Friday, October 31, 2014

Hey Matt Walsh: Take it Easy on Young People

This week another Matt Walsh blog has been floating around my facebook newsfeed, and though I generally like the frankness of his writing, I really though this blog was more destructive than interesting. Matt was encouraging people in their 20's to get married and have babies- revolutionary, right? I think that this blog hit on a few of the key assumptions that I think are very destructive to our mission as Christians:

1. This (insert choice here) has worked really well for me, so clearly everyone should do it.
2. Oh, this choice doesn't fit you? Then clearly there is something really really wrong with you (because it couldn't possibly be my plan or perspective, which should fit everyone).

This set of moves in logic drives me absolutely nuts, as it tries to negate the many privilege you have that fuel your choices ("everyone should buy a Ferari, and if you don't, it must be because you are stupid") and the profound, deep, and beautiful differences between people (all of whom were made by the same God). As a 28 year old who is in fact married and having a baby, you would think I would support his argument, but I mostly think he is way off base this time. Here's why:

Walsh starts off his argument by saying that we are the most marriage-averse generation in history, and therefore our current behavior is another sign of society's destruction. I mean, we could spend a whole blog just talking about how narrow minded and historically incorrect that point is. Maybe he means in Western history? Judeo Christian history? Not to mention, if you measure marriage ages against average lifespans, we aren't that far off the general mark.

 Also, does being married at 25 really make you that radically different from your peers? I have a very large collection of bridesmaid dresses that beg to differ. If the social-expectation has changed, it hasn't done so in such a dramatic way that a married person in their mid-20's has become am exotic rare flower. Less marriages? Sure, yes. So much so that it deserves this sense of urgency? I don't thik so.

Walsh sees the institution of marriage as "integral to our advancement" as a species, and again, he isn't wrong (I mean, if we all suddenly stopped being able to reproduce Children of Men style, we would be in trouble), but the situation also does seem more complex than that. We are one of the first generations who can clearly see the cost of very dense human populations on the world's resources, and I think you could make the argument that taking it slightly easier on reproducing can be beneficial to the ever-growing population of unwanted children (I know at least two unrelated people who chose to adopt rather than marry and bear children) as well as the potential problems of population overgrowth. Maybe Matt Walsh is in the "Global Warming, who?" pack of Christians, and I can actually respect that, but there is an absolute arrogance to suggesting that the duggars are doing the world 19 times the favor by having way more kids, using way more resources, and announcing their pregnancies 10 minutes after conception.

I also think he is only talking about marriage as the heteronormative privilege (hence the extreme focus on child-making), leaving out the fact that not everyone can get married. Just the choice is a privilege many still don't have, and I don't think that should be forgotten here.

Marriage and kids obviously doesn't have to mean super-spawning, but the starting suggestion that we are self-destructing because we aren't all hankering to populate the Earth might have as much to do with what the world looks like (I mean, most of us also aren't living agrarian lifestyles, and therefore don't need to produce our own workforce) as a generational attitude.

Matt implores us, his friends, to not be afraid of marriage. I think that's a fair enough request. Avoiding anything because you are afraid of it is a pretty sad and self-defeating way to live. But so is doing things just because you think it is what you are "supposed to do." Again, not everyone even can do it, so the access to it is not as simple or self-evident as the essay suggests. He seems to only be writing to people who are just like him, meaning they probably also think just like him already.

I am married. I am going to have a baby, so I can't say "oh this institution is bunk." I like being married so far, and I do think everyone should have the choice to do it. But I can also recognize that I benefit from a lot of privileges that make the choice available and just doable. So here are a few factors I think Matt got wrong or should consider more fully:

1. Not everyone needs marriage- Matt points out early in the article that he lived completely on his own and then with a spouse. He prefers living with his wife over living alone. Awesome. I am happy for you, but is it not possible that some people might actually enjoy being alone more? I mean, you can find these figures in the Bible, so we know it isn't the only available focus. I also completely believe that God gives a lot of important and loving relationships in our life; it is cool when we can have a spouse who fits in that category, but to not notice the other hugely important bonds you have in your life is kind of ungrateful. Siblings, friends, and room mates can hold equally important positions in a heart. These other relationships and priorities can require equal commitment and labor, but it may not look as conventional from the outside. Again, just because this one source works for you does not mean that is the case for everyone.

2. "Just be more Mature" is not Helpful Advice- A number of Matt's points (1, 3, and 5) suggest that you can't wait until you have your life/ money/ career totally worked out before you get married because that will never happen. In theory, I actually totally agree with that; my experience with adulthood so far is that no one ever knows what the heck they are doing, so you have to take some leaps before you totally understand the situation, or you will stand still your whole life. Truth.

On the other (very important) hand, we are not projects for another person to fix. No one is ever going to help you get to a good point with yourself, and I don't think there is anything wrong with that at all. You will keep growing and changing, and the amazing trick of lasting marriages is somehow coordinating that change, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be good with who you are at the starting gate. If you get married too early in your 20's, you cut off those few years where you don't owe your choices to parents or your spouse. You only have a teeny window to factor only yourself into that equation, and though that time isn't necessary for everyone, it is essential for others. It doesn't make you selfish to want to have independent growth, it is selfish to expect someone else to take care of that growth for us. Taking your time and making the decision with some experience behind it could show more respect for the decision.

3. Priorities aren't necessarily jumbled because they don't look like yours- Yeah, you basically do need money (and basic money-handling skills) to be married! I love that he feels like people aren't getting married because they want to buy iphones. How condescending can you be, man? Money is a tremendously stressful part of our lives, and in general, many people don't get into the jobs they want or trained for until struggling through free labor and minimum wage situations. Bringing in that level of stress to a marriage shows a lack of maturity to me, if anything. Feeding 2 people costs more than one, and even if you can minimize that impact as you add more and more, but it doesn't change the fact that you need to figure out how to feed one first. 

I would say the key positive advice here is to take the time to know what your priorities are, because spending money on stuff that isn't even that important to you is easy to fall into. I know that I have trouble sometimes accepting other people's priorities, but you don't get to say someone else is being selfish just because they don't do life like you do. I can remember on more than one occasion a friend telling me they can't travel like we do because they are married/ have a baby/ aren't rich like us. We prioritized travel for a long time (giving up lots of other things), because we valued our relationships with our extended family that much. We could have gotten married and started spawning sooner if we didn't want to see our grandmas multiple times a year, but that isn't who we are, and I have no interest in apologizing for it. Nor do I think anyone else should. If you want an iphone, or a trip to France, or to be able to volunteer and go on mission trips more than you want to be married, why would that be a bad thing?

4. The Right One (Soulmate, One and Only, etc) does not Exist, but there are Plenty of Wrong Ones- I don't believe in soul mates or the One, and I also do think it can create a situation where you can hand off responsibility to fate when maybe taking care of your relationship would be a healthier course. At the same time, just because there isn't a One and Only doesn't mean any interested applicant would fit just fine. As a kid, I thought you could make it work with anyone if you wanted it bad enough, but that assumption is totally and ridiculously wrong. Compatible communication styles matter. Shared values matter. Please, for goodness sakes, be choosy and don't hand your heart off to anyone who shows interest. Finding a good partner, who you really can be friends with, seems way more important to me than just locking something down.

5. Boooooo Lame Tropes about Biology- I have generally enjoyed Matt Walsh because he seems deeply respectful of the women in his life, but all of number 7 is a straight-to-all-you-vagina-carriers  bummer. It again suggests that there is one path to reproduction and nothing else matters, when that clearly isn't the case for SO MANY PEOPLE. Not to mention this kind of "have your babies now or you NEVER GET BABIES" narrative is not only false, but it traps women back into some Susie Homemaker role. I agree that our biology is not a mistake, but I don't agree that just because pregnancy at 22 is the path of least biological resistance means it is the right (or even available) choice for someone else. I love living in a world where multiple routes to parenthood exists, and I wish Matt was a lot more open-minded on this front. Pregnancy and parenting are hard on your mind, your body, and your time. Someone has to take care of that tiny person, and it is a simultaneously selfless and totally selfish thing to devote time you could be giving to others to a tiny person that continues your own "legacy." If you want to invest your body or time or things elsewhere, I say phooey on anyone who makes you feel bad about it (I also say phooey on anyone who tries to make you feel bad for choosing to have kids). You only have so much effort and time, that is absolutely true, but creating some arbitrary finish lines robs you of the value of what you are doing now. And on that note...

6. Maybe marriage and parenthood will be the best adventure of your life. Or it could be going to nurse children's heart surgeries in Africa. Or writing your first book. Or becoming a badass embroidery artist. Or curing cancer. Or going on a balloon journey across the ocean-  I am glad that Matt is so happy with his choice, and that it has proven to be so exciting and enriching for him. But I am not Matt. And neither are any of you. So have the adventures you want to have, because really, if your dream is to build the Eiffel Tower out of dry spaghetti or make the next great American film, or lobby against handguns or for animal shelters, or speak 10 languages, those are all pretty awesome adventures too. I want to hear all about those. Even if you get married and have kids, please have your adventures too. I hate the suggestion that the dream of a family should trump all other dreams. In relationships, you have to have your own interests and growth to keep bringing something fresh to the table; I can't see why that wouldn't be the same for families.

7. No, You aren't your Parents. But then again, you kind of are (and no matter what, you are carrying a bunch of their nonsense with you)- Matt happily owns that his parents remain married, then suggests that many of us poor millenials are "jaded" by our unhappy childhoods. I find it interesting that Matt feels we were victimized by our "selfish, immature parents" while simultaneously suggesting we get married sooner (wouldn't it be better not to reproduce until some of that selfishness was worked out?). But I would argue that so many adults whose parents were divorced aren't jaded, but take deeply seriously the incredible challenges marriage brings with it. This business is incredibly difficult, and you put everything you are on the line to make it work. We see how crushing it is to everyone when it fails, and I have had so many long, deep conversations about how we can do it differently, but also how we know we are the same. Matt chalks it all up to our parents' choices, but from my perspective, sometimes a bad fit doesn't immediately reveal itself. Or not everyone is in on the choice to dissolve a marriage. A partnership can promote a lot of growth, but the destruction of one leaves scars forever, and pretending they don't exist is a fool's game.

Not to mention, if you haven't lived in a household with a happy marriage at the center of it, you have to author your own idea of what a happy marriage would even look like. In some ways, I think this is incredibly freeing, but building something totally new just takes longer than taking a path that you've already seen work.

Couldn't it be that our generations isn't being flippant or selfish or even afraid, but that we are taking the institution of marriage more seriously by taking our time, making informed decisions, and choosing a path that specifically fits our understandings of ourselves? I am the same age as Matt Walsh and stand on the other end of my 20's just like him. I just don't think there is a wrong way to do it as long as you aren't hurting yourself or others. I am excited and encouraged to see all of the ways people get from here to there, and I feel relieved that there is no one finish line we are all racing toward. Everyone gets to make their own path and design their own life the way that best suits them, and in general, I see people taking that responsibility very seriously (and no, not just in some naval-gazing way, but asking great questions about who they are so they can really give to others). We are also one of the most volunteering generations since that history has been documented, and I don't think that is unrelated to the same trends Matt bemoans.

I understand that when you like the way things are going, you want so badly for everyone to get to feel that same joy, but I think essays like these make the mistake of taking that instinct too far. Someone making another choice doesn't make your choice (or theirs) bad. The beauty of reaching your 20's is that we are each fulfilling our own goals, so grading someone else by your rubric of happiness or priorities becomes completely (and thankfully) ineffective. So get married if you want (I never turn down an occasion for cake), or don't, or do it later, or do it once everyone can do it. I think we can each individually put goodness, selflessness, and love into the world in a way that fits exactly the person God made them into, and that's a beautiful miracle, not a threat. 


Thursday, October 30, 2014

9 Things for the Last 3 Days

1. Being productive- I actually got a lot done on Monday! That was nice. Unlike today, in which I have gone lampshade shopping at Target and written this sentence. You're welcome, world.

2. Christopher Boffoli- This photographer does pictures that play with food and scale (I just spelled that skill... I feel like in three weeks I will just be blogging those emails I used to send the Boy late at night from Vienna, in one of which I called him "Spidey") inspired by he said movies like Honey I Shrunk the Kids (and we can only hope the Borrowers). Favorite thing I genomed this week.

3. Cheddar Bisquit Mix- Thank you, Universe, for coming up with something so wonderful. I might just send one to my Nana on a weekly basis as a campaign to become her favorite grandchild.

4. Rochelle Kennedy, Super Laborer, and Fresh New Aisley Marie- My cousin Shelly had her beautifully chubby cheeked and thick-haired baby (who I also know without a doubt is going to be sassy and hilarious- you can just tell from the cheeks) on Tuesday. Shell makes labor seem not so bad, so I am glad she went first, and I can't wait to meet this baby in person! 
5. Paternity Court- It's like Judge Judy and Maury had a baby except no one knows who the father is. The saddest part is that the poor judge got that law degree so she could read paternity tests. It doesn't even make sense- do you think she goes home everyday and cries?
6. Galaxy Quest- That movie has become our healing film. I think it is the powers of Sam Rockwell. Also, we have seen a lot of Sigourney Weaver lately, and that lady is grossly underrated. She is just amazing in everything. 
7. Amy Poehler- I know she comes up often, but she did an ask me anything yesterday that was funny and cool and very Amy Poehler-y. She just always seems like a genuinely kind person, which is a strange thing to admire in a stranger, but alas, I am super weird.

8. Pumpkin Carving- The Boy draws out a design and makes a plan. I just start cutting things, because I think the real joy is to let the pumpkin speak to you. It will tell you what it's personality is. Mine is a smiling lady troll. The Boy's friend Rayan came to visit us and carved the BBG gourd, which he says is winking.
9. Those pumpkin scraper things- Way better than spoons. Everything else in those packs are ridiculous, but the scraper is a gem.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

3 Things- QFC cakes, Olafur Eliasson, and SJP as a Witch

1. Two Bite Cupcakes- QFC (a Seattle grocery store chain that may be elsewhere? I honestly don't know) sells this brand of mini cupcakes called Two Bit Cupcakes. I tried their lemon one back on the forth of July and pined after them all summer (I never got one again, but I wished for them anyway. Today we parked near the Wallingford QFC while shopping, so the Boy marched us over there for some lemon cupcakes (finally!). Lemon was gone, but in its place were these pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, and they are also great. Let's see if we can get 12 to last us until the end of the week.
2. Olafur Eliasson's ice project- I am fascinated and a little bit troubled by this project, which I think means the artist is doing something right. It feels wrong to take ice away when it is depleting so quickly, but when you realize just how little this lot is, it's hard to deny all of our impact. You can hear about the project here.

3. Sarah Jessica Parker in Hocus Pocus- Everyone is having way more fun in that movie than the protagonist (it destroys on the Bechdel test, and mostly seems to be a movie where the girls are heroes and the boys are useless virgins), but no one seems to be having a better time than SJP. She is doing the same thing she did in LA Story, but even more so here.

Pinspiration- 10 Halloween Cupcakes

 Halloween welcomes the most creative treats of any holiday, and every year, I become slightly obsessed with the good ideas put on display. You can probably mark a correlation between the kind of evil the holiday is supposed to be about and the pure delicious evils of sugar of all kinds, but since I am not one for being scared, these are my favorite parts of the holiday.

10. A Pumpkin Cupcake- Ok, this decoration is underwhelming if you are going for a big decorating bang, but just imagine this with orange-colored frosting and a stem. It's not a far leaf, and pumpkin-flavored things are totally Halloween. Also, I really hate the weird anti-"basic" thing which seems to me to just be yet another way to make it ok for people to talk shit on women based on entirely artificial and unimportant criteria. You know what is WAY more boring and overdone than pumpkin spice lattes? Talking crap on girls who drink them. It's not an opinion worth having. I'm bored already. On the other hand, I feel like I would be pretty psyched if I got to eat one of these cupcakes, and like I said you could tie the flavor in with slightly more "pumpkiny" decorations.

9. Graveyard cookies- The idea is so simple, and as this blog did, you could probably pull it off all in accessories, but I would also love to see these cupcakes stepped up another level or two. Could you dye the cookie to look more like a gravestone? Pipe in some grass? Add in some zombie hands coming out of the dirt? Still, it works as a great pin, because it inspires all sorts of ideas!

8. Ghost cupcakes-Ack! So cute, but it does make your teeth hurt just from looking at it. I mean, that is a lot of frosting! I was thinking you could have a hershey kiss underneath the frosting to try to keep it clean.
 7. Mummy cakes- I have used this guy before, but it is so damn cute, and might have a much better ratio of frosting to cake than a lot of these do. Great option if you want to try something that isn't quite so treat-y.

6. Finger cakes- We just watched Hocus Pocus tonight (I wonder what the exact years you have to have been born to like this movie are- 83 to 90?) and SJP and Kathy Najimy have a finger fight right at the beginning. I like the spirit of that here.


5. Vampire Cakes- Really, this cake is all about the hairline. Don't you miss when all vampires had hair like the Count? Can someone (PAG) explain the history of this hairstyle to me? The two sharp teeth hanging out the mouth are also adorable. I feel like making a cupcake look this good would be a challenge, but they nailed it.


4. Spider cupcakes- This one has floated around on pinterest a lot, and for good reason. Super cute, and just gross enough to seem a little more appropriate for the holiday. I just love the little googly eyes and the legs coming off the cake.

3. Witch's Brew Cupcakes- This is genius. I love the switch of wrapper to change how the whole thing feels, and I want them to be the sandwich kind of cupcake so the frosting is on the inside. Also, kudos for the pretzel tie-in, because some people (not me, but I know those people exist) who really love their salty with their sweet.

2. AhhHhhh! Real Cupcakes! I thought these were really sweet monsters. Nothing too scary, but I bet you could add arms or jaws to make them even more fun!

1. Skeleton Cupcakes- I have been loving skeletons this year, and I feel like this guy has a lot of wow factor without too much fuss. 15 minutes extra effort? Not exactly scary, but cool. I have done the skeleton thing with cookie cutters (take a cutter of anything and make it a skeleton- I promis you it will be appropriately creepy), but these cupcakes are also adorable.