I asked Deus Ex Machina this morning what the definition of passive-aggressive is.
Last night, after everyone had gone to bed, and I was just surfing around, reading my favorite blogs and looking at the news, I came across this article about a very frugal young lady (she's nineteen), who had been entering 4-H contests since she was four years old and had been saving her winnings all of those years. She'd intended to pay for college, but her parents made an agreement with her, and she found herself with all of this money. When she pondered, aloud, what to do with the money, her father suggested she buy a house ... which she did. She's still living with her parents and earning $450 per month from rent for the house for which she paid cash and owns outright.
I think hers is a great story, and so I printed it off ... and I left the printed copy on the table so that other people who live in my house and might not be quite as frugal as she, might see the story and, maybe, take a lesson about what's possible if one is careful and thoughtful rather than wreckless and spontaneous.
When I was her age, I wish I'd had someone like her as an example. I wish I'd known about The Tightwad Gazette, too, because I could have used that advice. So, yes, leaving the article on the table is a not-so-subtle hint, but it's also a reminder to me about the kind of habits I wish to cultivate in myself.
I asked Deus Ex Machina if leaving the article on the table as a not-so-subtle hint was passive-aggressive behavior on my part. He said it wasn't.
I was concerned, though, because of a different incident.
By way of pre-explanation, it has been shown that people tend to most hate the characteristics we see in others that are most like the characteristics we hate in ourselves. That is, maybe I am passive-aggressive, which is why passive-aggressive people bother me so much.
What sparked my concern was having some dinner guests recently.
The fact that I'm a hardcore, staunch, and vocal locavore isn't a secret. I make no bones about how I feel about certain foods. In particular, soda is on my black list, along with any non-local meat (but especially pork and beef, which unless I know the farmer who raised the animal is almost assuredly from a CAFO - and I won't eat CAFO meat, and so, unless I know where it's from, I don't eat it), any out-of-season fruit that will grow in Maine, but which we find fresh, in the grocery, in December (and I won't buy strawberries, blueberries or apples, unless I know they're from Maine), and anything that has high fructose corn syrup or any sort of benzoate ... which pretty much cancels out any processed food.
I've developed quite a reputation for the foods I won't eat, for the places I won't shop, and for the appliances I won't use. It's gotten so bad, in fact, that I'm often ridiculed, often openly ... well, not openly, but rather passive-aggressively by people who feel that my philosophies are a wee-bit stringent and my stance on certain things is a little too rigid.
So, we had some dinner guests recently, and one of them was standing in the kitchen as I was preparing the main dish, which consisted of eggs from my chickens, the last of last year's garlic and sauteed greens from my garden, and rice. I was adding the cooked rice to the frying pan full of eggs and greens, and my guest said, "So, does rice grow in Maine?"
I had to pause for a second, and I looked up at this guest who was sporting as innocent a look as possible, but I knew that under that look was the "see, you're not so perfect" attitude that I know this person has, especially when it comes to believing that I have been caught with my philosophical pants down.
Never mind that the meal had local eggs, local greens, and a meat side dish - all of which were local and much of which was grown by me, but the fact that it had rice, which doesn't grow in Maine, made me hypocritical in my guest's eyes.
What bothers me most about the incident is that I've never claimed that we have a completely local diet. I have always been very up-front about the fact that we still eat bread, about the fact that we eat out a lot, about the fact that we're still (too) dependent on coffee, tea, and sugar. I didn't think I was coming across with a holier-than-thou attitude, but I guess I have been.
But, in my defense, the people who are quickest to point out where I'm failing in our quest for the perfectly sustainable lifestyle are those who have made no changes at all, or who believe change isn't necessary. I guess if I were living their life, but claiming to live the life I am living, and I got caught in a lie, then I would deserve it, but that's not the case. I really do use my clothesline - every time. We really do eat eggs from our backyard flock, and we really don't buy eggs from the grocery store - even when our flock isn't laying (we do without eggs during that time). I really did make my own laundry detergent, which I use. I really do make my own deodorant and haven't bought commercial deodorant in more than two years. We really do forage and eat the food we find. We really don't have cable. I really don't watch television (although I do watch Grey's Anatomy on DVD). I really don't shop at Wal*Mart.
Unfortunately, those who would judge me can only see the non-local food and the new things from Cabelas or the take-out leftovers (from the locally-owned restaurant, even if the food isn't locally sourced). Those people can not or will not see where I succeed, but only where I fail ... and that's a shame.
My guest didn't read the article about the frugal girl. If my guest were to read the article about that frugal girl who bought a house, I'm sure the response would be, "Yeah, but she lives with her parents, and they pay for all of the stuff she needs."
I would want to reply that's true, and the frugal girl is an adult now, but the bulk of her house-money was earned and saved when she was very young, but instead of buying a toy or new clothes or candy or ice cream or any other consumable, she saved her money, and now at the age of nineteen, she owns a house with no mortgage. I think that's pretty impressive.
I'd want to say that, but my guest would be too busy finding the tiny flaws to understand how amazing a story it is.
It's too convenient to look for the faults and seeming inconsistencies, and then dub all of the efforts void because of that one, little imperfection. I've been thinking about it all day, and it reminds of the admonition, "Don't point out the splinter in your neighbor's eye when you have a 2"x4" in your own."
My concern is, who has the splinter in this case, and who has the 2"x4"? Is it that I hate that passive-aggressive attitude, because I see a little of me in there? Or is it that I hate that passive-aggressive attitude, because I feel judged by someone who has no business judging me? And by saying that I feel judged by someone who has no business judging me, am I guilty of judging my guest, whom I have no business judging?
For lunch today, we had our first salad of the season from our garden. I've missed my homegrown salads ;).
We also had pan fried rice, eggs and greens ... again. And I'm still drinking green tea,too ... with sugar.
But, I swear, that tea and sugar are on the replace list, as soon as I find a replacement that's all local ... and I suppose rice will be added, too. Maybe we could have corn ... or potatoes ..., instead.