Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My UnAmerican Activities Report

If there is ever again a House UnAmerican Activities Commission, I will probably be called before it. Not because I'm a Communist. We're over that now. No, they will probably be interested in some other odd choices that make me feel like an outsider, even while they feel very right for me. I'll just get them out in the open now, so that if I'm hustled into the back of a markedly unmarked car, you'll know why.

Firstly, the Super Bowl was last weekend. And I didn't even know it til two days beforehand. It sneaks up on me every year because I have zero interest in sports. I follow no game, no team, and no players with the exception of my son who, in defiance of direct genetic influence, loves sports supremely. As I've always told him, I'm his fan, not a sports fan. He's cool with that, but other people have given me that uncomprehending look. How could I not know about one of the biggest games and television events of the year? Won't I watch it at least for the commercials?

That last question leads to my next oddity: I don't watch TV. I haven't had cable since I divorced it in 2001, and even now that we live with my parents-in-law and their big old flat screen, I don't really pay much attention to it. I've never thought it worth spending money for, frankly. Plus I have bad associations from life with my father and my former husband, both of whom had the thing on constantly. I've got some greater philosophical objections as well--backed up by science, I might add--but I'll spare you the sermon. Mostly I'd rather live life than watch other people live theirs.

Another weird habit I've taken up recently is driving below the speed limit on the interstate. One day when I was feeling particularly laid back, I tried it. Then I read in a magazine that driving slower uses less fuel. That got my attention. (Gas was over $3.00 a gallon then.) I get two complete trips to the city for culinary class, instead of one and a half, when I set the cruise control at 65 mph instead of 70. Plus I rarely have to change lanes. Everyone else is rushing on by me, while I'm cruising along feeling relaxed and smug. And the difference in travel time? About three minutes. I am so hooked.

I also don't drink pop anymore. Ever. That must be really unAmerican because surely you've noticed the size of the soft drink aisles everywhere. I never really tolerated it very well anyway, since I couldn't burp until I was 40 (I told you I was a weirdo). Then I was ordered to give up all caffeine for the duration of pregnancy and nursing. After about 18 months without the stuff, I couldn't handle the syrupy sweetness--not even my formerly beloved Mountain Dew. I tried, one hot day when I couldn't find bottled water at a crafts fair, to share one with my husband in order to avoid dehydration. I didn't make it past three sips. My days with liquid candy are over.

Then there's my debt phobia. I haven't had much in my life, but it's mostly been mine free and clear as soon as I could make it so. I do have student loans coming due soon (I'll pay them back ASAP, like we did my husband's) and one credit card--that I never use. I kept it for emergencies, but there hasn't been one for about three years now. We don't have a car payment and don't intend to have one ever again (although we will stomach a mortgage, the only good debt to have, to build our dream house.) When we bought our truck, we traded in my Miata (goodbye Mimi) and paid the balance in cash. It's amazing how agreeable they are to your counter offer when you also offer to write them a check today.

Oh, and I rarely buy anything in all the aisles that fill the middle of the grocery store either--the ones where all the food products live. I shop mostly from the perimeter where the actual foods tend to be offered. Maybe that's why I've been feeding 2 1/2 of us (my son is only with us half the time) on about $50.00-60.00 a week in groceries for years now. I've had some pretty amazed looks from friends about that feat, too. Buying real food and cooking it is cheaper and better for you, but apparently not that common judging from the expanding mid section of my local grocery stores.

Nor do I have any ambitions that involve a big house. We've been living in about 1000 square feet for the last six years, and we're hoping to keep our dream home to about 1500, which is practically tiny according to the plan books, in case you haven't looked lately. All we want is the space we'll actually use. Keep in mind that our 1000-square-foot cottage used to be an average house when it was built in the late 1930's. My space standards are apparently from another era--maybe because I've lived in old houses all but about two years of my life.

Oh, and I hate SUV's and minivans, and celebrity gossip, and upwardly mobile, have-it-all-right-now lifestyles in which you work yourself to death to buy stuff, and...

Well, I've said quite enough. The point here is that I don't feel like a typical American in many ways. I feel as if I'm just a little out of the mainstream. Maybe it's in my head, a leftover perception from my religious day camp refugee upbringing, when I really felt like an outcast. Or maybe I am a little odd. It's OK with me now if I am. One of the surprise gifts of getting older is that I care less and less what other people think of me, and much more what I and my God think of me. I'm happy over there in the slow lane--in my seven-year-old, paid-for car--sipping my water, and listening to NPR, when I'm not daydreaming about having chickens and someday walking our half-mile gravel road to the mailbox with a dog trailing at my heels.

If I'm grilled by the patriotic review council and accused of anything, it will probably be for failing to support that very American notion of the ever expanding economy. Apparently I just don't eat, drink, want, watch, work, or buy enough to fuel the infernal machine. I am way too small for this "bigger is better" country. And boy do I have some thoughts about that idea. But that's for later.

Although it's been fun ranting, I know that I'm not the only weirdo out there. The world of books and the internet have shown me that I'm not alone in wanting a life that's slower, smaller, simpler, saner, and more sustainable in all kinds of ways. It's a little unAmerican right now, but we'll keep at it. Who knows. Maybe someday soon America will fall back and join us.


Amy said...

Well I am right there with you on alot of those things. Haven't had cable in over 5 years, 1500 sq ft is my ideal size for a house(though our house is 2500 sq ft but we bought it for the land. If I did a new build 1500 would be perfect) I feed my family of 5 on $60-70 a week. I do not drink Soda. Though we do have some debt ,morgatge and car, we keep it to the bare minimum. We d not have balances on our credit cards. I think it is very American though. At least the kind of America I want and that used to be. With the exception that I did know when the Super Bowl was on and has some great friends over to watch it. And I love my SUV with 3 kid in car seats and living on a farm it is the perfect mix of space for the family and power for pulling the horse trailer and hauling hay. Though because I only leave my house 2-3 times in a week I probably use way less gas than most. Seems like we have lots in common.

Dave Flora said...

Hi Amy!
I try not to comment too much on my wife's posts (ain't they grand?), I cannot resist reinforcing the point that until age 40, Ann had never voluntarily burped. Amazing. I remember the look on her face when she succumbed to her first one quite by accident. "Burps have taste?" she grimaced.
All true.

Ann said...

Let's not take my rant entirely seriously, OK? Actually, while I'm not big on city SUV's that never see dirt, country ones are practical. We may have to acquire one with four-wheel-drive to get down the driveway whenever we get to live on our land.
And you're right: Americans used to be more frugal. Here's hoping we go backward to go forward.

Our Piece of Country Paradise said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Our Piece of Country Paradise said...

Oh not too seriously :) I mean you did talk about burping so how serious could it be...haha. I enjoyed the post and think it is a bit strange about the burping thing but we all have our issues right ;) My parents have been married for 35 years and they swear they have never farted in front of each other. They live together(obviosly) and also work together. Now that is crazy...lol. That is so awesome you are working toward your dream of moving to the country!

Sorry this is what I wrote before but my name didn't come up just my blog link so I wanted to sign my name so you knew it was from me.