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.