Position Paradox – Perfection?

During our last Cooperstown trip, we got to chatting about our “status”, as it were. We tend not to think much about this topic. We came from two incredibly hard-working, at times completely broke (financially) families. We have never found ourselves likely to snub anyone for any reason. It’s not that we have to work at keeping our attitudes towards others and their socioeconomic statuses fair and unbiased; we were simply not raised to even consider those differences. Besides, if you look at both of our career fields, bias truly is a four-letter word.
Art by Dylan Taylor – “I’m Better Than You”
But, while eating breakfast at one of our favorite cafes, a walking paradox showed itself to me in the form of several fellow patrons. “Holy crap! Are we like these folks? Do we think we’re better than others because we’re similar to these people?? Wait, do I think that I’m better than THESE people,” I thought. I found myself equally ashamed, repulsed, proud, and confused, simultaneously.

There was a mildly mixed bag of individuals as far as age and occupation is concerned. Local, hard-working folks. Green, obnoxious students. Sage, snooty professionals. Rustic farmers. Young parents raising self-righteous toddlers. 

While Dave and I work hard (I’d easily admit that he, simply based on the makeup of his job, is a harder worker), we’re madly lucky. He may get home later than some out there, but he’s HOME. It’s not like either of us has to travel or be away from family for months or years at a time. We don’t have permanent blisters or grime covering our hands. Our type of work is real, but not always hard. We’re lucky, but we don’t always recognize it. I guess everyone’s like that.

Well, maybe not. I looked at all these individuals. Usually, when I’m surrounded by people, I feel safe and warm, if not a bit socially awkward. I take for granted that every individual has some bit of good in them. I’ve always thought this and have even argued it (for example, what about a criminal? Hitler?). But, while sitting there, I felt anxious and uncomfortable. It’s my favorite cafe in the area, but I didn’t feel necessarily welcomed. The staff was wonderful, it wasn’t them at all — as a matter of fact, they seemed to have the same awareness about the ridiculousness surrounding them as I did.

It was the others. Most of them. The ones I remember; the parents, the older “smart” couple, the teens, the locals. They seemed completely in tune with who they were being and projecting it as if in a well-rehearsed play. It was strange, and I grew concerned that I had missed rehearsals.

But, then I asked Dave, out of the blue, what he thought. Were we like these folks? Do we buy our organics and use our reusable grocery bags and shop at farmers’ markets and try to conserve and live simply…to portray something? I’ve always known the stigma that comes from our life philosophies (live more simply, eat real food, buy locally), but found a way to transcend them. I always felt that our reasons were as pure as anyone’s; that we could easily be questioned on them and defend politely. Suddenly, I fell face-first into them, and it smelled like manure. And not good manure for fertilizing.

We discussed this, and I’ve thought on my own about it further. I think that I’ve made clear in my posts and my conversations with others that I’m not perfect. No blogger or HUMAN really is. We do our best to portray enough perfection to appease our friends, co-workers, bosses, etc in order to make it through life. We try to make the perfect choices. Pick the perfect mate. Choose the perfect turnip. Buy the perfect house. Raise perfect children. But, all in all, we’re none of us perfect. And none of those coffeehouse individuals were.

Now, I smile to think about the nameless, seemingly class-less folks that I failed to study enough in that coffee shop. The two middle-aged ladies who politely fought over which would pay for their coffees and scones, who sat nearby to us and didn’t stop smiling or laughing together from the moment they stepped in. The woman in an old ragged sweatshirt and jeans who went out of her way to greet that snide mother, whom she clearly knew, and after being snubbed just grinned to herself and returned to her coffee and no one else. The quiet old man who watched everyone intently, getting as much news from his surroundings as he was getting from the local paper in front of him.

I think that I will go back. Besides, their muffins are the size of your head, and I didn’t get to try one. And since I’ll be with Dave, he already knows I’m greatly flawed. No need for pretense, as usual.