Kerry Clare recently wrote a piece about the prospect of not necessarily coveting a house or even lamenting the impossibility of owning one in Toronto any time soon. She wrote about being a happy renter in her city of choice, about living close enough for her husband to stroll to work, close enough to walk the kids to and from school and how everybody’s home at the same time to have dinner together.
You wouldn’t think this would inspire negative comments, but then you’d be silly. Because, it seems, everything inspires negative comments.
It’s actually stunning to watch, anthropologically, this need humans apparently have to take things personally. How almost anything can be interpreted as a slight against something else. In this case the fact that she’s coming out as a contented renter is really pissing off a lot of people who own, which begs the question why? If you’re happy in your world why does it trouble you that others are happy in their different worlds?
This isn’t about lawns or renting or owning, it’s much bigger. Sadly, the emotions triggered by the small stuff may suggest an intolerance also to the bigger stuff… race, class, gender, religion, age, and all those other isms.
So what is it? Are we wired to create divisions? How else to explain this constant sorting of them from us. And why don’t we get that there is no them? There’s only an us. Some of us like lawns. Others of us don’t. Some of us like bubble gum flavoured ice cream and others of us have taste. (Ah, see that? That’s exactly how easy it is…)
Also, don’t we get tired of it all? The sides, the I’m right you’re wrong, no I’m right you’re wrong, no me, no me… the incessant, uninformed griping about The Other. Do we ever get beyond it, smarter, more broad-minded? Or does our brain function max out at self-righteous smugness?
For the record, Shirley, (tho’ I doubt this makes us kindred spirits) I live in a house probably similar to yours. I didn’t always. For more than a decade I lived in Toronto in various apartments similar to Clare’s. I also lived in a council flat in Oxford, a pretty house on a hill in the Caribbean, an impossibly tiny bachelor in an Edmonton basement. Had you asked, while I was living in any of these spaces, I’d have told you I was content with my world, not just the structure of where I lived, but the lifestyle it allowed me to live.
Because that’s what it comes down to: are you happy with your life/style?
The point, Shirley, is that I would love it if we all stopped categorizing everyone. We are all of us ever-changing bits of various things based on where we’ve been and where we happen to be at the moment. Today’s renters are tomorrows owners. Or not. And vice versa. Who cares. We deal as best we can. And if someone’s managed to make their own version of lemonade (or bubble gum ice cream) then maybe we can celebrate that instead of telling them iced tea (or vanilla, obvs) is the way to go…
Finally, Shirley (are you still there?), I think it’s important you know that not everyone who lives in a house needs a lawnmower. And that you surely, Shirley, do not speak for me.
* The title for this post is a riff on Kerry Clare’s response to one of the comments her piece inspired and it amused me no end.