Whenever I’m having a particularly bad day volunteering at the Humane Society, I will often joke to someone that the committee whose job it is to make my life difficult must have met recently. In my mind, I envision a group of people sitting solemnly around the table, saying things like, “Well, Ann has finally memorized the door code, so that means it’s time to change it.” Of course nothing of the sort is happening, there are just times when it feels like it, because there are always all sorts of changes and rules that I didn’t come up with and that I don’t particularly like.
But the Humane Society is certainly not the only place where I sometimes feel that others are setting the standards that I am expected to follow, even when I don’t like them one little bit. For instance, who decided that in order to be considered physically attractive in our culture, a woman must be slim, long-legged, large-busted and have no hair on most of the places on her body that hair naturally grows? Real women come in all shapes and sizes, and honestly, we don’t always have the time to shave our legs each and every day. If I were the one in charge of determining our cultural standards of female beauty, it would be a very different thing than what I see staring back at me from the glossy pages of fashion magazines.
I live in an older house, with separated rooms, light hardwood floors and maple cabinets in the kitchen. And every single time I tune into a program on HGTV, I realize that my house, my beloved house that my husband and I have spent years renovating, is completely out of style. Someone, somewhere, decided that we all need “open concept” in our houses, which means that those pesky walls must be knocked down so we can live in one giant, single room, and that all floors must be dark hardwood and that maple cabinets are “so yesterday.”
I’m not sure who these people are who get to decide what’s “in” and “out” for the rest of us, but I can tell you that I’ve decided I want to be one of them. I want to be the person who determines the clothing fashions, so that I can make sure that the clothes that flatter the aging, pear-shaped figure are the latest trend. I want to make traditional homes (with lots of walls and original floors) cutting edge again, and I want the authors I like to have their books on the best-sellers list, and while I’m at it, I think I’d like our society to value maturity over youth.
Mostly, I want to stop feeling hopelessly out-of-the-loop because I don’t dress, look, think, or act exactly the way our current culture thinks I should, right at this very moment. Just for a little while, I want it to be my turn to decide what’s hot and what’s not.
But since that’s probably not going to happen, maybe I’ll just settle for ignoring all those nameless, faceless people who are setting the standards and live by my own values instead. Sometimes the simplest solution is also the best.