26 September 2012

The Evolution of Sneer


Back in my post If Only Moral Superiority Were an Olympic Sport Ginger (from Ramble Ramble) labeled the phenomenon of everyone trying to be so superior as "sneer." This is the perfect description of this behavior. It is not enough that we make our own choices for our own betterment, but everyone else must know how inferior their own choices are in comparison.

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I made my girls' Halloween costumes this year. Making Halloween costumes is the sneer equivalent of cloth diapering. It is not cheaper or easier or any less resource intensive, but damn if the sense of smug isn't worth every pricked finger and ripped out seam. Whenever I make something for the girls to wear, it is immediately noticed and the "oohs" and "ahhhs" begin. I am shallow, this makes me happy. It validates me and my existence. My child's Halloween costume required more sacrifice than yours…behold Alexis: paragon of motherhood.

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Some evolutionary anthropologists have postulated that one of the drives for humans to develop speech was the ability to make others feel bad. I am heavily summarizing here, but you get the point. Any advantage you could gain over a competing breeder for a mate was a good thing. Being able to trash talk other cave-people surely had merits. Here we are, in an era where we have outsmarted evolution at every turn and no longer need to kill more mastodons, or talk about killing more mastodons, to find a breeding partner yet, the primary use of speech is alive and well. 

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The one thing that the parenting wars have helped evolve to a level that no one could have anticipated is the spirit of one-upmanship. It may not be enough that I made the costumes. Are they organic cotton? From ecologically sustainable cotton farms? Am I worried about them choking on the grommets? Is the sewing machine energy efficient? Don't worry; someone will remind me that they have worked harder for their costumes. This matters of course. More than you could ever know.

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I once made the mistake of trying to look up a pattern to make a new cover for a car seat. Since the girls are both in boosters now, I thought some funky covers might be fun and/or handy since we have like 38 more years of booster seat usage in our future. Well, I am going straight to hell for even asking. Don't I know that using any cover other than the one that came with the seat will void the warranty, kill my child and cause spontaneous combustion? Well I should. Not to be outdone by those in hysterics that homemade covers wouldn't be flame retardant, many pointed out that you wouldn't want your kids touching something made with those nasty chemicals anyway, so a homemade organic cover would really be better.  Put that in your ecologically sustainable, hand crafted pipe and meditate on how smoking it might feel, if you were to poison yourself that way, of course. The smartest choice would be no cars at all (or for that matter, no kids at all), but no one seems willing to make that choice now do they?

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I can't say for sure that any one choice is perfect for everyone, but I can say that some earn you more sneer points than others. It doesn't matter that organics have never been proven to be better for you long term, but it sure does make you feel superior to the mom feeding her kid a Capri Sun. (OMG I want an orange Capri Sun so bad right now…maybe with a splash of vodka…but how do I get the vodka in the bag for the ultimate adult BBQ drink…bad mommy problems.) Normally I don't care. I can generally find it amusing. Perhaps I am blessed with such an internal locus of validation that knowing I am doing pretty well by my own family is enough. Maybe I am too damn busy parenting my own kids to be worrying about how anyone else is parenting theirs. 

However, on this topic, the vital topic of home-made Halloween costumes, I have the sneer upper hand.

I plan to enjoy it and I don't care who knows it.

 The road to hell is not paved with good intentions; it is paved with the belief that your good intentions are the only right ones.

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