Thursday, March 26, 2009

Don't Worry: Tomorrow I'm Back to Bitch. See? See How I Have to Poke Fun At This?

There is something on the tip of my tongue. Only it's not a name, or a word. I guess it's more of a thought, a feeling, an idea. That's the thing--I don't really know. But I will tell you this: it tastes very slightly sweet, like a soft milk candy melting or a half-smile from a stranger on the street.

I've been thinking about kindess lately, and how it makes people uncomfortable, myself included. True kindness, we shrug it off, excuse it, worn weary by its energy and fa la la. Kindness is the sweet dumb sister to Snark. And in this age of online everything, Snark reigns supreme. Snark with its sharp wit, Snark so glamorous and funny. Snark is the drive-by rat-tat-tat blast of energy, always moving, never asking more than a moment of your time. (If given the Universe, Snark would be the Sun, bright, hot and sexy, Kindness the Moon made of a lump of cheese, waxing and waning, quietly pushing us forward then pulling us back, its powers slowly lapping at the sand yet moving coastlines.)
In some cultures, a smile is a sign of submission, the flash of your teeth a threat. In our culture, a smile is a form of currency we flip to the cashier at the grocery store, no warmer than the chump change curled between our fingers. Our smiles have been slowly devalued as the value of something other has risen. And so I wonder in this post-economic crash world, what will become of our smiles, of our distrust of kindness? Of snark and gossip and eyes cast down to the gum-pocked sidewalk? What will become of the one thing we all have but seem afraid to geniunely use?

"We mutually belong to one another," writes philosopher Alan Ryan, "and a good life is one that reflects this truth." No mention of new clothes or houses or cars. No mention of Rock of Love or Bret Michaels anywhere. It seems that not only has our economy crashed, but so has our spirit. As a society, we are staggering from the guilt of it all, each of us out for ourselves, mutually isolated, but that is all.

I curse Bernie Madoff, AIG, blah blah blah and yes, them, too. But I also think that what is happening is not so much a crash as an evolution. As dumb as it sounds, I believe kindness will help us rebuild not only our stock portfolios, but our sense of community, our spirits. So here I am, the girl with the flower power-stickered banana seat bike pedaling lazy circles in the cul de sac. Do you want to play with me? Yes, my bike is dorky. Yes, I am wearing my hair in two uneven side ponytails. Yes, sometimes I lisp (not really, but this is an image of a feeling, I think). I have room for one more and the milk candy is sweet. Do you taste it on the tip of your tongue, too? This thing? This smile? This possibility of something more?
I don't know. Like I said: I can't quite grasp what it is, but it's there. And I am here, waiting.


Michele said...

yes yes, I want to ride with you! My bike has a holly hobbie seat (I'm older than you) and I taped playing cards to the spokes so it sounds kinda like a motorcycle... if it annoys you I'll take them off.

Get it Girl said...

Kind-of-long-time reader delurking to say that this is a sublime post. I agree with you about this evolution, and kindness and really noticing each other and our connectedness is where it's at. You said it beautifully!

Good Enough Woman said...

Damn, you write well. Great form. Great content. Great style.

Lolo said...

All the cool kids, the new kids, the kids that are the best kids are doing it now. Sincerity. It's the new thing.

I love it, frankly. I know, it can teeter and then pratfall into smarminess but that's when it's done wrong. Done from the heart, no matter how clumsy, it strikes me dumb. Leaves me without my customary smartass. I love it.

the girL said...

I wanna come along for the ride too! Just talking with my sister today about a longing for sense of community. If nothing else, this downward turn may bring us together. XOXO

Anonymous said...

A change it is a comin'. It always gives me hope when I read of peoples' awareness and desire to be more than we are today. So thank you.

Petunia Face said...

Michele--I love the sound of playing cards in the spokes of my bicycle! And tennis balls, too! Let's be friends.

Get It Girl--Thank you. For reading, for delurking, for YOUR kindness.

Good Enough Woman--And a danke to you, too.

Lolo--doesn't it seem like a movement?

It Girl--Grab your bike and let's ride!

Anonymous and everyone else--Yes, it's an awareness and no doubt tomorrow I will fall and sigh at some old lady who is walking too slow in front of me on the sidewalk. But this is a start. This acknowledgement that I can be better, that we all mutually belong to each other. Thank you :)

Anonymous said...

and to you I say....


Petunia said...

We will survive this ONLY through kindenss and community. This is a lesson long over due and it's here and we hate but we will be better for it. Fab post.

Nicola said...

Gosh, I just discovered your blog recently and have been devouring your posts, exclaiming over and over again at how often you hit my own thoughts directly through your words. Then I read this post today, and am almost tearful at how closely it articulates what I am feeling.

I truly believe that a sense of kindness, of community and caring for one another, is what will save this generation. We have messed up the world in so many ways, but one building block at a time we can put it back together with smiles, understanding and kindness. Idealistic? Certainly. Possible? I think so.

Thank you for having the courage to reach out through your words and to offer a thousand kindnesses to us all!

Neisha Cedeno said...

I agree wholeheartedly with everything you just said. I told my husband that all this is happening to bring us into the realization that we need more than money and keeping up with the Jones'. We need to need and help each other and gather a sense of community once again. We are all lost. Thanks for writing about this.

krista said...

i finally live in a neighborhood where people are kind to each other.
it's amazing what a community like that feels like. the air smells better without all that anxiety and fear.
i've been noticing random acts of kindness and trying to pay it forward.
now, if i could only stay away from the standard cliches in talking about them. feck. did you hear me up there? 'random acts of kindness' and 'pay it forward.'
i hate when my vagina types for me.

L said...

oh, sweetest petunia face. yes. yes, yes, and yes. kindness. it is everything and all things and THE thing.

this place inspires me:

as do you.

with love from pittsburgh...