Thursday, August 8, 2013

Shopping for a Good Cause and Dealing with Societal Expectations

I had heard from a neighbor about the "ReStores" ran by the charitable organization Habitat for Humanity where they sell building materials that have been donated in order to raise funds for their mission of building homes for people in need.

I needed some supplies, including an exterior door and a window, so I went with the family, first to one of these stores in the historic district of Collinsville, about 10 miles away, and then to a larger store of theirs in the Central West End district of St. Louis, just blocks from St. Louis University.

I did find a good deal of what I needed, for a rather reasonable price, and it was good to know that the money was going to a good organization (The St. Louis store says that their chapter has built 325 homes in the city of St. Louis), but there was something that happened that rather annoyed me when I was there.

As usual, my mom and dad were talking to the cashier about rebuilding the house, and how there won’t be a mortgage on it, since I paid cash for it (though I owe her money for some of the rebuilding of it), and most people find it incredible that I saved up that much money. The cashier, though, said something that really got to me: “you have a house, then next will be kids, right?”. My mom agreed, but said one of her favorite phrases “…but there needs be a good, godly wife first”.

Never mind that awful “good godly wife” comment, but why does everyone feel they have the right to make decisions for my life, but I don’t? Why do people have such expectations for me to follow the normal American formula for life? Get a solid job, get a house, get married (spouse must be opposite gender of course!), and have 3 or 4 kids.

I don’t want that. I’m following half of the formula so far. I have a solid job and the house, I might get married, I don’t know, I at least want a long term relationship with a woman, but I sure don’t want kids. I couldn’t handle it, I know I couldn’t. I need medication just to make everyday life somewhat bearable, I know I couldn’t handle the stress and responsibility of being a father, and I don’t feel like I should have to explain it all to people all the time, because it isn’t any of their damn business (and people attach such a stigma to mental illness anyway, which isn’t right).

I just don’t understand people. Why do they have such a need to follow a predetermined set of rules, written and unwritten of how to run their lives, from the important to the mundane? Why do they have such a need to “fit in”, and feel like they are a part of the crowd, to the point that they lose all sense of independence and individuality? Why do they feel the need to pressure everyone else to do the same? I feel like I’m not watching people go about their daily lives but I’m seeing a pack of herd animals all following the crowd, all doing the same thing. There’s slight difference between them, but in the end, they won’t stray from the formula.

If you decided not to get into the herd mentality, or if you were born in such a way that you can’t follow their expectations, that’s a bad thing, you’re an outcast.

Are you gay/bisexual/transgender? Are you polyamorous? Do you have a mental illness? Do you not want to get married/have a longtime partner? Are you atheist/agnostic? (The list goes on and on). That’s bad! You’re not following the herd! (Even if it’s impossible for you in some circumstances).

I don’t project such expectations on other people, I’m kind of averse to that now, after spending so much of my life dedicated to a philosophy that feels it has the right to dictate, even by force of law if it feels necessary, how to live their lives, I can’t bear to do that to people. Let people live their lives how they wish, let them be who they want to be, or who they were born to be, as long their lives don’t cause harm to others.

I just don’t understand people. I understand societies a little better than my fictional namesake, but I still don’t really get why people act the way they do.

Here’s a classic example of the fictional Sheldon over thinking traditional societal customs, I understand it better than him, though I do have the tendency to go off on a tangent about something, especially facts that people don’t really care about:

You haven’t given me a gift, you’ve given me an obligation! :)

I understand that some rules in society are necessary for a functioning society, especially rules regulating activities and actions that can be dangerous if not properly done (driving for example), or prohibiting actions that violate the rights of others to live a peaceful life (laws against acts of violence and theft, as well as anti-discrimination laws), but I don’t understand why societies by either custom, or law have to go beyond that, and make decisions for other people lives, and pressure or even make outcasts of people who step outside of such arbitrary boundaries.

If you are tired of reading my ramblings about this, check out a related post by one of my favorite bloggers, Lana Hope, entitled, How Social Constructions Foster Bigotry. She has a unique perspective on cultures because of her life story. She grew up in a family who were followers of IFB cult leader Bill Gothard, living in that closed subculture, then ended up rejecting fundamentalism, and became a missionary to Southeast Asia.


  1. I have two somewhat contradictory thoughts on this. First, I totally understand where you are coming from. I used to be pretty sure I would never have children, I didn't want them and didn't see them in my future. No way. My mom would bug me about eventually having kids whenever she could awkwardly fit it into any conversation. It annoyed me for all of the reasons you've outlined here. I hated it. It definitely felt like she was trying to control my life (something she definitely had done in the past), it's a shitty thing for her to do.

    On the other hand, having a baby now and seeing how the grandparents act around him, I realize that when she was doing that it was really just because she so desperately wanted a grandchild. Granted, she expressed this desire in a super shitty controlling way, but ultimately I think it was less about controlling my life and more about not knowing how to express her desire for grandchildren.

    I wouldn't be surprised if your situation is similar, it's less about controlling you and more about just desperately wanting grandchildren. Do you have any siblings that might have some kids and take the pressure off of you?

    1. I don't know if that is the case, but I don't get the obsession of many middle aged people about having grandchildren. Where does that come from? I see it both inside and outside the fundamentalist culture, so it's something universal in US society apparently.

      I do have an older sister, she is the one that fell into the IFB cult headfirst, she left it, but her husband still retains some of those old beliefs. I once did a two part series on her former church and college in the beginning of my time blogging:

      Anyway, she stopped at 3 kids because she had quite a few pregnancy complications, her oldest is 9.

      I don't know why she just can't leave it alone, and I hate the line about "good godly wife". I've seen enough of "good, godly people" in my lifetime to know that I don't want any part of marrying one, it wouldn't work anyway, an agnostic with a fundamentalist......

    2. "I don't get the obsession of many middle aged people about having grandchildren. Where does that come from?"

      Any answer I give would be pure speculation, but I always figured you get to do the fun things associated with having kids but you don't have to deal with all of the difficult things. You get to spoil them, you get to play with them, you get to go home afterwards and get some sleep. Also, I imagine it's the standard nostalgia thing where you remember the good things a lot and not so much the bad.

  2. hello Sheldon...been a while.
    Ramadan (month of fasting) is over so I thought I would drop by....
    It is wonderful to know your home is progressing well.

    Here is a nice Cherokee blessing........

    May the warm winds of heaven
    blow softly upon your house
    May the Great Spirit
    bless all who enter there
    May your Mocassins
    make happy tracks
    in many snows
    and may the rainbow
    always touch your shoulder.

    About judging people---I agree with Hausdorff....we can't control how others view us---but we CAN control how we view others.

    herd mentality---when we judge another, we usually do so because we need to figure out how to react. Perhaps right now you need to view others as a "herd" because you are trying to find your own different way and need to have a sort of generalized group to react against?....if so, it is as good a place as any other to begin defining your"self" long as you keep your perspective flexible.............

    I may be wrong about this....but it seems to me, people try so hard to "fit" because they think they don't fit.....?....and there are some who give up trying to "fit' or rebel against it....?....but I think, perhaps, all of us have a general insecurity about "identity".....


    1. Thanks for stopping by, it's been a long time, CM.

      I guess many people don't truly have an identity of their own, so they try to melt into a common identity of the masses, find their identity by becoming one of the crowd, make the group their identity.

    2. I'm kind of like Winston Smith in 1984, I understand the how of the world around me, but not why.

    3. The why of human behavior will probably always be a question without a specific answer. We can't look into the hearts and minds of others. Still, it is a fascinating question........

      But there is a rule that seems to apply to human behavior---people react. So our intentions/actions will cause a reaction. The type of reaction is not always predictable---but there is a reaction. That is why our interactions with others creates changes.

      It seems to me that self-deception is a universal human trait (or perhaps weakness). Perhaps one way to balance this is to encourage ourselves to pursue knowledge and question presumptions.....? particular---our own presumptions..........

      what is fascinating about human beings is that we have a lot in common universally, yet we are also unique and diverse....and it seems this combination makes us both predictable and unpredictable..!!!....


  3. My mum always wants grandchildren, but at least she is open about it. She says she wants to spoil them and give them too much sugar and then send them home to the parents. I suppose its her way of getting back at us. Luckily my brother and sister took control of that aspect of grandchildren.

    Just be yourself Sheldon. I understand the mental illness thing, so I understand where you are coming from not wanting kids. Just live life and worry about things like that if you change your mind but its in the future.

    1. My mom gets a good laugh sometimes about how my oldest niece is as stubborn as my sister always was, I guess she feels it's all coming back around to bite her. ;)

      I'll always have time, one fortunate aspect of being a man is that I can wait far longer to have children if I need to.


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