Monday, December 26, 2016

Because I Don't Have Enough Stuff To Worry About Already

A thing I started noticing about myself (after the fact, so of course there is guilt):


When people say, "Have a good evening," as we're leaving work, or they give me some holiday greeting at the store, 8 times out of 10, I just say, "Thanks," go on with my day, and don't return the greeting.


Is this a thing I'll go to hell for? It better not be. After all the shit I've pulled in my years, to burn for all eternity over some bullshit instead of the *real* sins of my past would be incredibly disappointing.


My coworkers are not required to tell me to have a good night, they're just nice like that.


But let's face it: If "nice" becomes a requirement for getting paid, I am screwed.


I suppose I could make it a habit to always return the greeting, whatever-the-fuck it is, but damnit! WHY do I have to pretend to care if my co-worker has a good evening, just because they're pretending to care if I do?


Is "Have a nice day" an act of aggression? Sure feels like it sometimes.


The other day, I was at a dollar store and the clerk who was ringing us up was all in everyone's face with the "Merry Christmas" like she was trying to start a fight with a liberal.


As a "real" liberal, not the phony kind they describe on Fox News, I was too smart to take the bait. Also, I don't care if people say Merry Christmas. Because I'm a real liberal.


I may not be passionate about "the reason for the season," but I'm also so completely indifferent to it that I don't give a fuck if you say Merry Christmas instead of Happy...Generic Whatever.


You be you, and all that.


A lot of people just say a mindless, "You, too!" when someone insists that the rest of their day be wonderful and special.


I've done the, "You, too!" thing as a response, and more than a couple of times found myself looking like an ass saying, "You, too!" after the person *didn't* say "Have a nice day!"


"Hey lady, you forgot your card in the chip reader!"

"You, too!"

DOH!


Anyway...if you could all just tone down the aggressive pleasantries, that would be great. You've got shit to do. I've got shit to do. Nobody wants a war.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas: Fake It Til You Make It

How easy is it to get into a funk on Christmas Eve?


Very.


It doesn't matter if tomorrow I'll be sitting at dinner with my kids, and doing all the things we usually do on Christmas day. It doesn't matter if I'll be driving out to see my parents and siblings next week. Today, I was alone.


And I look around the house and think that this place looks like someone lives here who doesn't give a shit.


I didn't decorate for Christmas.


I had good reasons.


Several.


All of those reasons were perfectly valid 2 weeks ago, and, they are still valid now.


I didn't think it would weigh on me, but, weirdly, having not decorated might be the thing that pushed me into a funk.


I go for walks in the evening, in the neighborhood, or at the mall (because I'm old) and you know what? It's beautiful. All of the trees lit up, and the way everyone has suddenly decided to decorate so tastefully this year (for a change)...it looks lovely.


Even though I think it's mostly bullshit, it is beautiful.


I don't think giving gifts is bullshit--I like that part. I don't care about getting them, but I do love giving them. I like seeing everybody and spending time with the people I love. All of that stuff is nice--what I think is bull is probably the same stuff you think is bull: Frantic retailers in a panic, using a sales pitch that seems to imply that you HAVE TO buy the most ridiculous shit (all made in China) because your Christmas won't be happy without it, or, every single charity in your town reminding you that it is the season of giving, so give, already, or, the whiny people who think there is a "War on Christmas" even though we spend literally 2 months out of the year talking about almost nothing but Christmas.


You know...the usual.


Also? We've all been in a bit of a funk beyond the usual seasonal funk--that's a very real thing. It's been a tough year for many of us. Fucking David Bowie died, OK? That's how 2016 STARTED. And it did not get better.


I guess we need a little Lovely, to soften the crap of the season. We need to make it pretty and dress it up. We need lights that twinkle and a little tree to put gifts under, and we need Grandma Gertrude's antique red and green table runner on the table. (Side note: I never met Grandma Gertrude. She was my husband's mother, who died before he and I ever met. But I have her table runner, for some reason, and damnit, it's mine now.)


So guess what I'm doing? Alone in my house, on Christmas Eve? Even though it's ridiculous...?


I'm putting up my little Christmas tree.


I'm putting up my tree even though I'm alone and when people come over to open presents tomorrow, they'll be here for all of a couple hours and probably won't care one way or the other.


It's all of 4 feet tall (if even) and there honestly isn't any room for any presents under there unless it's just a bunch of little blue boxes from Tiffany, or something, so, I'm gonna stack them around the tree like I've been building that pile for months, even though I literally just wrapped all of them today.


Fake it til you make it...right?


But seriously, folks....


I'm OK.


Some people are not OK.


Some people don't have anyone coming over tomorrow.


Some people can't fake it til they make it. They've got mental health or addiction issues, or their families don't accept them, or they have no home, much less a fucking Christmas tree.


That's not me trying to shame you (or myself) into feeling bad about being in a funk at Christmas when you have a roof and food and your health. That's just me saying, be kind to yourself tonight. Be kind to others.


We live in a time where we all have our own little personal shows to produce on Facebook or Twitter and Instagram--the shows that have us looking pretty and holding it together all the time. Even people who take bad pictures of their food are happy with the food. Good for them. But it's all for show. That fabulous, badly photographed feast maybe blew their whole food budget for a week and they got into a fight with their spouse over it, but that stuff isn't online. Just the good stuff is showing.


So know that nobody is perfect, despite how well-produced their little online show is.


And understand that you're OK.


And if you need someone to talk to, let's talk.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Flake-y

I am a typical Minnesotan and so, I make jokes every winter about the misery of shoveling snow.
 
 
Poor me. Outside in the cold. Shoveling. Hard work. My arms are Jello. I can barely lift my beer.
 
 
Honestly?
 
 
I enjoy shoveling snow. I might even love it. It's my flaky little secret.
 
 
Don't tell Mother Nature. Too much of a good thing isn't necessarily a good thing.
 
 
There is something about a winter activity. Maybe I just like the high tech clothing...? I mean, somebody had to design the stuff that keeps me sweating when it's 5 degrees outside. My coat is a marvel of layers and linings and pockets and zippers and hooks. I have shirts and pants specifically designed to be an under layer (because wicking is a thing) and I have fully lined over-layers. I have three different hats for "not too bad" days and a one trusty hat for "better wear the good hat" days. Ditto for gloves. I own a thing called a Turtle Fur Gaiter. I own Smart Wool socks and three different kinds of footwear made not for fashion, but for being out in the snow. We can be ugly out there, because it's ugly out there.
 
 
I often joke that the state motto of Minnesota should be changed from "√Čtoile du Nord" to "It's not cold, you're underdressed."
 
 
Northern people also have the bragging/martyr thing we do where we talk about how much snow we moved all by our damn selves. We post pictures of snow banks where our driveways are supposed to be, and later, post pictures of the shoveled out driveway.
 
 
I have, on this very blog, posted a picture of me standing outside in my cold weather gear, with barely any skin showing, drinking a Schell's Chimneysweep. I had spent hours digging out from a major snow storm in Duluth and I earned that damn beer. In fact, a major part of our motivation that day was digging out the driveway enough to get a car out...to go to the liquor store. We achieved that, then came back and finished the rest, which took another 2-3 hours using both a snow blower and a shovel.
 
 
Mother Nature does not mess around.
 
 
There are people who live here who aren't into it as much as I am. I remember a few winters ago, there was a lady who lived across the street from us who had a job as a cheerleader for the Minnesota Vikings. We had a bad storm, lots of snow, and there was a guy with a truck outside, helping pull people out of their parking spots because the snow plows had basically buried their cars. That cheerleader was his girlfriend, and she was there with him, talking to people about the snow, as you do. He was wearing Carhartt from head to toe. She was wearing skinny jeans with stylish fuzzy boots and a white puffy vest over a long sleeve t-shirt. She had on these really great hand-knit white mittens that I remember well.
 
 
Guess which one of them had to spend most of their time inside the truck to keep warm?
 
 
Hey, if I could get away with it, I'd do that, too.
 
 
On second thought, nah...I don't think I would.
 
 
I am a big fan of the ta-dah. I like taking on a task that looks brutal, quietly doing all the work and then saying, "See what I did all by myself? Ta-Dah!" Fairly typical of a Look-At-Me personality like mine.
 
 
You get a particular kind of ache in your body when you do a strenuous outdoor activity in the winter--coming in from the cold, you feel wiped out but it feels good somehow. As your body warms up and you're easing yourself into a chair or a hot bath, the creaking and moaning noises you make are a sign of a job well done, or time well spent.
 
 
Beyond that, though...I like the fact that it's an activity I usually do by myself because I get a lot of thinking done. Owing to the short winter days, it's often nighttime when I'm outside and there is no other sound except the shovel finding the concrete, or my feet crunching the snow. The conversations I have in my head are enlightening, and the repetitive nature of the work is meditative.
 
 
Yes, I dare say I enjoy it.
 
 
Don't worry, though. I'll still make noises like I hate it, so they don't revoke my Minnesota residency--you have to pretend winter annoys you or they look at you funny around here.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

IRL

Most thinking people have a love/hate thing with social media, and I'm no exception.


I like it because it reminds me a lot of my radio days--a little microphone I can pop on, say some smart-ass comment and then shut off again.


When I did that in radio, it would generate phone calls and/or ratings--now, it appears, the goal is to generate "likes" or hearts or whatever. Both of those things affect me equally. In radio, I got good ratings and the station owner made a lot of money. On Facebook, I'm sort of funny and Mark Zuckerberg makes a lot of money.


You're welcome, both of you.


It's fairly easy to generate responses--I've been doing that my whole professional life, and if I'm being honest, I will admit that I do it for fun in my non-professional life sometimes, too. Kick the hornet's nest when things seem boring--you probably won't die, unless you're living a real life version of the movie My Girl.


The slight difference is that radio is local (or at least the radio stations where I worked were local) and social media is world wide. You have to be a bit more judicious with your kicking when you're kicking the globe.


To narrow it somewhat, and to prvide a haven for myself, I treat Facebook as "local" and only have people that I know in real life as friends there, with a few minor exceptions. You'll be inspected if you send me a friend request (I virtually never take the first step and 'friend' anyone because I'm a horrible person and I don't care, plus, all my good friends are already there, so why do I need more?) If you friend request me on Facebook, I will start by looking at your profile to make sure you aren't a RWNJ--zero tolerance for that. This is why I ignore a vast amount of friend requests from cousins of mine. I'll also think about who you know that I know--it has to be somebody that I like. If we have nobody in common, you can't even reach me--not a particularly strict thing, but I don't care to deal with complete strangers on Facebook so I keep my privacy settings that way.


I admit I don't understand people with very, very private Facebook accounts. what's the point? If I felt the need for absolute privacy, I wouldn't have a Facebook account to begin with. Even stranger? The people with the fake accounts. Hell, I can't even justify one account and you have how many, under how many different names? Oof...how about none? Have you tried none?


My philosophy (Doesn't that sound impressive? Philosophy. Jeezuz...) makes Facebook the "friendly" place for generic G-Rated or PG-13 or PG-17 rated humor, but not much politics, which mirrors actual conversations I have with real-life friends, only the conversations we have offline (where our moms can't hear us) use the word "fuck" with much greater frequency and are probably peppered with a lot more dick jokes. We're adults, after all.


Also? Offline, we're probably drinking and yelling over each other. That's how we do.


Twitter is a bit of a different animal--at least for me. I don't know most of those people and won't ever know them, which is fine, for the most part. It's all brief interactions, like if two people who don't know each both other witness something crazy and they look at each other to make sure they actually saw what they just saw.


"ZOMG!! Did you SEE that fucking bald eagle swoop down and take that guy's toupee? CRAZY! Amirite?"


That kind of thing. Only it's mostly politics and football.


Twitter is where I link the blog because none of my family is there (except that one sane one) and some of them would pitch a fit about being called "RWNJs." Oh, I'll still call them that, but for some reason, they don't think this blog exists unless I put a link to it on my Facebook profile. Muah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Our little non-secret.


All things considered? I prefer the Twitter interactions. I can definitely tell how my desire to connect with like-minded people drives me to Twitter every day, and makes me stay there well past the time I should have put the phone down and done something productive, but I'm like that in real life, too. I love it when I have a connection with someone and we can talk and talk and talk. I am perfectly content to have those good conversations go all night.


I find I run into the same issue online as I do everywhere IRL--I'm more interested than other people are.


That's not to say I'm more *interesting* than other people--I'm definitely not--just that I gobble up information like I'm starved for it. 


I'm interested. Tell me more. 


Always more.


People online and people in real life--they don't have that kind of time. They have to go let the dog out. They have commitments that don't involve meaningful dialogue. They've got some TV shows to watch while they eat dinner off the coffee table and grunt barely audible noises to their mates.


You know...real life stuff.


This is not what my inner voice tells me, though. Inside my head I think, "Those lucky, beautiful people, going off to their perfect lives with their loving mates," while I sit and contemplate...stuff. And drink.


Poor me...


In truth they're probably just...watching TV while sitting behind a plateful of hotdish, but, you know how it is when you're an insecure person--in your head, everyone is having fun except you.


I saw a great quote somewhere (Online, OK? It was online. That's where I see pretty much everything.). It was, "Stop worrying about people who don't worry about you." While I'm sure the person who meme'd that thing was thinking more of false friends, I've seized it as a thing to tell myself when I get worried about social media.


Yes, I worry about social media.


Oh, I don't worry about YOU and what YOU do on social media--unless you're one of those nut jobs with fake accounts. I do worry about those people. Mostly, though, I just worry about how I'm reacting to things on social media. I think things like, "Gee, I thought that joke was funnier," or any of the dozens of other "Why don't people like me?" statements that have been bouncing around in my head since 1978.


In in real life, I don't really give a rat's ass about anybody who doesn't have my actual phone number.

In real life, I think 87% of viral videos are stupid.

In real life, I think 96% of political memes are dumb--unless they are conservative, then it's more like 99.99%.

In real life, I follow "commie lib" progressive news because that's who I am, even though I have the ability to play nice with my RWNJ acquaintances online.

In real life, I'm probably sitting in front of the TV with food, but the TV is off because I'm on my phone, switching back and forth between Twitter and Facebook, while occasionally logging in to check flights to expensive warm places, or looking at real estate.

In real life, I'm telling myself to put the fucking phone down and go outside.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Score

I grew up in Western North Dakota.


This in no way qualifies me to make any statements about the Dakota Access Pipeline.


Further disclosure: my father, for 30+ years, made a living and put food on our table by hauling crude oil in a truck. You see, the oil industry didn't just show up in North Dakota recently--it's been there for years. My parents were married in 1958 and my father started his job around the same time. He came home smelling of oil. During one of the downturns in the industry in the region, he was laid off (loyalty is a one-sided thing to a corporation) and ended up hauling farm-related things--grain, fertilizer, etc--for the last several years of his career before retiring.


When I think about, and talk about DAPL, I do it from a weird place. I'm a white woman, aged 50, raised for 18 years in a place where white people--and this is the nicest possible way I can say this--felt no need to be kind to Native American people. There were reservations around us, and those reservations were generally looked upon with disdain, at least by my parent's circle of friends. Or hell, maybe it was just my family--it's all a blur anymore. That was 40 years ago. But I do know that I've heard fine Christian women and men say things like, "nothing so useless as a drunk Indian," (that one sticks out in my head for some reason) and many other, similar things, while their friends and acquaintances nodded in agreement. This was the norm when I was growing up.


I didn't think much about this. I felt didn't have to--I was not a person who experienced it, and in typical fashion ('Merica! Fuck yeah!), didn't worry about it. I moved away from there and had very little contact with anyone who felt like that, nor anyone who was on the receiving end of that racist bullshit. I'm not sure I even recognized it as racist bullshit until one day many years later.


I was sitting at lunch at an outdoor table with three or four other women from my work. We were in Edina, MN, a "nice" suburb, where moneyed people lived, at an office building of a major corporation where we all worked. I don't remember how we got to the subject, but I remember one woman, an Indian (from India) admitted that she had seen people in her family behave in a racist way and asked if any of us had experienced any situations in our families like that.


Suddenly, I remembered. I remembered all of my youth and going to the reservation to play basketball games against their school, and their facilities were nowhere near as nice as ours so we hated to go there. We we snobs about it. I remembered the one family that lived in our town that was native, and how people had a certain opinion of them and when anyone had a positive experience with one of them, they would say things like, "He's *actually* pretty nice," as if that was not normal behavior. I remembered, for years, people saying to avoid the reservation, that it was a bad place, with bad people. I remember being shocked when I found out one of my high school classmates had moved there. I remembered the time someone quizzed my brother, a park ranger at an historic fort, about how the natives had been treated by the white people who came there to settle, and I remember him downplaying it like it was not that bad. I remembered the person who uttered the words about the "useless drunk Indian".


I remembered all of it, and I told her, "My family--and really a lot of people in that part of the state--have a real bad view of Native Americans there." I relayed some stories.


I didn't mention that I had, myself, held certain opinions. I felt myself above it--I had moved away from that life and the people who were like that. I left because I wasn't like them. I didn't feel like that.


There was the time on a morning radio show, years before that sunny little lunch in Edina, when my co-host and I were talking about obscure laws that were still on the books. It was one of those morning show bits that people drag out from time to time because it's reliably ridiculous and gets a laugh. For some reason, I decided to use that live mic to bring up an obscure law that I knew about in the state of Montana, 4 miles from where I grew up. The law states, in effect: "Seven or more Indians are considered a raiding or war party... and you can shoot them."







(That law is still on the books, by the way.)




I talked about that on the air--about how ridiculous it was. What happened after that? Well, I got into a shit storm with the local tribe who was pissed that I should say such a thing, even though I was discussing it as an absurdity. I was so angry with them for being mad at me for "nothing". After all, I was on their side, I thought. Me, the liberal lady on the morning show at a classic rock station--the exception to every other fucking person in that building, and *I* was the one being called a racist? Unreal. That one burned. I was pissed off.




So I didn't like them for a good long while. They had done me wrong, got me yelled at by my boss, blah, blah, blah.




Now, in the interest of fairness, I should mention that I didn't need their complaints to get me yelled at. I was an aggressive personality on the air--I felt I had to be, as a woman trying to carve out a place in a business where the women sounded alike, to me. Women on the radio back then had one job, and that job was to laugh at the man's jokes. I was brazen in my disregard of that. I was funnier and smarter than they were--why the fuck were they not tasked with laughing at *my* jokes?




All of this was quite controversial at a classic rock station, which is an incredibly conservative place. To add the the misery, I had a hatred for the format and no understanding of people who would listen to it--classic rock was never my thing, and honestly never will be--I'm a new music person. Somehow, I was popular enough among listeners (not too much--just enough), but the rest of the staff couldn't stand me and were happy to throw me under the bus. The boss at the time was probably itching for a reason to yell at me. Offending a major client (casino) was just the thing.




I spent an hour on the phone with a representative of the tribe, pleading my case. He was not moved. The next day I grudgingly spoke my non-apology apology ("sorry if you were offended, etc,") into that same fucking microphone and after a cooling off period, went back to my usual life of not thinking about natives. I had no opinion, and felt no reason to develop one since I was never in contact with any, that I was aware of. Fairly typical behavior for a person not directly affected by racism.




Occasionally, a thing would happen that involved natives in a clash, like when the University of North Dakota changed the name of their school mascot from The Fighting Sioux, or when some dingbat white folks at that same school had t-shirts printed up depicting, you guessed it, a "drunken Indian," in part because they didn't accept the name change. I could always see where the natives were coming from and I could empathize. My argument was always that yes, white people came here and defeated them in war, which is historically accurate, but ever since then, we've been trying to demoralize, which is completely unnecessary and cruel.




Fast forward many years, and DAPL is happening. Family and friends (all from North Dakota, naturally) on social media begin using their platform to call bullshit to the tribe, post "news" pieces about how wrong they were to be doing that they were doing, talking about how no one has any respect for law enforcement, and, well...the usual shit you see the opposition do any time there is a protest.




The local voices were saying completely different things than the national and international observers.




I sat here and said nothing at all.




Part of that was because I don't particularly believe in social media activism. Sure, I'll spout off an opinion now and again, or point and laugh at something ridiculous, but it's in the interest of conversation or telling a joke, not because I think it will make a difference. I believe the most accurate observation about social media activism is the cartoon of the plane full of "Likes" (thumbs up symbols from Facebook, in this case) arrived in storm-ravaged Haiti. Completely worthless. So I don't use Facebook in that way and don't do much or any of that on Twitter, either. I didn't "Je suis Paris", didn't do the Ice Bucket Challenge, and I have never added a flag overlay on my profile picture.




Another reason why I said nothing was because if I have learned one thing in this election year, it's, "Don't engage." Don't get into it with anyone--people who are more angry than you will rip you to shreds in a heartbeat. There are people posting other people's home address on "kill boards" and all kinds of insane shit--not worth it.




But even beyond those two usual reason, I found myself unable to lock in to how I felt about DAPL. It's one thing not to talk about it, but quite another to find yourself so disengaged that you can't pick a side.




I have no loyalty to the people who side with the oil company (save for the previously mentioned parental employment situation). I do not align with oil companies on the political spectrum. Not my thing. I do drive a car, though, and I suppose I use a a typical American amount of stuff made from petroleum products, so I'm your basic hip-hip-hippy-hypocrite. This doesn't mean I have to like the fact that they seem to do whatever the fuck they want with little concern for the environment and we tax-payers support them with incentives to supplement their billions in profits. Screw that.




I also have no real reason not to believe what the natives or other observers were saying, other than my own history of mistrust--of being "on their side" and still getting kicked in the head. I suppose that's the shit that catches you. Not a one of us is free from our own emotions.




Perhaps it is a sign of news overload. I've stuffed my face with so much information that I'm unable to form my own thoughts anymore.




It just seems so...surreal. My mind isn't clicking in to it. In an exhausting year, it's just another thing to exhaust me. My cynicism says, "What fucking difference does it make?" even after the Army Corps of Engineers pulled the permit and decided they needed to fully examine other options for the pipeline.




There is a guy I follow on Twitter--political talk and humor, mostly, with a touch of music. All the same stuff as me, and he's a college professor. He's funny and smart and quick. After the election and ever since, he's been quite despondent. His jokes are now all a version of, "Why bother exercising--nothing matters anymore." That's where I am, too, although I don't really share that online anywhere, and I do exercise because I'd just be wallowing and huge if I didn't.


It's not even that I was ride or die for Hillary, because I didn't feel that I was. I thought she made sense as the choice and I did vote for her, but again...didn't change my profile pic to the "H" overlay, or anything like that.


When the news came out about the Corps re-routing or re-studying or pulling permits, or whatever they did at DAPL, people were celebrating, and I was over here thinking, "This doesn't mean anything."


I am tired of it all being about who gets points on social media (and, my sincere apologies to Chris Hardwick--your points are good points. All of them).


Of course one can argue that water is more important than "points" and racism is a serious problem--both of those things are very true. But where are we having these discussions?  Just talking amongst ourselves on social media...we accomplish about as much as the two old guys talking politics at the local caf√© over a cup of coffee.


Some people got up off their asses and blocked a bridge and a thing happened--that's good. They unfortunately attracted an element of moronic "do goods" from out of state, looking to score some points. Many of those idiots were horribly unprepared and are now holed up in high school gymnasiums and people's private homes because, oh, by the way, it's fucking COLD during a blizzard in North Dakota, and people die.


Our rush to score is a real brain-eraser.


I can't stop shaking my head and rolling my eyes at us.


'Merica...

Friday, December 2, 2016

And Still...

I found this old post while cruising an analytics page. I noticed someone was archive diving and you know me--better check and make sure there isn't something awful floating around with my name attached to it.


Yes, I know the internet is forever, but I do have the ability to "unpublish" things, unlike, say, Starship. They can never take back, "We Built This City." That shit is out there, for all eternity.


The beauty of anonymous blogging cannot be overstated.


Anyway...here's a thing I wrote about a pot of beans.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Always

Last night was Fabulous Burrito Night at our house.  That's when, after having spent the day cooking insanely delish and perfectly seasoned pinto beans for the purpose of scarfing them in bean burritos, we feast like a bunch of starving animals, slurping beverages, going back for seconds, thirds and fourths.  


About mid-afternoon, those beans start to smell so good you want to cry, mostly because you know that they're not done cooking yet, so eating them would be a bit, uh...crunchy.  When they finally reach textural perfection, I lay out all the other tortilla stuffings and sauces and call the kids to start building, an announcement which is followed by the usual happy noises and sounds of feet scurrying to the kitchen.

 

My daughter's friend, who was visiting, asked, "Do you guys always eat like this?"  I told him no, that beans from scratch were usually a weekend project but he clarified: "No, I mean, are you guys always this laid back?"


It seems that at his house, what he called "family time" or, "dinner time" was so formal a thing that people barely spoke to one another while it was happening.  The idea that there would be laughter and joy and relaxation associated with it seemed novel to him.


I couldn't imagine it.


Most of us (grown-up) spend a lot of time out in the world in some kind of work situation in which we have to dress a certain way, be careful not to say certain things, arrive at a certain time, leave at a certain time, etc.  Even if your work life is fairly informal, there are still expectations associated with it--even someone who paints Velvet Elvises for a living has some kind of schedule, some kind of deadline.  If they didn't, they probably wouldn't produce enough to continue in that line of work.  A guy who plays guitar in a coffee shop still has to get to the coffee shop--you have to show up, and you have to have some kind of tangible product worth people giving you money for.


Life is like that.  I can't imagine why anyone would insist that family would have to be like that, too.  


Here are the people who know you better than anybody--They know that you like to put off doing the dishes until the last possible second, or that you run around in your bra in the morning while looking for a shirt to wear, or that spend hours on the phone loudly kvetching about crazy people, or your plants are neglected, or your cat needs a bath.  They know the very core of you.  They live with you, after all--they have a front row seat to all of your bad habits, wrinkles and warts.  Also, all of your triumphs.


Never mind the fact that I think of food as something to be celebrated.  What I want to know is, why would you apply first-date formality to any meal or time spent with the people who know you best?  Why pretend you don't know everything there is to know about each other already?  Isn't that just denying yourself the chance to delight in your family members victories, or laugh at their funny foibles, or help them through the low times?  Don't you WANT to be that resource for them?  I mean...who would be better at it than someone who knows the very core of you?


I believe very strongly that my home is my sanctuary.  It is the one place I can truly be myself, never to worry about what people think about me, what they're going to say about me, am I going to get fired for doing that, etc.  This notion doesn't strip away the necessity of treating everyone with kindness--in fact, my home is the one place where I can be as unabashedly kind as I want to be, like, spending an entire day lovingly preparing for the business of watching my kids and their friends play Guitar Hero while we all sit around eating burritos on the living room furniture (gasp!).  I will never, never, ever sacrifice that for any formality, any dreamt-up "have to" or "must".  I don't believe in "have to" or "must" except as it pertains to the importance of being good to other people.


So, to answer the question....Yes, we DO always eat like that.  We do everything like that.  I wish everybody did.