Monday, July 28, 2008

Umm, Okay, Really...WHY?

Just in the past couple of days, I've heard from several people who say they feel judged by others for wanting to live in a simpler, more sustainable way. This happens to me too. I can come up with quite a list of things about myself that have caused people to call me "weird", "quirky", "different", etc.. Some of these things include (but are by no means limited to):

I don't eat fast food. C'mon, ewww! I mean, if you want to eat it, fine, but don't judge me for wanting to eat actual food instead. Even if you put aside all the health and environmental reasons for not eating it - it just isn't good. I've actually had people wrinkle their noses at me and tell me I'm weird because I "eat healthy". What???

I like to hang dry my laundry. No, my dryer isn't broken (well, actually it is now, but that's unrelated). No, we're not so poor we can't afford the electricity. I like hanging my laundry. I get to spend a few quiet minutes out in the fresh air and sunshine, my laundry smells fresh when it's done, I'm not heating up my house with the dryer, and I'm not using the energy. Someone please tell me why this is weird or wrong. Please. Now, some may say it's unsightly, but I do always take care to hang our unmentionables out of public view, and really, what's the difference between hanging your clothes on a line and hanging them on yourself everyday? Why do our clothes suddenly become taboo when we're not wearing them?

I try my best not to be wasteful. This means that I buy things used, I re-use whatever I can, I avoid disposables and single-use items, and I don't feel compelled to replace items that are still perfectly serviceable, even if they're no longer the latest or greatest. I don't need to buy the book that I'll only read once when I can check it out from the library. I'm quite content with good quality items acquired second-hand. I am NOT poor. I am NOT cheap. I just don't see the need to buy, buy, buy...when there's probably already something at hand that will meet the need. Why waste things? What good does that really do anyone? I really don't care if I'm not keeping up with everyone else. I could care less about status. I love our super-ugly, old truck that we bought used. It runs great, hauls our stuff, and hasn't let us down yet.

These things are just the tip of the iceberg. We get ribbed for recycling, not using styrofoam, growing vegetable gardens, keeping livestock, making our own clothes, foraging for wild plants, eating less meat and more grains and beans, and on and on. A particularly sensitive issue is how folks raise their children. I don't have kids, so I don't have any personal experience with this, but I know people who are repeatedly told that their kids are being deprived, or won't have any social skills, or won't have any friends because they're being raised to live simply and not extravagantly. This, to me, is utter hogwash.

There seems to be a prevalent perception that all the things we do are things that poor people do (and therefore unacceptable). Well, guess what? We are not poor. Many of us have more money and less debt than the average family. We do these things because this is what feels right for us. The really awful part is that the worst criticism very often comes from those closest to us - our families, our spouses, our oldest friends. Can it be that they can't get used to the ways in which we've changed? Is it possible that they feel a small bit of fear and self-loathing because we've had the courage to forge our own path and they haven't? How about guilt? Perhaps they're not proud of their wasteful ways but can't find the fortitude to change. I really don't know the answer.

We are your mothers, brothers, wives, uncles, coworkers, daughters and best friends. We're living the way we want to live. We're not driven to it by insolvency. We enjoy this life. By and large we don't tell you how to live and we'd like to be extended the same courtesy. There is ZERO reason that laundry hanging on a line to dry should cause a rift between family members. When you call us "weird" or "different", it hurts.

So, seriously, someone on the other side of this - please get really brave and tell me why all these behaviors are wrong. I'm dying to know.


  1. "The really awful part is that the worst criticism very often comes from those closest to us - our families, our spouses, our oldest friends."

    Gee...I remember about 10 years ago being ripped a new one by my closest friends almost on a daily basis because I was a vegetarian and brought tofu pups to a BBQ. I remember being taunted all the time by those I loved and called a "hippie, tree, hugger, bunny-lover, granola, etc" because I didn't want to pave the planet and actually gave a damn about the state of the world.

    I'm sorry this is happening to you and Jerry, Tara. I really am. I have no idea why, especially those closest to you choose to be so cruel. Go live your life, be happy, take care of each other, make bread not war and hang as much laundry outside as possible. The attack on you and your life is much more about the attackers sad state and soul.

    I love you guys! Still granola---Suz

  2. Thanks man! To be fair and honest, while this has happened to us to a certain extent over the years, I mostly wrote this on behalf of some others that have spoken up lately. They seem to be getting it much worse than we ever have, which I think is shameful. Oh, and - just to be clear - I can absolutely take some good-natured ribbing. On the whole, though, good-natured ribbing isn't usually what we get.

  3. "I can absolutely take some good-natured ribbing. On the whole, though, good-natured ribbing isn't usually what we get."

    I know. :-)

  4. My mom likes to give me crap related to these sorts of behaviors and I'm not sure why. I think part of her thinks it's really weird and part of her thinks it's (still) a passing phase (that's lasted 16 or so years now...).

    A part of my thesis focused on the alienation that activists feel due to these sorts of comments. I didn't get a "why" but I did get some interesting "and here's what I do in response" type stories.

    I guess rocking the boat is really scary to some people. Coping with ambiguity and big, fat questions with no easy answers...too much for some folks! So kudos for being able to sit in that pile of mess, actually do something about it (hooray for line drying!), and weather the conformist psy-op storm. Rock.

  5. I wonder about the term "treehugger". Really, what's so scary or wicked about that? Would you not hug a tree to save it? I don't get it.

    The thing I find the weirdest is religious people who look down on environmentalists. I mean, if God made this world for us, shouldn't we treat it like it is holy and special? Why do they seem to believe it's their sacred duty to be as polluting and wasteful as possible?

  6. I got a little bit of this last week and told the person, "Well, when the shit hits the fan, don't expect me to feed you."

    My guess is that most people that attack and scoff are just projecting because they're afraid to make changes for themselves. It's easier to attack the person in front of you instead of yourself.

    Also, get ready to call me a weirdo, I totally let all the cold water from the shower head go into a bucket this morning while warming it up, then after my shower I watered my front porch plants! OH NOES! *rolls eyes*

  7. Don't worry about it. The scoffers are just the robots (the Matrix) fighting back. You are a fly in the ointment of their organized world and your meme must not spread.

  8. I don't know if you've even read my blog this last week but yes, and it has been painful.

    My daughter and I needed to get our of the sun today and I said, "Lets go hug this tree." Meaning lets get under this lone tree and into some shade. She said "huh?". Nice she doesn't know yet.

    I wonder if it has been in the stars. It's been a tough week for being green... or sustainable... or whatever it is that we're doing.

  9. I say Kick'em in the gonads! Tell em to bugger off! You will be so much more able to survive a disaster cause you took the time to learn and care. So Tell them to go piss up a rope!