Have you ever noticed that some of the most terrifying mothers out there are the super-pumped eco-friendly ones? They’re like MEAN. But not with their mouths. Only their EYES…
But they still say it:
What? You don’t dress your kid in all organic hemp?!?!? What is wrong with you? They should call CPS.
Are you driving a freaking EXPEDITION? What are you, Satan? Where are your horns? Where’s your hybrid? Your Prius? Your bicycle, Goddamnit.
Do I detect a PLASTIC BAG in our presence? I’m sorry. We can’t be friends.
Um, your baby is holding a non-wooden rattle. Aren’t you going to DO SOMETHING? DO SOMETHING NOW BEFORE SHE DIES!
Not all of them. Obviously. But some. You know what I’m talking about.
Sometimes I feel this grip of fear when I pack plastic Pampers in my bag, headed to a mother’s group, for fear of the eyeballs that may bore down into my soul — oh my god. The landfills. THE LANDFILLS PEOPLE.
And I know they’re right. But still. No need to be a dick.
Some of us are horrible people who can’t be eco-friendly ALL THE TIME.
And some of us are perfect.
You know who you are.
Recently I Googled “eco-friendly party favors” because Rocket’s 7th birthday is coming up and I would like to not buy a plastic goody bag full of plastic crap made in China that costs too much and nobody wants or plays with anyway. I’m trying to do my part, people. I am.
Anyway, I found a blog post on the topic and read through the comments. One of the comments was this one:
“NO, my son does NOT come home with green favors, not even from parties given by hybrid-driving, organic eating folks. And, I’m somewhat well known for my “Just Say No to Cheap Plastic Crap” post about environmentally unfriendly party favors. So I just stand there at the parties, trying not to look too exasperated or to be impolite…judge not….but yikes, it makes me crazy what my son brings home.”
And I was thinking “holy hell, lady. That’s so uncool. But I know you. I’ve met you. And you suck.” and then I thought ” Mother Earth called. She wants you to stop being such a douchebag.” But I changed it to “asshole” because I thought maybe that’s more appropriate.
Because here’s the thing. Even if your cause is hip and noble and right, if you walk around belittling and dehumanizing people for not backing your cause completely – or not doing it well enough – you’re still a dick.
And in my opinion, there is nobody more annoying than an enlightened dick.
Because it’s the jerk shrouded in education, depth, profundity. It’s Asshole with an Edge. It’s mean people with data and goodness and “progressiveness” backing their game.
I just vomited a little in my mouth.
Standing there at somebody’s birthday party clothed in an impenetrable air of superiority, looking down on the miserable specimens handing out crap plastic party favors, makes this woman part of the very problem she claims to be working against. To me, there is no difference between the snobbery displayed in the materialistic label-whoring types who figure earth can go fuck itself because we’re all here to grab what we can and die… and that of the super-powered eco-friendly attachment parenting Nazis. It’s self-centeredness and judgment and superiority. Period.
Allow me to illustrate:
Woman 1: “Oh my God. Your purse isn’t Prada. Your car is cheap and old. Your kid is dirty and dressed in Old Navy. I’m so much better than you.”
Woman 2: “Oh my God. Your purse isn’t recycled materials. Your car is not a Prius. Your kid is eating non-organic food and wearing Old Navy. I’m so much better than you.”
You see? Same damn thing.
New label. Same douchebaggery. New angle. Same ego.
And I happen to have evidence that the good Mother Earth thinks these people are douchebags. How do I know? Because she told me.
She told me by pouring her rains on the eco-friendly and the polluters alike. Her flowers don’t shun the faces of those who choose “plastic” at the check-out line. Her oceans cool people who eat fast food and Whole Foods, without regard. And her mountains call to the SUV drivers just as clearly as to the Prius drivers in North Face and Tevas, eating homemade granola from locally sourced oats. Or whatever.
Oh yeah, I said it. I geeked out on you, completely. Damn hippie. But I love this planet. I believe the earth is the source of my soul and my spirit and someday I’ll return to her arms. To me there is no division between the words “god” and “earth” and “love.”
What? You didn’t know I was a total and complete freaking hippie? That’s probably because there’s Dawn on my kitchen sink and not the biodegradable stuff. Whatever. Dawn gets the stains out of my wool carpet. DON’T HATE.
Is it hypocritical for me to say I love the earth while driving an SUV? Maybe. But check this out. I’m also just a flawed human. I am hypocritical and contradictory and confused and lost and just trying to make small changes one minute at a time, slowly do a little more a little better. And in the process, I’m trying not to be an asshole.
I have a friend, Penny, who is very passionate about her family not being exposed to chemicals. Rather than use plastic bags, she like made these wrapper things out of muslin and beeswax…she’s created all these super inventive ways to not use chemicals. But you know what? When she tells me about the shit she’s doing I feel inspired, enlightened, empowered. Like I’m being taught something, shown something new and exciting and compelling. She doesn’t judge me for using Ziplock. She doesn’t stare at me in disdain when I whip out the Cheetos. She has chosen to live her life in a certain way and if I want to hear about it, she tells me about it, without hatred or pretense.
And that, I think, is what makes change. We do our best in our small circles, create ripples in the waters around us, lead by example, teach with patience. And when we’re standing there at a party and some kid hands our kid a goody bag full of junk, and he’s smiling and proud to be giving that gift, we take it, with genuine joy in our hearts, because we get to be there with humanity and live and receive…and we redouble our efforts. We love a little harder. We devote ourselves more to the cause we know to be true and right. And we trust that our efforts are making some difference, somewhere. Or they will, someday.
Cause I’ll tell you what. I want to be more like my friend. I hear about her super interesting solutions for bathing and cleaning and eating and I’m like “Dude. Janelle. You should try that. She’s telling you how to do it. Try it. See what happens.”
Mother Earth called about her, too. She said “Rock on, sista’. That’s what I’m talking about.”
Really, it all gets back to my trusty comment policy and life philosophy: Try not to be a dick.
And by the way, I found a great idea for cheap, “green” party favors. We’re painting little clay pots during the party and putting plants in them for the kids to take home.
Take that, evil party-favor lady.
Rachael@MogantoshThursday, 6 September, 2012 at 14:38
Props to Penny. She sounds cool.
Sarah O'MalleyThursday, 6 September, 2012 at 14:43
I live in Portlandia so I live what you said EVERYDAY! I feel like I cannot go to a BBQ without waving a BANNER that my meal was all locally grown, organic, cage free, happy, successful, wheat, dairy, taste, calorie, fun free! When I meet someone new at one of those events I am greeted with, “Nice to meet you, what dish did you bring?.” we do like to bring this AWFUL beer called “Game Day Ice” and add it to the bucket of expensive, local micro brews,just to mix things up.
MarisaThursday, 6 September, 2012 at 14:45
So true! I do my best, but sometimes, my best isn’t someone elses best, or whatever. We need more Pennys!
MarisaThursday, 6 September, 2012 at 14:47
I’m also wondering, is the world filling up with assholes? Or have there always been a bunch of assholes and as we get older we just get sick of their crap. It seems like there are more assholes the older I get.
PaigeThursday, 6 September, 2012 at 14:49
I think they’re just different kinds of assholes now…
PaigeThursday, 6 September, 2012 at 14:48
okay, the plants thing is really awesome. when I was little, I got a little planter that had a seedling in it and planted it in my grandparents’ backyard. and almost 15 years later it was still there, but it was taller than the house next door. so freakin’ cool.
Jenn KDThursday, 6 September, 2012 at 15:05
This is funny to me because I am the hybrid driving mom who puts lots of energy towards making food for the fam that is real and didn’t come from a box or a lab. I actually feel the opposite – that I’m constantly judged for not giving my kids soda, pop-tarts, fast food, etc. (which they get plenty of everywhere we go). Like you, I have a small group of friends that are all over the Eco-spectrum shall we call it and we just find each other fascinating with our different choices. If only everyone could just be cool to each other. I think we’d find we’re not all that different.
Keep spreading the no asshole word, Janelle!!
KrystleSaturday, 23 February, 2013 at 4:31
This is fascinating because i’ve never, in my years of parenting, met another parent who APPLAUDS feeding kids crap. Sometimes, the closest thing to feed my darling son is some mcDonald’s fries. OH NO! BUT HE’LL BE FAT IF HE EATS EVEN ONE FRY!!! TAKE HER AWAY!!!! Maybe people don’t like your approach, or maybe people feel insecure around you if you make it such a point to point our how you make food that is “real” while they do not. I’m not sure. I don’t know you personally. BUt i can guarantee, no one ever said to you, “Take that carrot out of your kids mouth, you nutter, and feed him/her a candy bar instead.” That’s just not reasonable, and I don’t think anyone believes it.
PrairiebabymamaTuesday, 5 March, 2013 at 20:30
I’m with Jenn KD (interesting name for a home-cookin’ mama!). While it is true that it is rare for someone to brag about feeding their kid junk, moms like Jenn and me do get flack for trying to keep their family fed with real food. It starts with, “why don’t you just give your baby a bottle?” to “why don’t you just give your baby rice cereal?” to “my baby was eating everything by age one” when you try to explain your food introduction schedule. I had friends feed my son stuff behind my back before he was ready just to get a rise out of me, and grandparents blatantly ignoring my request to go easy on the gluten. I don’t want my son to face the same issues my husband and I face with food sensitivities and weight. He will have plenty of time to discover junk food, after his gut flora is well established.
Erica / Northwest Edible LifeThursday, 6 September, 2012 at 15:39
Yes, as you make totally clear the real problem is Old Navy. I think we should all stand around and point and snicker at people walking out of Old Navy.
–>Common enemy, people, THAT’S the answer. 😉
Loved this post. At the risk of rash promotionalism, it reminded my of one I wrote about my little sub-set of the greenie movement called Don’t Be An Urban Homesteader Asshole. You can check it out here, if you want: http://www.nwedible.com/2011/02/dont-be-urban-homesteader-asshole.html
MelanieThursday, 6 September, 2012 at 15:46
Love the pot and plant idea! So writing this down for next year’s birthday favors. This year I sewed crayon rolls and will hand them out with notebooks. It’s fun and it *might* keep the kids quiet in the car.
Oh, and I agree with everything else. Don’t be a dick, people.
StaceyThursday, 6 September, 2012 at 16:11
Yeah, I don’t know. Obviously, being judgmental is basically being an asshole, yes. But I think it’s ok to experience despair over the ignorant actions of others when you know how, collectively, they really are spelling disaster for the future of the planet on which your children have to live. There’s a difference between thinking of others (your kids, your neighbors, your fellow human beings) and living your life accordingly, and thinking only of yourself and living your life accordingly, right? That makes it sound pretty black and white, though, when as you eloquently explain it’s not really black and white.
As far as being judged, try being a bottle-feeding mother in Davis. I think that she is the most judged type of person in town.
StaceyThursday, 6 September, 2012 at 16:26
Just wanted to add – since I’ve become a mom, I’ve become WAY less judgmental in general. But I’ve also become a lot sadder at how the world works and the general selfishness I see around me. I always hope that we leave the world a better place for our children, and I feel upset when I see people who seem to feel completely the opposite. Am I being judgmental? I don’t know. But my feelings don’t derive from some sense of superiority, which has to mean something.
ClaireThursday, 6 September, 2012 at 17:05
balm for my aching soul
JessicaThursday, 6 September, 2012 at 18:04
I like this. A lot. I was at Target once standing there looking at bathroom cleaners and I picked up CLOROX and I could feel the woman next to me assaulting me with her eyes. She finally she spoke up and told me all about how bad this stuff was (etc., etc.). I mean I KNOW all of this stuff already but I wasn’t about to pay $9 for a bottle of earthy “cleaner” to scrub my toilets just to please a stranger. She was polite enough, but still. Mind your business. You haven’t seen the current state of my bathroom. 🙂
Lol, Don’t Be a Dick!
AmberThursday, 6 September, 2012 at 19:01
Hi there, I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of months now and I haven’t commented before, but i really enjoy it. And I feel compelled to post now because I completely agree with you. And not just about the current subject – “eco” mom’s. I think most mothers try to do the best they can within their own scope, whether they breast or bottle feed, use cloth diapers or pampers, cook most their own food or buy take-out.. etc. And I see the judgement going on no matter what the decision is. It always makes me sad because there are so many things we can be passionate about as moms, without being judgemental. When we miraculously find those kindred spirits – it’s not usually about what kind of organic baby food you fed your kids. It’s about a connection. And we deprive ourselves of those connections by being so judgemental. And we NEED those connections. It’s so important to feel like we are not alone trying to raise our kids the best we can, and have someone to bitch to when the stupid washing machine breaks, or your 2 year old throws his favorite toy through your new TV or whatever.
Anyways.. this is rambling. But I really like your honesty and your style.
AlyciaThursday, 6 September, 2012 at 23:06
UGH!! I’m surrounded by those moms here.
How about this, people, why don’t you be you and let me be me? Don’t judge me for using clorox rather than your Earth friendly, crazy overpriced cleaners and I won’t say anything about the fact that your “green”, organic, unbleached hemp fibers wearing child has been digging in his nose and feasting on the spoils for the past ten minutes while you are too busy giving me the stink eye in the cleaning aisle?
We all do the best that we can, and while I enjoy hearing about and learning new ways to make changes to live a little better, don’t get all pissy when you (you in general, not you specific Janelle) see me at the commissary and I’ve forgotten my re-usable bags in my trunk and am too lazy to walk back and get them.
Again, you be you and I’m going to be me. We need t-shirts to start the “Don’t be a Dick” revolution!!
Emily WahlFriday, 7 September, 2012 at 8:43
I am lucky that around here most “natural ” mom types are also so postmodern that they would never dream of judging others for their choices. The only thing they deem worth judging is probably using a baby bjorn instead of an ergo/sling. Or maybe telling your child no…oh and being a Christian instead of a pantheist….crap. nevermind.
Calamity JaneFriday, 7 September, 2012 at 11:53
As someone who has made (no kidding) beeswax sandwich wraps, out of an old sheet no less, used them for some months and gone back to Zippies, I LOVE this post. Total kick ass fabulousness, as usual mutha.
Rebekah CFriday, 7 September, 2012 at 13:24
Love it. You’re right, it’s the same, superficial, superior disdain. Just pumping your cause because it makes you feel better about yourself rather than because you want to change the world. People like that make me want to stab them in the forehead with a spork. UGH. But not really. Cuz I’m non-violent n stuff. 🙂
CorinneSaturday, 8 September, 2012 at 8:03
I totally want a friend like Penny, sounds like a good addition to life.
BOYYAH to the awesome party favours, love the idea!
Rock on sista!
PennySaturday, 8 September, 2012 at 17:33
Oh God! Thanks for the accolades (and the reality check.) Sometimes I wonder “am I over the top with this plastic/chemical thing?” Truth is, I was so petrified after cancer, I just had to have some control somewhere. And now I have been doing it so long, it has just become second nature. I used to be teased, now for some reason it’s “trendy”. If I ever do fall off the cliff Janelle… I’d expect you to put me back from the dark side!! Hugs my friend. 🙂
PennySaturday, 8 September, 2012 at 19:52
That was “pull me back from the dark side. ” I’m the typo queen.
AleciaSunday, 16 September, 2012 at 15:37
Love! Linking you on my blog!
ChristinaSunday, 16 September, 2012 at 16:07
Ha love it I live in Portlandia as well I do what I can, where I can. There is nothing I hate worse than someone looking down their nose at me cause it does not meet their standards. Be nice, share info kindly crab my interest with your excitement. It goes a lot further with me.
AceMonday, 17 September, 2012 at 6:34
This post — witty and well-written — hinges on the classic communication challenge of discerning the sender’s intent from the receiver’s subjective perceptual framework.
The given examples of eco-condescension seem to lack behavioral specificity. They come down to a “look” that is perceived to “say” something that prompts the judgement that the looker is an asshole.
Surely there is a kernel of truth here, but the premise is also fraught with the risk of misattributing to malice what may actually be the perceiver’s own conscience speaking. As we navigate myriad everyday choices and struggle to balance expedience with more noble values, it can be comforting to discharge our own tension onto others.
This is not to discredit the writer’s point, just to offer a perspective I haven’t yet seen in the comments.
KimberlyFriday, 28 September, 2012 at 22:08
I get the intention of this post, but at the same time I feel the need to defend the moms that you are judging to be judgmental. I am sure that there are moms out there who are eco-snobs. However, I think that for many of us, we are more eco-panicked than eco-snobby. For example, my family and I are really worried about climate change and we have made a lot of difficult choices to try to lessen our climate footprint. We make and remake these choices every day. And believe me there are days when I am huffing up the hill on my bike towing a 40 pound child when I am PISSED at the moms zooming right past me in their Expeditions. Because I am seriously worried about our collective future. The future of your children AND my children. And I know the moms in my neighborhood KNOW about climate change (we’re in Seattle,not the Bible belt). But they can care-freely drive around in their big cars while am here working and worrying so hard in a vain attempt to save the planet from impending doom. While lugging my 40 pound child up the hill. I just don’t get how one can love the Earth as I do and not be doing every big and small thing you can to try to stop this crisis from coming. And just like you said, the same rain falls on all of us. Or doesn’t fall at all on any of us. We are in this together and if we don’t all truly work every day to be our best selves, none of us is going to leave a lovely, healthy planet for our children. So,if that sounds judgmental, then yes I am guilty of that. But mainly it’s coming from a place of loving this planet and not wanting it to burn up with wildfire and drought. And not wanting anyone’s children to live through famine or extreme weather or rising ocean levels. And of being really scared. And of feeling completely depressed that if the people who understand there is a problm and profess to love the earth aren’t willing to pay more for earth-friendly cleaners or buy smaller cars or use cloth diapers, how are we going to convince middle America (and China, who is on a path to emulate the West in all the wrong ways) to make the really hard choices that are going to give us a prayer of averting climate disaster? Judgmental? Maybe. But self-centered asshole? I hope not. Just really worried.
luckymamaFriday, 28 September, 2012 at 22:38
I need those plastic bags from Dollar General, to wrap my toddler’s disposable diapers in. But, I compost and garden! LOL. Excellent article. I live in Indiana, so the pressure here’s not too bad. I don’t think I could live in Portland, with five kids and all the plastic I own – er, recycle – my house would get Organic- egged or something.
Linda RobertsFriday, 12 October, 2012 at 8:00
WonderWomen, OMG! This article could have, and should have been written during MY generation…you know, the 70s when Green was just getting a foothold. We were all novices to the bread-baking, granola-making, natural fiber-wearing, chemical-free cleaning, home-birthing, cloth-diapering lifestyle. Hey…after Woodstock we had to get the ground-in mud out of our tie-dye somehow, right? ;o) We had our haters on both sides too.
I’ll admit, 40 years later I have kept some, dumped some, and forgotten some (yes, the memory is going…), and I am still learning some-but I am constantly delighted to see all of you Moms discovering new ways of planet stewardship. Keep learning, discovering, and loving! Keep the hating at bay. Be gentle to one another. You bring back memories of yesterday, and you restore my faith in today, and tomorrow.
LanaFriday, 9 November, 2012 at 9:57
I am SOOOO glad I don’t have to deal with this anxiety causing judgement. No thanks!
I am from Vt, which is probably just as bad as where y’all are from, and I am so glad I left.
I’ve been in Austin for 10 yrs. We feel good that we recycle almost everything. The city is trying to pass an ordinance banning plastic bags. Fine. There is a free composting program..you compost and get supplies for free. Fine. I never feel judged in my actions. Ever. Most everyone seems to just go about their business. We don’t even talk about what eco frinedly stuff we buy but I see the hand soap in people’s bathrooms. If you want to spend a fortune on household cleaners. Freakin knock yourself out! I am waaaaay too busy working full time and caring for a 5 year old and 5 month old to make this a priority in my life. I can barely CLEAN the house (ok, it’s never all clean at once…EVER), let alond pine over which cleaner I use.
Live and let live!
TinaTuesday, 22 January, 2013 at 6:55
*applauds* No words needed.
JemimaFriday, 15 February, 2013 at 12:44
I tried not doing party bags at my two year olds party, thought they were too young and no one needed more plastic trinkets, one slightly older sibling of a guest threw a tantrum about it that I still havnt recovered from and I found parents looking expectantly at me when I said goodbye and thankyou for coming and handed them a slice of cake!
MidsummerMamaWednesday, 24 July, 2013 at 10:19
Dear Janelle: I just discovered you. I think I am in love with you ! I am a new mom of twins, and determined to avoid all assholes-and assholism-as best as I can. Rock on, girl! Thank you for writing !!!
AimeeWednesday, 8 July, 2015 at 13:23
But wait. Can you tell me how you use the Dawn to get the stains out of the carpet?