As an observer and critic of culture in general, I strive to lead a consistent and rational life while frequently asking the question, “why?”—most often in relation to cultural customs. For example, if you were to sneeze in front of me I would not say “god bless you,” “bless you” or even “gesundheit” simply for the reason it makes absolutely no sense. I have no power to bless you and even if I did, why would I do it simply because your body reacted to some dust up your nose?
I have no interest in perpetuating old wives’ tales and medieval customs.
There is another strange cultural custom which is the central thesis of this blog ….and please do not think I’m a dick (too late?).
I am at the age and stage in life when many of my children’s friends -not to mention my students who are in a similar age range -are getting engaged and/or pregnant. I find the reactions to those individuals who announce this news –typically met with congratulatory joy and perhaps tears of happiness – rather strange and unreasonable.
Is getting married and/or having kids something we must congratulate one for doing? If so, why? When you consider most people who get married probably should not (have you seen the divorce rate?) and those who are having babies probably should not, what is there to be happy about?
Getting married is EASY. Super EASY in fact. I have blogged before concerning marriage and divorce while opining that it is FAR more difficult to get a permit for a swimming pool in your backyard than it is to sign your life away to someone for the rest of your life. This is ass backwards my friends.
Getting married is easy, yet staying married is one of the most difficult ventures a human being can make in life. Why congratulate someone for the easy part? If forced to congratulate someone, why not congratulate those who have made it through the most difficult parts –and stayed together?
Babies? In most cases they are super easy to make -very fun to make in fact. I have no interest in congratulating anyone for achieving a successful union of the sperm and egg after an enjoyable romp in the hay. Again, that is easy since it does not demand intelligence, hard work, discipline nor much effort at all. Being an effective and loving parent is SUPER hard…it takes time, effort, and money to the point that you are now living one hundred percent for someone else.
If we must congratulate someone, let’s at least congratulate those who have successfully raised happy and productive human beings that make our culture a better one.
Yet, I would not even want to do that. Why not? I believe strongly that we should recognize and congratulate those who have done something extraordinary in life and deserve recognition.
And here is what I am NOT saying: We should not recognize, show support, or give encouragement to these people through formal ritual…conversely, I think it is great. Yet, we must recognize it for what it is and it is not an “achievement.”
Perhaps it would be a good idea to also give recognition to those who opt not to get married and not to have kids as well. After all, they certainly will not contribute to the divorce rate nor will they raise potentially delinquent children…not to mention they will certainly not add to overpopulation.
Staying together and raising productive children should be the norm in society and does not make someone a hero if he or she accomplishes this basic cultural function. The more we congratulate and hail those who are doing what we all should be doing to operate as a functional society, the more that normal activity becomes the rarity.
Conversely, rather than hailing those who achieve the norm, perhaps it would be a better plan to shame those who do not.
My stomach turned when I saw the following meme:
Special? Special is defined as, “distinguished or different from what is ordinary or usual.” Really? I suppose the underlying assumption is that you have to be out of the ordinary and “special” to be a good father -thus the average guy does not stand a chance while the norm is most fathers are not “dads.” Sad.
I have never murdered someone nor have committed a crime. Should I be congratulated and honored? Or should I be seen as one who exemplifies the norm of society? No pat on the back necessary.
I want to save the fuel in my congratulations tank for those who have worked really hard and gone above and beyond to achieve an objective. Someone who earns a college degree, opens a successful business, volunteers to help those in need or perhaps lands a great job or promotion that they worked very hard for are just some of those achievements that are worthy of honor and congratulations.
The last time I congratulated myself was the day I received a letter in the mail informing me of my newly achieved tenure. I was proud of that accomplishment because all the work leading up to that moment flashed before my eyes -the difficulty in obtaining the degrees, the years of part-time, low paying work to build up my resume’ and the many obstacles I had to climb over to get to this new place. As far as being a responsible citizen who pays his taxes, loves his kids and generally obeys the law (speeding not being one of them) I am pleased with these things yet I am not proud of these things.
Yes, getting engaged or having a child is certainly a marker and milestone yet it can be a very good or very bad milestone…as in, “the day I walked down the aisle was the beginning of the end.” Again, I am not suggesting we do not recognize milestones, rather let us see them for what they are, markers, that may or may not mark something special.
So as I question culture and its customs, perhaps it is high time we stop congratulating what should be the norm and save our compliments and felicitations for those who have really earned it.