Monday, July 25, 2011

If this is America, where is my home?

I’m back on US soil. Suddenly I am surrounded by rudeness, impatience, judgement, disapproval, selfishness, obesity, poor parenting, intolerance, stress. Everyone criticizing everyone and everything else: assessing and sneering and glaring and rolling their eyes and huffing and muttering and shifting impatiently and making snide comments. The weather is horrible, that guy can’t drive, what was she thinking with those shoes, don’t sit there, you’re a freak, what a loser, omg I can ‘t see the tv, shut up, because I said so.

And that’s just the people physically present. Let us not forget the messages coming from the TVs, which btw are absolutely everywhere. I have learned: My hair is not silky enough. I need a better tan and a bigger TV with lots of channels. Coke; no, Pepsi; no, Coke; no, Pepsi. I should let ‘my man’ have fun this summer while I enjoy special time with the kids, at whom I will bemusedly shake my head. I am fat, and should get fit (process unspecified, seemingly involving hanging out laughing at cafes with girlfriends). I should get plastic surgery: specifically, a nose job, face lift, and botox, which are no big deal. I should go blonde(r). I should drink more, and shop at J.C. Penny, where I can create my own new individual look, which should center on floral cocktail dresses, which will make me more confident. My car should be bigger and a stick shift and I should drive it too fast, which will constitute an appreciation of fine motor craftsmanship and a fulfillment of satisfying living. I should redecorate my home in shades of green, and cook meals inspired by Nuevo-British cuisine, plus cupcakes.

In all seriousness, it’s left an absolute pit in my stomach to re-enter this world of criticism and disparagement. I know there are nice people in this country, and people who are confident and who love themselves and others just the way they are and/or for more meaningful reasons than the above. But that doesn’t change the fact that we are constantly, constantly, being told we’re not good enough. It’s only having been away from it that allows me to see the pressure and realize how it makes me feel.

Some smaller things that are taking some getting used to: warm showers. The horrifying first thing that came to mind when the warm water poured over me was that I was showering in a stream of pee (urine being the only warm liquid I had encountered in months). Even that aside, it was a rather disgusting feeling. Also: artificial sweeteners and corn syrup. They taste horrible. I had become so entirely spoiled by everything being sweetened by sugar, usually raw. Food options: all I can see is processed, sugary, fattening, and/or artificial. I long for the whole, fresh, local foods that are typical in Costa Rica, and fear I will not be able to maintain the level of fitness and digestive happiness I have effortlessly attained over the summer. Noise pollution: there are sounds of engines and machinery everywhere! And I’ve commented on this previously on this blog, but I am struck once again: American public bathrooms smell horrible, and there is the reek of man-pee throughout nearly all public spaces (like sidewalks). This is not acceptable or normal! It doesn’t have to be this way!

Now, if I were being a good make-everyone-else-happy-and-comfortable American woman, I would try to balance this blog post out with a nice palatable conclusion featuring some of the things I have enjoyed about being back home.* But I don’t want to make these truly unacceptable things above softened in any way. It’s not ok. I don’t like this culture and how it makes me feel. I’m not glad to be in this country. It leaves me with the feeling of wanting to go home. But this is supposed to be my home. And that makes me very, very sad.

*Family, potable water from the taps, air conditioning, dryers, wifi, wine.