Saturday, August 29, 2009

Judginess and defensiveness

I used to be incredibly judgmental. Anyone who has met me in the last few years might be surprised to hear that (at least I hope they would be!) but there was definitely a time when I had very strong opinions about the way people "should be", and I wasn't very subtle about letting people know those opinions. I was also incredibly defensive - if I detected the slightest hint that someone thought I might be wrong, I'd get all bent out of shape. It wasn't until I had been in therapy for a while that I began to realize how my judginess and defensiveness were related to each other, and to my low self-esteem. The way I'd describe it is that since I was judging everyone else, I assumed everyone else was judging me, and since I had somewhat shaky self-esteem, I took others' judgment personally (hence the defensiveness), and that often led me to be even more judgy - you know, thinking along the lines of "You think I'm being too sensitive? Well, that's just because YOU'RE insensitive, and stupid". A fun little immature vicious circle.

As I became more comfortable with myself, I found that I was less defensive, and less judgmental - my thinking evolved more into "You think I'm being too sensitive? Why do you think that? Hmmm, no, I don't really agree with that. Well, OK, whatever". There's a bit of a chicken-egg thing here, in that I don't know if my increased self-confidence made me less defensive and therefore less judgmental of others, or if I mellowed out and stopped being so judgmental so I stopped perceiving that others were judging me. But the end result is that today, I'm WAY less judgmental. That doesn't mean I don't still have strong opinions about some things, but I have a much stronger 'live and let live' attitude (and I like to think I've also learned how to express myself more kindly). I've also become, for lack of a better way to put it, much more of an economist, and what I mean by that is that economists study choices but we try to do it in an objective way, identifying the costs and benefits of all the options. As I tell my students, if someone makes a different choice than the choice you would make, it just means that they value the costs and benefits of that choice differently than you do. Rather than thinking about their choice as 'wrong', it's far more productive to try to understand how and why they value those costs and benefits differently.

Which brings me to the real point of this post. I think because of my own history, I am acutely aware of it when I hear other people being judgmental. And whether I agree with their opinion or not (though admittedly, more so when I don't), I don't like it and it sort of makes me want to avoid those people. And to be perfectly honest, that is one of the reasons I haven't posted anything on this blog in the last couple of months. Because although I still consider myself very much a quirkyalone, I am now also in a capital-R Relationship. And I am happy - incredibly, sappily, didn't-know-relationships-could-be-like-this happy. And in the context of this blog, where I have talked a lot about being happily single, and that I know is read by at least a few in the 'happily single' community, I feel a little guilty about being so happy in my Relationship.

The problem is that over the last few months, I feel like I keep encountering a bizarrely judgmental attitude from those in the single community where anything that suggests coupledom might have some benefits, or singledom might have some costs, is taken as heresy and the writer is suspected of buying into matrimania. It's a very black and white attitude. The clearest example is a recent guest post that Simone Grant wrote for Single Women Rule about how she sometimes thinks that life would be easier with a significant other around. She wasn't saying life would instantly be perfect if she were coupled, or that she wanted just anyone in her life, but Keysha of SWR felt the need to add her own response to Simone's post, basically suggesting Simone is buying into some relationship myths. Anyone who has read Simone's own blog (which rocks, btw) should know how stupid that is.

This bizarre judginess has made me really hesitant to write anything here about my relationship. And I don't think I'm the only one feeling this way - in June, Sasha Cagan, the original Quirkyalone, wrote a really thoughtful post about how she actually wants a relationship, a post that she felt hesitant to even write; over at The Unmarried Estate, Therese writes about her decision to get married and says, "I can’t help feeling guilty – like I am betraying the Unmarried Rights community or the feminist community or something."

Because I feel this guilt too, I've avoided this blog. But the more I've thought about it, the more annoyed I've gotten that I feel this way. So I'm back. I know I'll be returning to this topic - and I know that I will be choosing my words super-carefully whenever I talk about my relationship - but the bottom line is that even though I'm now a quirkytogether, I don't think what I have to say has really changed, since I've always thought about this blog as being about people having the right to be happy being whatever they want to be. I'm not going to promise to post super-often or all that regularly (because I always get myself in trouble with promises like that), but I'm not going to avoid posting either. Go ahead and judge me, if it makes you happy...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mourning Ted Kennedy

Is it just me or has it been a bizarre summer for celebrity deaths? Some major personalities have left us this summer - Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, John Hughes (or maybe it just feels like a lot because I'm a child of the 80's?). But none of those hit me like the death of Ted Kennedy. I simply can't imagine a world without Ted Kennedy in the Senate. What's kind of weird to me about that is that it's not like I've ever followed Kennedy's career all that closely. Of course, I didn't really have to, when his name was simply always around, attached to some of the biggest and most influential pieces of legislation of my lifetime (and especially since I do work in education policy). And of course, he IS a Kennedy. But I think the reason I'm particularly affected by his passing was summed up best by Robert Reich:

America has had a few precious individuals who are both passionate about social justice and also understand deep in their bones its practical meaning. And we have had a few who possess great political shrewdness and can make the clunky machinery of democratic governance actually work. But I have known but one person who combined all these traits and abilities. His passing is an inestimable loss.
btw, I thought it was particularly fitting (or perhaps, ironic) that today is the anniversary of the day that the 19th Amendment was passed, giving women the right to vote (hat tip to Mixed Race America).