Who gets to talk about what is ruining San Francisco? People who were born and raised here. Who gets to be quiet on the matter? Everyone else.
As someone from the former group, I will say that I disagree with Chris Tacy who denounces tech workers in his blog [link below]. He’s a tech worker that’s better than all the douchebag tech workers he describes because (and you will love this) he moved into the Mission in 1992 before it was cool! What he liked about San Francisco?
I found a city made up of wildly different people – of all types – spread across a huge range of little tribal neighborhoods. It was a massive melting pot of values, ethnicities, world views, ages and economic classes.
I was watching the above Ted Talk from Chimamanda Adichie, a Nigerian writer, and she said something that struck me. She had read stories about British children when she was first learning to read, and as a result, her first stories were about the same sorts of children doing the same sorts of things as in those books — things completely foreign to her like eating apples and talking about the weather.
That made me think back to what books I read as a child. It wasn’t hard. My favorite was series about Samantha Parkington, a wealthy orphan growing up in Victorian upstate New York. I still have a tradition — when the weather gets cold enough that I start taking long baths just to keep warm, I read the entire set again. Usually over the course of just 1 or 2 baths. As you can imagine, my set (gifted to me one Christmas when I was about 7), is falling apart now.
This time, I noted with amusement that Samantha Parkington defined my taste: drop-waisted dresses, nautical theme, black watch plaid, charcoal wool school dresses, collars, lacy nightgowns, multi-layered pink dresses, intricate embroidered edges, giant hair bows, lockets and extraneous buttons on everything. Her personality had also shaped mine: fierce loyalty towards a few close friends and the inclination to make it very clear to each person whether or not they are in her favor. A cavalier disregard for rules that don’t seem to make sense. A willingness to say shocking things in the name of truth. A love of christmas trees and decorating gingerbread houses.
Here’s the question: was I just at the right age to be moulded? If I had instead been gifted a boxed set of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, would Kourtney have been my model? I think I was given Molly McIntire’s set at the same time, but that had no effect. Maybe one has to relate a little to begin with. Samantha was also an only child who liked to climb trees and get her frilly dresses dirty…
What stories did you read as an impressionable youth, and what effect do you think they had on you?
Unfortunately, some of the best people I know have no children and no intention of ever having children. It isn’t uncommon. My advisor doesn’t want kids. My friends who have started a non-profit to help women in Africa via water projects do not want kids. I know brilliant math researchers who can’t stand to be touched by others.
There are also many who doubt. They can’t answer philosophical questions like “why am I here,” and for fear of not being able to answer the questions of their future children (eg, “why did you bring me here?”) they don’t want to have kids. Or they doubt that their finances are sufficient to maximize opportunities for their children: private schools, piano lessons, college tuition, etc. Some doubt their genetics, knowing their families have a history of depression, diabetes, dementia, heart disease, cancer.
Meanwhile, who is reproducing? In the US, many religious people, people on welfare, teens who can’t be bothered with contraception, poor immigrants… In general, probably the stupider people. It is certainly true that less educated/less responsible/less intelligent people have shorter generations, with parenthood beginning much earlier (teens/early 20′s). The plot of Idiocracy could come to life before our eyes. It isn’t too hard to imagine, especially given the latest Programme for International Student Assessment results, which show the US lagging behind despite spending the 4th most per capita of any country surveyed. Other indications are abundant as well, such as what passes for news or food in the US.
This is my plea to you if you are reading this and have doubts about whether you want to have kids. A wise friend of mine once said, “If you are having these doubts, you are already more qualified than most of the people who are reproducing.” If you’re doubting, think again. And not just about adoption. The gene pool could probably use your genes. Intelligence is highly heritable. Thoughtfulness can be taught and is desperately needed in forthcoming generations. Boys — if you really can’t, do at least consider donating sperm. Girls — you can do it. We need you! The world needs you and your progeny. Or else it’ll be overrun by people like North West, offspring of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, and nobody wants that…
I’ve been attending tree lightings lately. They seem to be in season. Being in the San Francisco Girls Chorus when I was little made the Christmas season especially hustle-bustle and bright. I miss it. We performed a sing-along yearly at Davis Symphony Hall. We sang at tree lightings of posh hotels, where they would bribe us with intricately frosted sugar cookies. We even performed for the Elks club, and for a morning news show to air on Christmas day.
What does Christmas mean to me? Well, I’m an atheist, so to me, it means singing to dear, sweet Christmas trees. O Tannenbaum is one of my favorite Christmas songs. German club would sing it at the retirement home on Geary street. Some residents were moved to tears, saying that they hadn’t heard a Christmas song in their native German in decades.
It also means snow. I would wish for snow every year because I grew up seeing it in the movies and read about it in Molly’s (American Girl) series. I never saw a white Christmas in San Francisco, but there was one time, when the temperature was below freezing and I tried to jump in a puddle but slipped and hit my head on the concrete because it was completely frozen over. Of course, I love “Let It Snow”.
The true meaning of Christmas for this spoiled girl, though, is getting every damn thing I want. From tickets to the SF Symphony’s new year’s eve ball to plane tickets to exotic locales (omg, only kidding). But wanting just one thing, and having that thing actually be a person is sort of adorable. And it’s in my favorite Christmas movie too, so “All I Want for Christmas” is probably the best Christmas song of all time.
Confession time: my favorite Christmas cd when I was growing up was actually Christmas with the Vienna Boys Choir. Especially the Mozart mass. It didn’t sound like any of the other Christmas music but I figured it was probably just what the Europeans listened to…
While I was sleeping, a sad-worm crawled in my ear
and tunneled into my brain, nestling in –
whispering grave doubts about everything
“What should I do? What do I want? Where should I go?”
There’s a one-size-fits-all answer now:
“Ich weiß nicht, Je ne sais pas, I don’t know”
Winter is here, the sun sets earlier now
My fingertips have lost all feeling
In my heart — a holiday covered in snow
I’m too proud to live on scraps
you know I’d rather starve
I hate feeling like a beggar
So, forgive me, but it’s warm in my nest
and alone is what protects me,
what saves me from the cold
I’m sorry I’ve been so spoiled
I’m sorry I can’t hear “No”
I’m sorry that all I can do now is go.
But if you want, come wake me in the springtime
Tell me when the sun paints the sea golden at nine
Wake me when it’s time for us to run away again
In college I knew a couple who looked good on paper. The boy, we’ll call him K, was effusive in his praise for his girlfriend, whom we will call H. He frequently bought her pink roses, pearls, tea sets and things he knew she adored. They were often pictured together at formal events where she could indulge her love of dressing up.
This boy, K, was the younger brother of a boy that I was dating. I met K first, but I felt so much closer to his brother. I did watch the relationship of K & H from the beginning though, and comparing it to my own, was sometimes envious. My boyfriend did not buy me things, take me to fancy parties, or gush over me in his blog. I wondered if I had made the wrong choice. Not out of materialism, but I dangerously let myself ask whether my boyfriend felt strongly about me at all.
But I was wrong. Here is the rest of their story.
The only thing that sustains one through life is the consciousness of the immense inferiority of everybody else, and this is a feeling that I have always cultivated.
- Oscar Wilde
In an effort to vividly teach the pain of discrimination to her young students, Ms. Jane Elliott just told them one day that blue eyed people were better: smarter, nicer, etc and gave them extra privileges like an extra 5 minutes at recess. The next day, roles were switched. Just being told that they were superior made each group perform accordingly at a reading task — taking less time to complete it on their “superior” day.
What does it have to do with the Oscar Wilde quote above? Maybe I’m missing the point, and it would be useful to know the baseline for each group, but what if thinking “The other kids in class class are inferior to me” actually enhances performance?
The world belongs to people with large egos. Sure, they’re smart, talented, etc, but not more so than many who are unsure whether they can conquer the world. I guess I’m excusing those who half-seriously think they’re better than everyone else. It may not be true, but somehow just having the thought seems adaptive.
There needs to be a term for the opposite of schadenfreude. Being miserable imagining everyone else in the world happily ensconced in the warmth of family and friends around a holiday table while you’re all by yourself. That would be one common use case.
So, how to cope. Well, how I’m coping, at least:
1. Making my favorite sides: garlic mashed potatoes and a green bean casserole
2. Brining and roasting cornish game hens
3. Baking an apple pie from scratch, including the pate brisee
4. Contemplating how I will one day die alone
5. Writing a letter to a friend in France whilst crying into my pie
6. Playing dramatic piano pieces, like the Sonata Pathetique
7. Taking a long bubble bath with wine and hoping to drown
8. Thinking about what I’ve done to deserve this
9. Writing a completely serious blog post about it which expresses just a fraction of my anguish
My Thanksgiving this year may not be the same trite story the little girl in me usually revels in, but it could turn out to be beautiful anyway. I’ll post pictures if anything looks worthy.
Grey, navy blue, black and grey again
Boring school skirt, grandpa cardigan
Don’t miss me, no, don’t do that, no
See the colors of my laundry?
I’m not interesting at all –
Sunsetting sunlight dies over the hills
you have better things to do
so put your fingers back on your keyboard
and your mind back in your work
If your thoughts go crawling after me
tell them, “Hush!
What’s meant to be will be.”
One day you’ll forget me
One fine day, none of this will matter
Until then, remember to eat
do your very best to sleep
Remember that I’m boring
also just sleeping, eating,
Just, for me, don’t be sad
I’d rather think of you happy
Even if you’re far away
where everything’s uncertain
I hope you’re out there smiling
And if you must, MUST think of me,
“Oh that silly girl,
folding her boring laundry”
I chose my first boyfriend for his attractiveness. Tall, pretty blue-green eyes, dramatic pouty lips, and soft emo hair. That was a mistake because it turned out that it was harder to hold a conversation with him than with an inanimate object. At seventeen, he still didn’t know what mathematical integration was. He also believed so strongly in the evils of GMOs that he spent a series of Saturdays designing and making a papier mâché costume of corn with a lobster head and claws to wear in an anti-GMO parade. I told him merely that if such a thing existed I’m sure it would be delicious.
Since then I’ve had many discussions on the merits of choosing a partner based on beauty. The strongest argument against has been that it shouldn’t be relevant because it is neither a lasting feature, nor indicative of anything else about the person.
I agree with the first reason, but I’m less convinced of the second. There has been research (mentioned in the article linked below) that seems to indicate a few interesting things:
1. Perception of beauty is innate: babies reliably prefer more beautiful faces long before society has a chance to tell them what they should find beautiful.
2. Beautiful children are treated better by their parents. They are looked after more carefully, and less likely to be abused.
3. Beautiful children are better adjusted, more popular, and more intelligent.
I think findings 2 and 3 need to be carefully controlled for things like socio-economic status of the parents, and I haven’t read the original papers, but I would not be surprised if they were true. I see the same bias in myself: ascribing positive traits (interesting, intelligent, kind) to people because I find them beautiful. I pay more attention to them. Confirmation bias and the Pygmalion effect are at play, but I’m not sure it matters. Just like it doesn’t matter if my headache is cured by a placebo.
Perhaps there is a reason that the French language has no notion of beauty that doesn’t also have connotations of goodness.
The Evolution of Beauty