Ever have one of those days in which you feel that you don’t fit in with your current local culture? I have those days a lot lately, and I need to download a small rant. Feel free to join in, or commiserate, or tell me to suck it up and deal, in the comments. This is a somewhat US-centric rant, however, so perhaps a little background is necessary.
I’ve been a renter most of my adult life, and finally decided to buy a house about five years ago. My house is 1500 sq ft (including the garage), and sits on about a tenth of an acre – plenty of house for me and the dog(s), plenty of yard for trees and a rock garden and raised beds for vegetables and herbs. It was important to me that the house was close to work, that I could maintain the house and yard myself, and that the mortgage was affordable, even with a cut in pay (which is likely to happen, with the proposed furloughs). Having lived in London for three years, and having a number of friends in Europe and Japan, I am well aware that a 1500 sq ft house, plus the yard, is a relatively vast amount of territory for one human being to possess and occupy. My rant is not about being unhappy with this situation, not at all: I’m very happy with the house and neighborhood, and my friends and family who visit occasionally are also happy with the living sitch.
New fruit trees: a Fuyu Persimmon, and a Brown Turkey Fig. Yes, I realize that the lawn looks like crap, but the grass will start growing very soon. Too soon.
No, my rant stems from how I fail to conform with the culture defined by my faculty colleagues, and what I think this might reveal about US culture. First, the majority of my colleagues, whether single or married, childless or with young/grown children, live in houses that are 2.5 to 5 times the size of mine. Scale the yard acreage accordingly, perhaps even by a factor of 10 to 20. I’m not exaggerating. Second, many of my colleagues live much further from the medical center workplace than I do, in rural enclaves, exurbs, or in towns in surrounding counties. Third, most of my colleagues pay other people to clean their houses and maintain their yards. Stands to reason, if you have a huge house, a long commute, and a busy work schedule. I don’t begrudge people these things – I just don’t conform to those standards. I do resent the periodic and unsubtle attempts to convince me to change my ways in a suitably professorial manner. I could, financially speaking, but I don’t want to change my lifestyle.
Lettuce in a raised bed garden. I’ve had enough for several green salads each week throughout the winter.
This chronic, low-level nonconformity has surfaced today, because I began planning for a dinner party. A few of us at work, some faculty and some not, have started a dinner club, very informal, and hosted by a different person each month. In two weeks’ time I’ll be hosting the festivities, and I’ve chosen an African theme, for which I’ll make a lovely spiced chicken dish with fruited bulghur. I might even bake some kale chips with Moroccan spices. I have a nice collection of African music CDs to play as background – Salif Keita, Cesária Évora, Youssou N’dour, and more. Other dinner club members will bring the dessert, appetizers, and side dishes. So what’s the problem?
Kale in a raised bed garden. I’ve grown enough for soups, stir fries, and baked kale chips each week, throughout the fall and winter months.
I’m kind of worried that my amateur “interior decorating”, mismatched hand-me-down and Ikea furniture, and non-palatial unprofessorish home will not be good enough, and that there won’t be enough chairs, and that people will feel cramped and oppressed. I know, it’s silly … especially since I have no intention of changing. If I had a big house and yard, and had to pay people to clean and maintain the property, I would feel guilty and over-privileged. It’s especially silly, since I know I’m a good cook, and that people can have a great time eating and conversing and enjoying good company, even when seated in small, crowded spaces. I’m happy in a house filled with books, art supplies, yarn, and cooking utensils, so why am I obsessing about such ridiculous things? I dunno, maybe I just had to have a little rant, to realize that it’s completely stupid and ridiculous to fret.
To paraphrase a saying from my undergrad days (which, in its original form, is too rude to repeat here), perhaps the best rant is a self-rant.