Letter From America
My favorite hair cutter is no longer working at my favorite salon. I MUST find out where he is working now. Oh, the agony!
When I recently posted the previous three sentences as a status update on my Facebook page, I immediately recognized it for what it was: The whine of a privileged woman living in privileged circumstances in a first-world country. I realized, moreover, that this wasn’t the first (and probably would not be the last) status update in the category of “first-world whines.” Nor was I the only Facebook poster guilty of such self-indulgent, trivial complaints!
Fortunately, I have among my Facebook friends and acquaintances several who recognized in themselves at least a smidgen of the same self-absorbed qualities exhibited in my post. When asked to share some of their own first-world whines, several were more than generous.
Anne-Marie Cottone complained recently that there was nothing on television worth watching except for a show on one of the premium channels. However, she continued, “I only have one cable box in my house, so I had to go ALL THE WAY DOWNSTAIRS to watch the program on another television set!” On another occasion this summer, Ann-Marie faced and complained about another first-world dilemma: “Should I go to the beach or go get a manicure?”
Summertime seems to bring out a number of first-world whiners: Kate Reilly was a young adult when she heard from a college student who moaned, “I asked my parents if they were going to ‘gift me’ this year with a new car to replace my old one, and they won’t make any promises!” Kate, who says she was having trouble making ends meet as a graduate new to the work force, had little sympathy for the other girl. She recalls that her friend’s “old” car was actually a luxury model of recent vintage.
But students aren’t the only first-world whiners. You might think that teachers would be older, wiser, and always cognizant of privilege. You’d be wrong. My dear friend, Judy Ransom Hubbard, now a retired teacher, recalls this thoughtless remark she once made to a couple who hadn’t had a vacation in years: “Awww, man! I have only one more week off before I have to go back to school. Nine weeks just fly by!”
Possession of luxury items (or lack thereof) seems to play a large part in many a first-world whine. I was sympathetic when an old neighbor of mine confided in me that she had recently undergone bunion surgery on both feet. I was decidedly unimpressed when she followed up that statement with this: "It’s so hard to find shoes that are comfortable, so when I do find a comfy shoe, I buy two pairs…in every color available!”
“In the state where I live, you can’t buy liquor in any grocery store! I have to drive all the way across town to a separate store to buy my coconut rum!” writes one friend. Another complains that she hates it when she has to park in the back row of a Wal-Mart parking lot and walk a football-length field to get to the door. Poor things!
Mid-year resolution: From now on, I am going to try with all my might to keep my mouth shut when I’m about to utter a first-world whine.
I have to submit this now; my editor is getting impatient. Oh, DANG! I just broke a nail. Now I have to set the house alarm, get in my car, and drive a mile into the middle of town to get it fixed. I simply CANNOT appear in public looking like this!
By Cara Sheridan O’Donnell
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