-kitchen-sinks and not enough being-high-on-nitrous-oxide.

Part of the problem of regular life is definitely chores.  There is so much crap we have to do just to keep ourselves alive and healthy.  Doesn't it blow your mind that to stay alive and well we need clean water and nourishing food every few hours?  That is nuts.  If you were from an advanced civilization that had this problem worked out, wouldn't you think this outrageous?  Food and water every few hours!

Anyway, I think this case shows something deep and important about chores and why they suck.  Obviously the bowl isn't heavy, so this chore, like so many others, isn't difficult.  Bringing the bowl to the sink doesn't involve confronting sewage or worms or anything yucky, so this chore, like so many others, isn't really gross or unpleasant.

It just sucks because it's a chore.  It's boring and harassing.  It's gets in the way of reading on the sofa, video games, and other fun activities.  It's a deep reminder that you're not a princess, after all.  

It's common to pretend these days -- especially in North America -- that we're all over the aristocratic world view.  That we're all for equality of status, even if we're not for equality of money and goods.  But I don't think we've lost our drive for being aristocrats -- for being the people who never have to do chores, who can make other people do them, who have not just employees but servants. 

Deep hatred of chores and the drive to aristocracy would explain things that are otherwise hard to make sense of, like a preference not to cook, even when the available processed and take-out foods are way worse than anything you could prepare on your own.  It's not just the complexity of cooking.  It's that we'd rather spend time relaxing than doing the dishes, even if it's only for fifteen minutes, even if we have modern appliances like dishwashers, and even if it means sacrificing our health.

I think we're more like this kid than we'd like to admit, and the sooner we can be honest and up front about it the better.  As I've mentioned before, it's not that the normal healthy way of life means enjoying cooking and cleaning up.  The normal way of life involves learning how to deal with your inner three-year-old, the one who is shouting "The bowl's too heavy! I can't carry it! Waaah!!"

Some people seem to find it easier than others to tune this voice out.  For me this voice is always loud and clear.  It's not obvious what the best way is to deal with your inner three-year old.  Like many parents, I use a combination of discipline and bargaining.  Sometimes you can tell the inner child to pipe down and suck it up.  Other times you have to use a little creative bribery.

"Calm down and do it, kid, and I'll make it worth your while.  Get those dishes done and there's a glass of wine in it for you."  I know other people make this work with more mature rewards like "the feeling of a job well-done."  But I seem to be still at the toddler stage.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

I am with you at the toddler stage, Patricia! So funny.