Friday, December 9, 2011

Phony baloney: Feb. 19, 2006

I'm full of crap. I'll just admit it right here and get it over with. I'm inconsistent and prone to whiplash-style reversals of opinion and practice, and I only get more so as my life gets more crowded with people and obligations and constantly competing needs.

So this is a column about how completely full of crap I really am. And I also point out how full of crap my friends are, too -- just to make myself feel better.

Getting comfortable with life as a big hypocrite
    I have a beloved circle of female friends that, over the last few years, has drifted into two camps: the women who have not had children and the great big hypocrites.

    I have two small sons. That puts me in the camp of great big hypocrites. Sometimes my hypocrite friends and I have hypocrite contests. It makes us feel better to see who among us is the worst. Here’s how it works:     

    My friend whose daughter was born a week after my 5-year-old son says, "I’m approaching 40, I drive an SUV, and I’m addicted to Starbucks coffee. What happened to me?"

    "Oh, that’s nothing," I say. "I buy my Starbucks coffee at Wal-Mart and send my son to a private school. I am a total monster."

    This woman and I have known each other for 11 years. When we met, we were young reporters, out to seek truth and justice, support organic farmers and visualize whirled peas.

    We gave each other adopt-a-manatee certificates for Christmas and went to Indigo Girls concerts. We ran three miles together after work twice a week.

    Then we had kids.

    We learned the names of the Teletubbies and got all concerned with side-impact airbags and student-teacher ratios. We were way too tired to run and way too broke to support organic farmers.

    Now we are hypocrite buddies. It’s important to have good company when you’re violating your principles.

    Another friend, a very athletic woman whose baby was born about a year ago, told me she has let her health club membership lapse for the first time in her adult life. Also, her husband recently came into the kitchen to find her eating baby-food pears out of a baby-food jar with the baby’s spoon.

    "Well," she said, "the baby wouldn’t eat them. I didn’t want to throw them away."

    "No," I said. "You can’t throw that stuff away. And a big spoon won’t fit in the top of the jar. Have you tried the bananas? They’re really good."

    She sighed. She told me she always thought it was weird how women who had children would eat kid food, like that orange macaroni and cheese or Cheerios out of a plastic baggie.

    "You eat what’s available," I said. "Once you have kids, kid food is what’s available. Besides, that macaroni and cheese isn’t bad. And Cheerios are good for you."

    Rationalization is a big part of being in the great big hypocrites club. We may be hypocrites who do all the stuff we never thought we’d do, but now it all suddenly makes sense. I mean, of course we eat baby food — baby food is GOOD.

    Since I’ve joined the great big hypocrites club, my ideas about what kind of parent I would be have really taken a beating. I always thought I’d be an honest parent, one who would trust my children’s ability to interpret the complex nuances of thoughtful answers to questions like "Why are cigarettes bad for you?" and "Why do I have to wear a seatbelt?"

    The answers, now that I have children and have become a great big hypocrite, are not complex or thoughtful.

    The answers are: "Cigarettes make you choke, and then your lungs turn black, and you die," and "If you don’t wear your seatbelt, and we have a crash, you would go flying through the car window and get run over by traffic."

    When I was a teenager, and in a perpetually indignant mood, I once swore to my mother that when I became a parent I would always remember how hard it was to be a kid and how frustrating it was to be constantly at the mercy of hypocritical grown-ups.

    She smiled. "Once you’re a parent," she said, "you become awfully preoccupied with how hard it is to be an adult."

    It’s so true. But the occasional bowl of macaroni and cheese really helps. 

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