Thursday, January 22, 2015

Bars and Babies -- or Isolation, part two

I've been starting to get into the groove of motherhood. I usually know what Isa wants, I'm getting a sense of my own mothering style, and I am starting to know how to get on with my adult life with Isa in tow. But this past Tuesday I hit a major road block, one that really infuriated me and made me feel inferior again.

A friend of ours is leaving Pullman for good and moving back home to the Bay Area. He invited a bunch of people out to have a celebratory meal and drinks with him -- so we all decided on a bar that serves tacos, burgers, etc. to meet up. We came to this bar before when Isa was a little baby in the Summer when most of the students were out of town. They have a really good burger and a beer special, so we came for that. We ate and drank without incident over the Summer when the bar was mostly empty.

On Tuesday, we got to the door at 7 pm, and the bar had a decent amount of people in it, but everyone was mostly sitting and eating at tables (it's Taco Tuesday). The bouncer comes to the door and tells us, as if to chastise us, "You can't bring your baby in here. No." I asked, "Even if we're just coming to eat?"

"No, you can't come in here."

The large group had to scramble for ideas. I suggested just going home with Isa and letting Patrick stay out and about with the group. Everyone decided that we'd just go somewhere else without a problem. And we did, we went to a restaurant and everyone got to eat and drink there, but of course drinks were much more expensive at a restaurant, which I'm sure most people weren't happy about.

This whole experience left me feeling like I am inappropriate, a bad mother, or irresponsible in some way. Why would I ever want to bring my child to a bar? What was wrong with me?

I don't understand why having a child, in this society, makes you isolated from adult activities. Why, in this culture, is there such a puritan attitude toward drinking that children should not be allowed to see adults in this hedonistic state? In most of the UK, pubs (or public houses, called that way for a reason), let in children and you can even order a pint for your child as long as they're over 14 years old. What does this breed? An attitude toward drinking that is MODERATE instead of this idea that drinking is always something to be hidden from the view of children.

I am finding that it seems to be that the reason so many mothers experience depression is the intense isolation they experience once they have children. There are only so many places you're allowed to go with children, and they mostly suck (McDonald's Playplace? Mommy groups? 'family' restaurants?). Why can't children be a part of larger society and go where their parents go? Ugh. I've got to get out of this place.

loneliness, addiction and getting out

the real cause of addiction

the age of loneliness is killing us

I ran across a couple of articles today that impacted me. Ever since I began studying sociology, and even before, I have come to realize the power society and social institutions have over individuals. We are not the masters of our own universes, and are (mostly) not to blame for many of our individual problems. C. Wright Mills calls this having a sociological imagination. It is the ability to decipher between personal problems and public issues. It is the main message of the Sociology 101 course I teach.

However, this lesson is difficult for many of us to grasp, as is it so ingrained in us to think so much of what we experience is our individual problem. I keep on learning this lesson for different parts of life, and the two articles above continue to teach this same lesson.

The first makes the claim that addiction is not an individual's problem, and it's not even the problem of chemical impact on the brain. If you look, for example, at gambling addiction, it surely can't only be chemicals causing addiction. The author argues that it is in fact our loneliness and isolation (among other aspects of our society) that drives so many to addiction. And the solution to all this isn't to isolate addicts, but to love them and provide them with healthy relationships.

The second article is a treatise on the current century, calling it the Age of Loneliness. The statistics are dire. We are a lonely people and it is killing us.

These two articles are connected (the first cites the second) in that it is really the structure of our society that causes so much of what we think of as individual problems. Are you lonely because no one wants to be your friend or because no one sees each other anymore? Are you addicted (even to caffeine or alcohol or television) because you're lonely? Well, you're lonely because of how our society is set up.

I am reminded of something one of my favorite authors once said. He was attempting to live happily in American society and was finding it difficult. He told himself to simply be "a lotus in a cesspool." That is, even if the society is unhealthy, he could attempt to rise above it and be happy despite his surroundings. What he found, he says, is that he just ended up being "a dirty lotus" ( I like this anecdote because it captures the essence of the above articles and sociology in general. You cannot rise above your environment. Your environment makes you up. So, if you want to be different (or you don't want to become who this unhealthy society will make you up to be), then you have to find a place that you think aligns better with who you want to be, and move there. And this is not just the U.S. As the article states, it is at least in the U.K. and probably many other industrialized societies. Get out. Before you die of loneliness or addiction or both.