I've been very delinquent posting here recently. I've been running around with sporadic internet access lately and that's part of it. The other part is that a lot of the interesting stuff in my life is not necessarily public appropriate. I also think it's probably pretty boring to read about the stuff that is public appropriate. At any rate, I digress.
I'm back in MD after an extended period away. I've been catching up on conversations with a lot of friends. It might not surprise you to know that many of my friends live "alternative" lifestyles, considering I myself live an alternative lifestyle in some ways (though I tend to think of myself as pretty normal). For whatever reason, several of these recent conversations have centered on societal norms. I've been doing a lot of thinking about the subject.
Why the hell are so many of these norms still "normal" in this day and age? I'm not talking about societal norms that exist for obvious reasons. I mean, it seems pretty clear why murder is inappropriate in any society that expects to function. That is clearly a rational norm. But what about other things?
In one conversation, the topic that jump-started confusion over norms was marriage. Two of my friends who have an unconventional relationship recently got married. The decision to legally formalize their relationship had more to do with legal practicalities than anything else; they are not the kind of people who need to follow the expected conventional path in terms of marriage. Nor did they have a traditional wedding, reception, etc. For some reason, this seems to bother many people they know. Why? Why would this have any bearing on other people? It doesn't. And yet other people seem to feel the need to interject judgment on them for not doing it the "right" way. This behavior eludes me. Why does it matter if someone does all the traditional stuff? How two people choose to live their life together is really only relevant to the two people involved. So what if YOU want a traditional wedding...are you so unwilling to accept that not everyone might want the same things you do?
In another conversation, I was discussing the fact that I am not a traditional romantic. Don't get me wrong, I love romance, but what most people think of as "romance" is not me. I don't need a big engagement ring or elaborate proposal. As a matter of fact, I'd rather have the proposal be private than some big public declaration of the intent to marry. And as for the ring, it seems like there are better things to spend money on than a piece of bling. I don't need material gifts. I'd much rather celebrate special ocassions by, you know, actually spending time with the people I love. Spending time is more important to me than material goods. And yet so many people seem to think it means you don't love them if you don't buy someone roses on Valentine's day (I'd rather have you buy me Gerber daisies on a random day when you know I'm in a bad mood). Why do people judge other couples as "not in love" if they don't all engage in the accepted relationship practices? I have yet to figure this out. How the heck do you know what two people feel for each other or what is meaningful to them? Is it so hard to understand that people might be different?
I was very much raised to think that adults should be able to do their own thing. People celebrate life, death, happiness, and sadness in different ways. People grieve differently. Why should I force my understanding of any of these concepts on you? I'm so happy my family looks at life with this attitude. You don't want to come to so and so's funeral because you want to grieve alone? Great. No one is going to judge you. Let us know if you need anything. No one that I care about is going to get snippy because I chose not to have a garter toss at my wedding, but hey, if you want to do that at your wedding, I'm not going to look down on you. Do your own thing. Do what is important to you.
There are so many important things in the world. Life and death things. Perhaps the world would be a better place if people focused more on the important things and less on the bullshit. Perhaps people should focus more on what is important to those who they care about than what society thinks those people should or should not be doing.
This is one of those things that I don't think I'm ever going to get. There seem to be a lot of those things, and most of them have to do with social traditions and norms that do not seem to be based on any kind of rationality.