Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The New Normal


Stacy Snyder - parentunplugged - The New Normal - "But everybody does that stuff" comic
A friend and fellow mom was explaining to me today that she and her husband are going to put their condo up on the market as a short sale. As I was firing questions at her to try and uncover her motivation for doing what she was doing, she said to me that short sales are the new norm in residential home sales.  She was justifying her decision with the fact that everybody’s doing it.

Now I could debate the fact that short sales are in fact the norm in today’s home sales or I could question the proper use of words in her statement, as I believe she really meant that short sales are more prevalent today than they were some time ago.  The minutia doesn’t matter, though, as what I really want to point out, is that I wholeheartedly disagree with the fallback justification that if everybody else if doing it, it somehow makes it right.

It seems as if I hear this explanation all the time, sometimes even out of my own mouth.  A family member and her soon-to-be ex-husband told me matter-of-factly that of course they’re each already dating other people, even though they’re not divorced yet, as everybody does that nowadays.  My eight-year-old tells me she chases and bothers the boys at recess every day because that’s what all the other girls do.  My girlfriend tells me that the reason she performs the ritualistic hand movements during mass each week at church is because that’s just how everybody does it.  I’ve heard moms tell me that they had to buy their kids a certain pair of shoes or jeans because that’s what the popular kids wear these days.  Sometimes I even start to use the rationalization myself when trying to weed through the current political climate surrounding my own romantic relationship with another woman, thinking “surely Illinois and the country has to legalize gay marriage because other states and countries are doing it.”  

It’s not until I find myself explaining to my impressionable toddler that she can’t have a juice box for lunch every day at preschool just because all the other kids get one, that I truly believe my own phrase that it doesn’t make it right just because everyone’s doing it.  My preschooler presses me for answers.  She wants to know why.  

“But WHY can’t I have a juice box, when Evan, Sophie, and Jameson get one?”

“Because it’s extra sugar you don’t need, Maddy,” I explain.

“But WHY don’t I need sugar, Mama?” she asks.

“Because too much sugar makes you wired, then tired, then have no energy,” I reply.

“But why do I need energy?” she asks honestly.

“You need energy to run and play and learn and live,” I tell her.  Finally she is satisfied.

Because so-and-so is doing such-and-such is NEVER a reason to do something.  It’s a lazy man’s response to a question he doesn’t want to truly consider.  It’s what we say when we’re not comfortable with our own feelings on an issue, or when we’re afraid to voice our opinions or buck the system.  It’s what we use when we know there’s more than what meets the eye on a certain issue.  It’s what we tell ourselves when we’re trying to trick ourselves into believing our actions are truly the best response to a scenario.  

I am not suggesting we judge someone for decisions they make.  I’m also not suggesting any of these scenarios are in fact good, bad, or even register on my personal scale of accountability.  I’m simply suggesting that we stop using the excuse that the Jones’ are doing it, so it must be fine.  Take ownership of your choices by actually thinking them through and sticking with your guns, instead of jumping on the bandwagon with the new normal.  Back your decisions up with actual reasons.  Tell me you’ve considered the pros and cons of a short sale and that this solution best works for you.  Tell me your particular divorce is different than most, so it requires the creative approach you’re utilizing.  Tell me you chase the boys because you truly like the boys.  Tell me that you have no freakin’ idea why Catholics perform all the hand movements in mass.  Tell me you like to spoil your child, or tell me it’s none of my damn business!  But please, don’t tell me it’s because everybody is doing it.