Saturday, June 20


There is very little in this world that bothers me as much as entitlement.

When I am its presence, its putrid smell that nauseates in an instant nearly knocks me to the ground. As I will not surrender to the wretching and weakness, my response is to fight back. An instant rage replaces the nausea in the interest of self-preservation, and I rise screaming. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.

Today, I am regretting so many of my choices. I am livid at the vivid demarcations created solely by economic status. I am furious with myself for my inability to counter the overt and pounding messages of the media and the more covert messages of the neighborhood in which I live. I am angry at myself for not being able to counter them not only in her, but in myself as well.

My daughter is ashamed to invite friends to her house. Because it is small. No, she doesn't say this, but yesterday, an expression told all. And then there is the constant--and I mean constant--envy of other people's houses, other people's "stuff", other peoples families. The chatter is nearly non-stop. The fantasizing, the what-if's, the mood that goes from gloomy to elated when there is discussion of going to a friend's house--well, some friends' houses--for a playdate. I can look forward to the ad nauseum reporting when she returns.

She is ashamed to invite friends to her house. Because it is small. Because it is in a neighborhood in which small houses, one by one, have been razed, and replaced with McMansions, enormous houses that all look the same and all have the same front yard. Because her friends at school---some of them--the ones she fixates on, anyway--live in said McMansions. Because she watches obnoxious shows on television about children who live in five star hotels and teenagers who live in absolute luxury with no apparent source of income (and no parents, natch). Because, in moments, I am also ashamed to invite people over, because I am still grieveing for having given up a home in which friends rightly and frequently remarked on how "comfortable" it was, a place where people could stretch out and make themselves at home, which they frequently did. Because among my artistic talents and strengths, an ability to make a home comfy and beautiful is not one of them, although I recall a time when it was. Where did that get lost?

We live in this neighborhood because the schools are the best around (in a high-income community, what a shock). We live in this house because it is what we can afford, and barely so, especially since the rent went up this month. We live in this area because there are no sidewalks and there are children everywhere riding bikes in the street, and not coming in until dark, just as childhood should be. We live in this place becuase of my brief idiotic assumption that children in this community, with their privilege and their economic stability, would somehow make good friends--as if those things have anything to do with one another. As if they aren't, in fact, just as likely to be mutually exclusive.

What is the matter with me, that I have been unable to impart any sense of gratitude, that I have fallen prey, allowed my child to fall prey, to the materialism and values that I abhor, that I sought to avoid? What is it I have sold out by accepting the status quo--that good schools come with money, that education is something that is bought, not given, despite the illusion and rhetoric of equality and justice? What is it in me, from childhood, that has bought into the myth?

What have I done?

And how do I undo it?

1 comment:

Camlin said...

I was afraid to enroll my daughter in our local, city school. In Ontario we rank our schools, and that school has a lower ranking - for many reasons, none of which has to do with quality of education. We live in the city because I hate the suburbs, and I can't afford to live in the country. What she gets here that she would not get in a suburban or rural school is a picture of diversity. Not all children can afford to eat breakfast. There are rainbows of colours and ideologies and sexual orientations amongst her peers (or the families of her peers) as well as the teachers. Some kids live in apartments and townhouses, some live in houses that their parents are lucky enough to own. At least in part. My daughter is coming to understand that her life, even though she would prefer more Littlest Pet Shops and Webkinz and Hannah Montana (ugh!) is by and large one of priveledge. We have a home. We eat good food. We are able to make healthy choices about what we do and how we spend our time.

The streets aren't safe for bikes. Young children don't walk through our neighbourhood on their own. In the village where I work, bikes and lone kids abound. Almost everyone there owns a house, and two cars, every family has two parents. Most houses have swimming pools or trampolines or both. I would be a pariah there - an apartment-dwelling, pagan lesbian. And so, by default, would my daughter. In considering where to live, I gave up a few things, but we've both gained so much by being in an urban area (in a small city).

Do you like where you live? What would you change? How would you make it happen?