You Don’t Have To Fit Into Society’s One-Size-Fits-All Box

As, once again, we compile the memories of twenty-five years together into boxes ahead of our next move, it seems appropriate to have a discussion about them.

Dog climbing out of a packing box.

Boxes.

Because I’ve noticed how good society is at putting people into them, as NC reminded me the other day when we were discussing the assumptions people make about her personal choice to become a vegetarian.

Whenever you choose to veer off the straight and narrow or do something different, it seems to encourage the more cynical to shout louder from their soapbox. To use the example of NC, she is often criticised for those rare occasions she indulges in fish, even though her vegetarianism is nothing to do with animal cruelty. Sometimes her body craves fish, and she can’t resist tuna and salmon Sashimi and my smoked salmon and cream canapes at Christmas. As she is a vegetarian for sustainability reasons, she doesn’t see a problem with this. Her detractors, however, suggest that she isn’t a “proper” vegetarian.

Haters gonna hate.

It’s the same with feminism. The uneducated like to put feminists in the box for people that stand against inequality between the sexes, grow out their body hair, and hate men. I wax… and I don’t hate men because of their gender.

In the same way that not all Muslims are radical terrorists, not all feminists hate men.

Making assumptions and boxing people into a group is a lazy path to take. It is also naive and potentially dangerous. For those who don’t bother to look more carefully at a person’s reasons for their beliefs and behaviour, their premature judgment can have have life-long repercussions.

Society – and the old man and I must take some responsibility as well – has tried to fit Kurt into a box for most of his life – an expectation that has made him miserable. The sad truth is that society only provides one box for everyone to fit into and so those that can’t fit comfortably in it risk being ostracised and isolation. The laws of society have limited tolerance for “difference”, which means that there is not enough “give” in the box for the neuro-diverse, the traumatised, or the outward thinkers.

Anyone who has made a profession out of moving house and packing – like the old man and myself – will know that some things don’t fit in standard-sized boxes.

Women, in particular, have always struggled to fit comfortably in the box, because it was designed for men. Meghan Markle is experiencing the claustrophobia of that situation right now. A bi-racial, divorced woman, she is attempting to fit into a box of privilege that has little desire to move with the times. Hers was never going to to be a smooth transition – a plight that Nikki Gemmell summed up in her brilliant piece, “The Audacity of Meghan Markle”, in The Australian last week.

Personally, I hope that Meghan doesn’t make a smooth transition. I hope that she lifts the lid off that bloody box and sets it alight with her critics inside.

We need more Meghans. We need more Kurts and NCs and people prepared to stand up for their beliefs, for those that don’t fit squarely into boxes – whom in many cases, are demonised by society. We should be encouraging society to think outside of the box, not closing the lid on it.

Men, And Their Inability To Think Outside Of The Box

I thought I knew a lot about men before the old man began his temporary period of playing housewife while in between jobs.

Carrots of many colors.
Carrots of many colors. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know you’re expecting me to completely annihilate his character AGAIN now with my usual bitter and twisted flair, but for once I’m not going to. No, I’m going to shower my husband with rare praise indeed because I’ve decided that the concept of every working woman having a ‘wife’ at home is an excellent one, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed how hard he is trying to make this new domestic arrangement of ours work.

There has been the inevitable training period, of course, and associated teething issues.

I have been forced to accepted that he will probably never volunteer to clean the toilets, nor will it cross his mind that the bedlinen does, in fact, get cleaned and changed. But in his defence, my old man can already whip up a mean Salade Nicoise, and the fridge has never been tidier.

But there is one main difference between men and women that I hadn’t really noticed before. Allow me to use a skiing analogy here to explain: men (or at least my particular specimen of the gender) don’t tend to go off-piste when it comes to thinking. For those of you not familiar with the misfortune of being annually forced onto the slopes, ‘off-piste’ is the unprepared, virgin snow that lies beyond the man-made slopes and is more challenging to the skier, thereby more appealing to the brave, foolhardy and ADHD skiers, who get their kicks from risking life and limb.

Fortunately, one rarely has to veer into such dangerous territory as a housewife – although parent/teacher groups and finding a parking space close to the school gates can be a close call – nevertheless, there is still a thought pattern behind the organisation required that sometimes calls upon spontaneity and impulsivity and thinking outside of the box.

The old man is not a natural risk-taker, and the analytical side of his brain is far more advanced than his creative side. Yet I still thought that most people possess SOME sense of intuition, can summon up some level of common sense in the face of (domestic) adversity.

Especially when it comes to food.

‘Food shopping’ is just one of those tedious chores of domesticity that I was embarrassingly over-grateful to discard when he offered to take it on as one of the duties of his new department, now that I am the only one working. We find ourselves in week 4 this week, and not only do I still have to compose the shopping list for him, but we have run out of all staple, survival foods such as peanut butter, Marmite and crisps.

To this day, he has not been intrepid enough to buy anything that is NOT on the list.

I get it – it takes a while to find your confidence in a new job, especially to become a an expert at orientating yourself through the aisles and produce of what can be a terrifying place – the supermarket after drop-off – and dumbing your brain down far enough to get used to the monotony of buying the same shit, week in, week out, without falling asleep in the checkout line or killing the person in front who has thirteen items in the twelve-max queue.

And I suppose he’s not at the meal planning stage yet; so the list doesn’t really MEAN anything.

But what do you think our chances are of the old man getting excited enough in the supermarket one day to actually venture off-piste, add some product to the trolley he knows we’ve run out of, or hell, surprise us with a new and exciting new product he thinks we should try?

‘It wasn’t on the list,’ is his unapologetic response each time I accuse him of not thinking outside of the box.

‘You said to vacuum. I thought we only hoovered the living room.’

‘I didn’t realise you had to clean the shower too when you clean the bathroom…’

Do all men struggle with the whole concept of thinking outside of the box, and taking an idea that few steps further to that next level?

Stereotypically, they have been accused for a long time of not being guided by emotions or instincts, or reacting intuitively. Unless they are watching or talking sport, that is. They seem more akin to robots that can be programmed to follow instructions, than to women. They can interpret the kind of mind-blowingly boring and complex data that would make most female brains combust, but if I put two carrots on my shopping list, TWO CARROTS IS WHAT I WILL BLOODY WELL GET – even if a 6kgs bag is on special and cheaper.

Could this explain the disparity between the sexes and why men always get everything just SO wrong?