14 October 2010

An Ode To The Special

Since moving into the new house we have had tons of company with a full house almost every weekend since we arrived.  While it has been wonderful to see everyone, and everyone is always welcome to come and play, I am exhausted.  When I finally landed for a few minutes Monday night I realized just why I felt so run down.  It is not the physical aspects of company, the cleaning, cooking, shopping and so on, it is the constant attention to everyone’s excessive and varied special needs.  Keeping up with the endless list of food restrictions, mythical ailments, rigid schedules and general neurosis has sapped the life clean out of me. While I don’t begrudge anyone their issues (if you are sick you are sick, if you are a vegan I can respect that…you get the idea) the whole kerfuffle really raises some serious questions.

When did winning the Special Snowflake-capades become a good thing?  I seem to remember a time when the only people whining about dietary fiber and feeding schedules were little kids while comparing aching backs, ulcers and bum hips was for the old and infirm.  When did it become cool to be special?  Now everyone I know has an ass or an elbow out of joint and perfectly lovely, young, vibrant people are wanking endlessly about their indigestion, food restrictions and general malaise.

When did having an actual condition/lifestyle choice become a passive aggressive tool? Not to imply that people don’t really have IBS/CPS/SADD/FM/whatever-itus, but it does seem a little too coincidental that these issues are only a problem when they just happen to ensure that all the attention is turned to that particular person.  When your “vegetarianism” means that you always get final say on everything that is ever produced for family gatherings, we might need to ask what it is all really about.

Why don’t otherwise fully-functioning adults just handle this crap themselves?  Look if you are a little kid, or a million years old, sure you might need help.  I expect to be fully responsible for the numerous quirks of my children, and for the bizarre crazy that I represent, but really, I don’t expect other people to spend every waking minute of their lives accommodating my needs and the needs of my family.  You only drink organic soy-milk from the Loire river valley?  Great, pack a carton in your suitcase, you are a big kid now. 

When did it become okay to quit being polite when possible?  Barring being confronted with something to which you are deathly allergic, aren’t you supposed to just be damn grateful that someone took the time to invite you into their home and care for you.  Maybe I am just an old fuddy duddy but once someone has done their best to make it work for everyone, you should just put up or shut up.  Everyone is so wrapped up in their own specialness that the simple human virtue of being considerate to others has long been lost.

And lastly:

Where do you draw the line when hosting?  I mean sure, you do need to be considerate of your guests and their needs.  Don’t serve prime rib to vegetarians, pork roast to your Jewish neighbors or rum-cake to Uncle Mel in AA.  Got it, but when is too much required hospitality just….too much? Personal anecdote:  a month post-partum with Lil’Bitz the ILs were coming and in an entire cookbook of crockpot recipes there was a not a single one that could be made to specification and not be rejected by someone.  So really, at what point has this all just gone too far?  Is it really appropriate that with a newborn, a 2.5 year old and husband recovering from surgery I am busting my ass to find a meal that everyone will eat or is that a point in time when everyone else should think: “hey, these people have a lot going on right now, maybe I can put my crazy on hold for a few days”?  (In our case, it is a time for me to find a new recipe, but more on how I became “someone” later…that is a whole other can of worms.)

Why am I so bothered by all this?  I guess I just spend so much of every day meeting the needs of my children, whose lives need to be “just so” because they are little and cannot help it, that when faced with adults behaving in that manner I just can’t deal with it.   I perceive that I spend so much of my life striving to not let my life choices negatively impact those around me that I have no patience for people who expect the world to cater to their unique set of neuroses. 

Maybe the real question all this raises is:  Where is the reciprocity of special needs and/or how is it that some people float through life expecting others to meet their every need while some of us bust our butts to be self-sufficient and care for everyone else’s needs?

With all this said, I have enjoyed everyone’s company and the accommodation of the crazy is a small price to pay for being close to family and friends, so whatever.  I will continue to do my best to care for everyone because it is what I do and the rewards certainly outweigh the inconvenience.  However, I do think this is an interesting sociological phenomenon showing that we really are the “me generation(s)” and that narcissism may really be an epidemic around here.


Ginger said...

I love my family, and I love my friends, and I love being a "hostess", but there are limits. I mean, seriously, postpartum you should not be trying to accommodate a million folks--they should be trying to make life easy for you.

For me, the line is thus: if it's a medical issue, of course I will attempt to accommodate. If it's a religious issue, if you make me aware beforehand, I will try to accommodate.

After that? I try to make dishes that can easily have pieces/parts left out (so for example, I'll make taco fixings--someone who's a vegetarian can avoid the meat, someone who's got dairy problems can avoid the cheese, etc.) But I will not be held hostage by everyone else's dietary issues. I will not buy $300 worth of groceries for your food neuroses. If it's that important, I will drive you to the grocery store so you can pick it up yourself, but I'm not a short order cook. And as you said, if you're a grown ass person, take care of it yourself.

(I also don't get my feelings hurt if someone wants to go out to eat instead of eating what I've made, or if they just want to have a pb&j instead...)