The Subtle Allure of A Life More Ordinary (or the Brainwashing of American Women)

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girl in white knit cap and white knit sweater
There’s something about magazines like Real Simple and TV shows like House Hunters that depresses me. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but every time I attempt a sit on the couch post-work I am irritated by things like Everybody Loves Raymond. There’s a part of me that is suspicious that these forms of entertainment have been created to make us believe that not only are you content with your life, but you are enthusiastic about it, a subtle (or not-so-subtle, in my opinion) brainwashing of home-improving, toddler-yogaing, exasperated-but-happy-at-the-end-of-the-day, we’re-the-same-kind-of-unique status quo. Welcome to the new yuppiedom. Maybe I’m just feeling particularly fed up with the new American dream this evening, as I sit in my underwear, toenails unpainted and unmanicured, eating Oreos with orange juice, wondering why I’m throwing 5 months of perfectly good conditioning down the drain. Maybe it’s that I’ve recently fallen in love and have caught myself twice already daydreaming into that magical land I call Not A Chance in Hell. That place involves a relationship that can survive my apparent two-year statute of limitations with a guy who looks like a J. Crew model, a baby as cute and happy as the one that couple at the café has that will magically disappear when it needs to be fed/changed/burped or cries inexplicably, a house that requires little-to-no maintenance which of course we obtained at a steal, a thriving business that I built and doesn’t require me to be around all the time, and a Holly who does not feel overwhelming pinned-down and caged by it all. Puh-shaw. That’s when I turn off the TV. And call Real Simple to remind them, once again, that I unsubscribed two months ago. I fight off the sneaking suspicion that somehow, somewhere my father has bribed a Starbucks barista to spike my lattes with hormones. I have been told repeatedly that one day I will want all of these things. When I get a case of the I-just-want-to-be-upper-middle-class blues, I daydream another life. In this life I usually am married, or in a long-term committed relationship. Yes, I am happy and content being single, but like many, I would like to have a companion through life. I think a character in Shall We Dance? sums it up best when she says people get married so that in a world of billions, one person says they will be the witness to your life. I agree with this. At any rate, 90 percent of me says no to kids. This is mostly a financial decision in my mind. Yes, I know you can be financially well off and have kids also, but the majority of folks are not. Here are a few examples of childless couples who are financially better off than their peers (especially where it comes to retirement). And here’s an entire online community dedicated to couples who have chosen not to have kids for a variety of reasons. I take comfort knowing that I’m not the only one out there like me. Mostly, though, this daydream life is about being able to do the things I am passionate about without any compromises or guilt feelings, such as diving tirelessly into my own businesses, having a partner who I still find sexually appealing, coming nowhere close to any variety of poop/snot/vomit, and traveling at will and on whim.
I have nightmare versions of both of my daydreams, too. There’s one that revolves around divorce, debt, failed parenthood and suburbia, and there’s one that mostly involves being alone for the rest of my life realizing at 47 that all I really ever wanted was a family. These things occur to me. It also occurs to me that none of these scenarios are realistic, and that in life we end up somewhere in the middle. The glory part is that I actually know that I will be happy whichever dream I pursue or end up with inadvertently (life has a way of surprising us). My happiness resides within me, whatever the exterior.  In the meantime, no more HGTV for me. Or Oreos for that matter.
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