If a picture says 1,000 words, then this one of Sophia Loren lunching with Jayne Mansfield says about 5,000 I think.
Women of a certain age and station who get together at expensive venues to gossip, compliment each other’s clothes and vent about their children are a comedic staple from Saturday Night Live to John Stewart. They are the bourgeoisie! They wear adorable little hats! They are the 1%! They are… us? Well this is awkward.
As I sat on the stretching mats this morning after a killer workout with the Gym Buddies (we have discovered the salutary effects of playing the basketball game “lightning” – don’t laugh, we’re all really sore), it occurred to me – and not for the first time – how very privileged I am. Not only was I in a safe place doing what I wanted, wearing (supercute!) clean clothes, and hanging with my friends while other people cared for my children but I had the leisure and the means to care about things like what my optimal levels of vitamin D are or the best exercise to work my hamstrings.
Oh it’s not all “ladies of leisure”, to be sure. I have four really small kids underfoot most of the day. I have three part-time jobs (and that equals 1.5 full time jobs, right?). I do nearly all the shopping, cooking, cleaning and childcare as do most all of my friends. I drop exhausted into bed every night. And I’m far, far from rich. But it can’t be overstated how lucky I am. I love my children. I love my jobs – yes even the stupid SAT essay grading. Heck I even love cleaning my kitchen (shh, don’t tell anyone). Even when my life is hard, it’s still pretty awesome.
And it’s not just me and my social circle. You see it on TV, in magazines, with celebrities, reality stars, stars in their own minds and all the women who do their grocery shopping in $120 yoga pants to pick up the exotic ingredients for the green smoothie prescribed by their personal trainer. Yoga mats are the new place mats and gyms are the new French Bistro.
Because of this occasionally I look at my life and marvel at the absurdity of exercising every day (even if it’s just for an hour a day now!) so that I can go home and try to restrain myself from eating more calories than I need because my house is literally filled with food. It seems nuts to complain about how tired I am after a really heavy lifting session when I was lifting the same thing over and over again only to put it back in the same spot and I did it to myself! Especially when there are so many in the world who have to work jobs of intense physical labor only to go home to no food. Even taking out the poorest of the poor, there are so many for whom the basics of good health are a luxury far out of reach.
I’m going to be honest: this is hard for me to write. But it needs to be said. Indeed, some of you have commented saying, “I wish I got to hang out with gym buddies in the middle of the day.” (In my defense, I work pre-dawn and well into the night so really I just have different hours than you.) But happiness is not a zero-sum game. My happiness doesn’t prevent others from being happy and likewise my being miserable doesn’t make someone else happy. (Okay sometimes it does but that’s a post for another day.) And it doesn’t take away from the fact that exercise is, when not abused, a really good activity and that having a strong social support system is also integral to a happy, healthy life.
I just wish that everyone had the same opportunities. I’m not sure what to do exactly but I have two ideas.
1. Gratitude. I know how good I have it. I am so so grateful for my life. And I’m so thankful for all the people who help me so I can live it – like the school teachers who work so tirelessly with my kids, the child-care workers at my gym who love my kids like their own, the company that employs my husband, the people who have enough faith in me to pay me to do what I love, my friends and family who support me and for the plumber who came down into my basement of raw sewage, told me what to do to fix it and then didn’t even charge me for his time. Thank you. There have been times in my life that have been very difficult and I’m grateful every day to have made it through those to this.
2. Paying it forward. One of my favorite quotes (which now I can’t find the source for) says something like “Why are we here if not to make someone else’s life a little easier?” I love this. I aspire to this. I’m not this yet. But I want to be. I have a few plans which I’m not going to share here because I think talking about your good deeds kind of negates some of the good. I only mention it to let you know that I’m not just wallowing in my cognitive dissonance but doing something about it. Indeed, I started tonight. It made me really happy:)
And so now I ask you: Am I nuts or is Lululemon the new lace glove? Anyone else have these same feelings? I’m looking for more ideas – what do you do to help others around you? (Also, I’d love ideas that I can do with my kids – turns out you have to be 14 to work at a soup kitchen. I’d argue with them except I’ve seen what my kids do to my own kitchen and I’d ban them until 14 too if I could.)
To get you started – or just make you laugh – here’s the SNL Ladies Who Lunch skit! Kristen Wiig is brilliant.