Ireland has changed for the better over the past years and referenda. And yet the gossip about one’s life choices endures. Why do we accept this? asks Anna O’Donoghue
Ireland has changed for the better over the past years. And yet the gossip about one’s life choices endures. Why do we accept this? asks Anna O’Donoghue
They say that the millennials are the most open-minded and accepting of all the generations, so why does it feel like I’m being pointed at? “How do you house-share?” “How’s that love life of yours?” “You’re pushing on.”
“Sure, you’re always out.”
If I had a euro for the number of times I had to put on a face to answer these questions, I wouldn’t still be writing to Eoghan Murphy with my housing crisis horror stories.
These are questions asked by the very same people who preach about how this generation has shifted the norm, bent the rules, and opened people’s minds.
This little country of ours has come a long way in the last few years. We now have the choice to marry whomever we choose and, most recently, women have gained power over their own bodies, so why can’t I just simply live my life the way I want to without feeling like I’m on 20 Questions?
There’s still an expectation that by a certain age you will couple up, buy a house, get married, and have kids.
Although the age range of this expectancy has extended greatly, it’s still classed as the ‘norm’ and the fairytale ending of every life story.
But what would be so wrong with an alternative ending?
It could be as dramatic as someone living the fairytale wedding but choosing not to have kids, or having two kids, never get married and using the ‘wedding fund’ to homeschool their kids while travelling the world.
Or as little as never marrying, never settling down, and embracing a life with no ties.
Unless people’s choices involve hurting themselves or others, it doesn’t make sense for anyone to be bothered by the fact that other people take different life paths than we do; and yet *insert Countdown theme tune here*.
According to studies in human societies, the phenomenon is called normative idealisation.
The tendency to idealise a person’s own lifestyle and believe that others would benefit others.
“Do you hear that?”
“It’s your biological clock, my dear. You know my life didn’t begin until I had my kids”
“So, mine didn’t begin when I spent a few years backpacking around Australia or when I graduated with my 1.1 master’s degree?”
The idea seems very innocent at first. Just kind-hearted people who like their lives and want to share that sentiment with others.
According to The What I Am Is
The Way You Ought To Be, a paper published by researchers at Stanford University and University of Waterloo, it’s much more than that. They found people tend to look down on other lifestyles to make themselves feel better about their own.
But sure, don’t mind that blackguarding, Irish people would never do that — hush, will you.
Sound familiar? In most cases, yes, but what if these people are well and truly happy with what they’ve worked to achieve and don’t intend to set out to make you feel inferior.
Let’s face it, not everyone asks you about your struggles with the renting crisis and your single status to try and make them happier about their four-bedroom bungalow and canvas-printed wedding photos.
But why do the questions make you feel like you’ve been life- shamed? Because you have.
They are just fully unaware that they’re doing it.
“Did you see Mary wearing that skirt the other day?”
“No girlfriend by Paul yet, he’d want to cop on to himself, I know.”
“Did you see Martin’s son is bringing his kids off to Dubai… Dubai, of all places.”
Now THESE phrases sound familiar, don’t they?
We’ve grown up with it. During our childhood, these questions popped up everywhere, from our school halls to our local shops and the GAA sidelines.
Ireland has been obsessed with the normative for as long as anyone can remember. If you didn’t partake in the standard ‘Mass-publocal shop routine on a Sunday morning, everyone in a 10-mile radius would have heard a different side of the story.
Our need for acceptance, and fear of not being accepted (also known as being talked about) has been a powerful influence on our thoughts and feelings from very early days.
Group inclusion has been seen as necessary for survival in all areas of life and with today’s addition of social media, you have created a generation of anxious people-pleasers.
While anxiety is a brain disorder and not a choice, self-acceptance can quieten those local gossips in an anxious mind.
If you’re constantly judging yourself based on the schoolyard chatter, how can you see your self-worth? In the words of RuPaul: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell can you love somebody else?”
The strive for self-acceptance differs from person to person but proves difficult when the soundtrack to Countdown continuously plays in the background.
It looks like the only way to stop the music is to marry the first person you vaguely enjoy the company of, book the church wedding, pay a down-payment on the house and have the kids. Even then the pop quiz murmurs in the background: “Did you see their little boy plays with Barbie?” Make. It. Stop.
Why do we take one giant step forward and scream from the rooftops that we believe, in this day and age, a man can marry a man in this country, but tut at the heterosexual married couple who choose not to have kids?
As well as being the generation to stand up and speak about change, let’s be the people to actually follow through with it.
Let’s applaud the people outside of the ‘norm’ box instead of gossiping about why they are out there.
‘If you’re judging yourself based on the schoolyard chatter, how can you see your self-worth?
As well as being the generation to stand up and speak about change, let’s be the people to actually follow through with it, writes our columnist.