Yesterday I received a thank you note from the head of a group I recently spoke to. It was a lovely note, and I appreciated it, but I was a little startled when she quoted me back to me. "I loved the part where you said, 'I like people in theory, but in reality I find them rather exhausting.'"
Do I really say this sort of stuff out loud? I mean, I think it all the time, sure. But maybe I ought not to say it in public, especially not in front of large groups filled with people who might quote me later.
I was in a large group last night. I went to a community meeting about local food. When I got home, the Man asked me how it went (after I said, "Aren't you going to ask me how it went?"). My reply--but don't quote me--was, "I hate people."
Isn't that sweet? Isn't that oh-so-very Christian?
Actually, when we broke into small discussion groups (I especially hate people who ask other people to break into small discussion groups), I liked my discussion partners very much. In general, I find individual people quite wonderful. But in groups? Applauding and cheering and yelling out "yeah!" when someone says something like, "I don't care what my neighbors think, I'm growing vegetables in my front yard!"?
I'm really not fond of them in that context.
Oh, that's the problem with groups. Someone's always preaching or cheerleading or telling me why eating local means becoming a vegan. And when you start discussing a topic like eating locally and growing your own tomatoes, the levels of self-righteousness and self-congratulatory hoo-hah is out the roof.
So I came home feeling cranky. And feeling the way I always feel when I've had some group time, which is that I don't really fit into groups very well. I never have, but I keep hoping. I do very small groups okay, as long as they're limited to five or six. But beyond that? I get a headache.
I'm jealous of the people at that meeting last night who felt affirmed and confirmed and a part of things. When asked to report our responses to the films we watched ("Nourish" and "Homegrown Revolution," in case you're wondering), people said things like, "I feel really good about the decision I've made to buy as much as I can at the farmer's market!" and "I really want to start a community garden now!"
My response was, "You've just shown us two films made in California showing a lot of young people eating beautiful salads at long tables. Where is the film about people eating parsnips boiled in water with a little salt in the middle of Iowa in January? Why aren't we talking about the fact that you can buy all the produce you want at the local farmer's market, but if you don't know how to cook it or preserve it, you're up a creek without a paddle? Why don't we talk about my sister-in-law Danni, who no matter how much you tell her that it's so, so important to support small farmers, is not going to spend $8 a pound for heirloom tomatoes? You are a tiny, liberal elite minority with absolutely no idea how most people live, and I find you insufferable and possibly insane, even if I too do my best to eat locally and think community gardens are pretty cool."
Okay, I didn't actually say that, but I did look around for people whose expressions suggested they were thinking those very thoughts. Didn't find them. Maybe they'd left already.
So there's one more group I'm not going to be a part of. Maybe I'll be part of your group instead--as long as it's just the two of us.