I had a dental cleaning/check yesterday, which means that from September 1st when I flipped the calendar page and saw the appointment, until yesterday when I was walking out the dentist's door, you wouldn't have been able to convince me the world was a happy place. Now I feel open to the concept.
Whenever I go to the dentist or have an appointment in the near future, it sets off a smoldering annoyance I feel with a whole category of...stuff. Things. Now comes the challenging part, where I try to say what that category IS.
Okay, it's like this. Let's picture the WORLD, for a moment. The whole world. And now let's picture a Dental Spectrum, representing the dental care levels of the world. At one end, we're going to have no tooth care at all, and adults with many missing teeth. No dentist, but maybe some local guy who will pull a tooth for you when it's hurting.
One step up from that is going to be people who figure out a sort of self-care for their teeth: scrubbing them with sand and twigs or something. Still no dentist.
One step up from that is going to be a situation where you can buy the things you need: toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss. Maybe at that point in the spectrum there's a dentist, but maybe he's 30 miles away by foot, or maybe he's a traveling guy who only stops by every couple of years and anyway he still only does basic, basic stuff. No, like, root canals or crowns.
One step up from that.... Well, I don't think we need to do every single step. But here is what causes the smoldering annoyance: picturing the other end of the spectrum, the last tiny smidgen pressed right up against the far edge, where we have such things as "Making one's teeth WHITE enough" and "Making one's teeth STRAIGHT enough" and "Going to see the dentist every 6 months at great expense, whether you need it or not, or else you are unclean and irresponsible."
Those things are all crowded up ALMOST at the tippy-edge of the spectrum, right before the Hollywood part where it's "Getting all your teeth capped, and it has to be a special expensive KIND of cap." And yet we're supposed to think of this crazy-high level of care as STANDARD and MINIMUM.
It's the same with fashion. Picture the world again, and now picture the fashion spectrum instead of the dental one. At one end we have just enough clothes for pure safety/use/protection: a little cloth to prevent pain and flopping, maybe. Something on the feet if absolutely necessary. An animal skin when it's cold enough to otherwise die of exposure.
Then it's clothes for privacy and comfort. But it's whatever can be obtained: certainly fit is not an issue, or color, or style, or number of holes, or matching, or ANYTHING like that. And it's probably one shirt, one pair of pants held up with rope---not, like, multiples of each item.
Then let's skip to wayyyyyyyy up at the other end of the spectrum, it's "Clothes must fit AND flatter AND be this season AND be appropriately accessorized AND be quality AND be expensive, AND you have to get rid of them all and start over in three months or else EEW. I mean, take CARE of yourself, amirite?"
Those things are all crowded up at the farthest edge of the spectrum, right before the Hollywood part where it's "And never wear the same item twice" and "No, seriously, it's completely reasonable for a dress to cost multiple thousands of dollars"---and yet we're supposed to think of them as STANDARD and MINIMUM.
Oh, and feet. FEET. (I remember reading somewhere, like in a novel where some characters were old-timey high society, that the word "foot" was acceptable and the word "feet" was vulgar. Isn't that funny?) The world's foot spectrum appears before us; at one end, no footwear at all. Then it's any shoes available, certainly no quibbling about size, appearance, style. Etc., etc., I'm sure you're getting the concept, and then we get to the upper part, where you must have pedicures or else you're gross and an offense to society, AND you must have many pairs of shoes, AND they must be custom-fit to your feet by an expert, AND they must be this season, AND they must be perfect in both color and style with your outfit and purse, AND it is perfectly reasonable for them to cost multiple hundreds of dollars.
I mistyped and then misread "foot" as "food," so yes, let's talk food. World food spectrum, starting with "Trying not to die." A BIG step up the spectrum, and then it's "Trying to get adequate nutrition so that one's teeth don't fall out and one's bones don't snap." Another big step and we're at "Being able to buy food at a store" and "Being able to choose between foods" and "Having access to food that is mostly still fresh/bugless."
Then let's look at the verrrrrry top edge of the spectrum, where it's "The food has to be FRESH" and "The food has to be LOCAL" and "The food has to be ORGANIC" and "The food has to be a CERTAIN BRAND and/or from a CERTAIN STORE and/or sold in a CERTAIN KIND OF PACKAGING." It's right below the very top edge where people spend multiple hundreds of dollars on a bottle of BEVERAGE to go WITH their meal, but it's supposed to be considered STANDARD and MINIMUM. Anything less is GROSS and IRRESPONSIBLE and DANGEROUS.
And what really starts turning the smolder into something more volcanic is that these spectrums cover EVERY SINGLE AREA OF LIFE. Everything. Down to our TOENAILS. Up to our HAIR, which must be not just in existence AND clean, but also cut regularly, by a professional, ideally an expensive professional, and also cared for with a variety of expensive products and tools for a long period of time each day, AND colored every 6 weeks, AND worn fashionably, AND EXISTING NOWHERE ELSE ON OUR BODIES.
And home maintenance! And yard maintenance! And pet care! Eye care! Eyebrow maintenance! Love relationships! Exercise! Housecleaning! Parenting! Car ownership and care! Optional insurance! Appliances! EVERYTHING must be obtained and maintained at the 99TH PERCENTILE or else it is CRAP. DO IT ALL, OR YOU ARE A CRAPPY AND IRRESPONSIBLE HUMAN BEING WHO JUST DOESN'T CARE AND/OR IS TOO STUPID TO KNOW ANY BETTER. OH AND BY THE WAY IT ALL COSTS A LOT OF MONEY, BUT HAVING LESS MONEY IS NO EXCUSE.
These are terrible ways to measure human worth---and yet there they are, totally in place, and established so that people feel comfortable referring to them as givens.
Oh, I know, the answer is to just DISREGARD these silly standards and make my OWN decisions about what is worthwhile and important and valuable! Yes, yes, thank you, Buddha Jr.! But we do LIVE on this planet, constantly exposed to these standards, and it puts me on a constant low smolder to be reminded of them so persistently and from so many different directions. I don't even like those standards to EXIST; and so since other people ARE applying them, it helps only a little to remind myself that I don't have to do so.
Life-improving products, part 4 - (Continued from part 1, part 2, and part 3.) Stearns Youth Life Vest (photo from Amazon.com). I’d been too scared to take the kids to any body of water oth...