Friday, 30 November 2012

The greener grass

On the whole, I've never thought the grass is greener on the other side. I seldom imagine that other people's lives are far more enjoyable and fulfilling than my own.

I just don't idealise other people. Whatever their home life, their job, their hobbies, their physical appearance or their sex life, I don't kid myself they're perfect, that they live some charmed and magical existence I can only dream of.

I assume that whatever the outward impression, they're prone to just as many problems and disappointments and disasters as I am, and were I to step into their shoes for a day or two I'd soon discover how flawed their lives were.

But a surprisingly large number of people do seem to think that if only they had what somebody else has, their lives would be dramatically transformed. If only they had a huge house, a more glamorous job, a stunning figure, or a sexier partner, life would be a bed of roses and all their frustrations would fade away.

The fact is that people are very good at airbrushing their public persona, talking up their lives and carefully hiding the less attractive bits. Someone could be quarrelling viciously with their partner night after night but all that's shown to the public is a happily smiling couple, arm in arm and seemingly without a care in the world.

Of course I'm aware that I come from a somewhat privileged middle class background and so I don't have much cause to envy other people's lives to begin with. My life has mostly been pretty comfortable.

It's more understandable though that those who aren't so fortunate, those who have to struggle day in and day out for even the bare essentials of a decent life, may be bitterly envious of those who seem to live the life of Riley without lifting a finger.

To people that desperate, any apparently better-off household must seem like a deliberate taunt to their own hardship. To them the grass may be not just greener but irresistibly luscious.

51 comments:

blackwatertown said...

Shakespeare and Rufus Wainwright might agree with you.
Here they are
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYd2KlRX4Vs

kylie said...

we are so fond of saying money doesnt buy happiness bbut it sure can buy a more comfortable misery

Secret Agent Woman said...

The research on this suggests that once people reach a level where they can live fairly comfortably but are far from wealthy ($50K in the US), more money brings not one bit more happiness.

Cheerful Monk said...

My husband and I were both fairly poor when we grew up, but we learned good work habits from our folks and were lucky enough to be born in a time when hard work paid off. It's a lot harder now-a-days, I think.

Nick said...

Paul: Well, sonnet 29 comes to an interesting conclusion - that sweet love is better than the companionship of kings. I'd go along with that.

Kylie: A more comfortable misery, I like it. And a more comfortable disorder.

Nick said...

Agent: Yes, I've seen that research as well. I'm sure we've all heard well-padded millionaires complaining about the unfairness of life.

Jean: Hard work pays off if you're in the right profession. For a lot of people unfortunately hard work just goes hand in hand with low salaries and exploitation. I think luck and skills are as important as hard work.

Scarlet Blue said...

Yep, but you have to go to all those dull middle class dinner parties, pretend you're something you're not, and know how to use a knife and fork correctly.
Trust me, us who started on the bottom rungs don't need your patronising pity.
Sx

Ursula said...

For me grass has never been greener on the other side. Mainly because people are overzealous with weedkiller and fertilizer. And anyway - I do prefer yellow.

Scarlet - rightly - thinks you patronizing. To pile it on: I think you smug. And I say this as someone who has negotiated (financial) highs and lows few of the inhabitants of our 'middle' class world can dream of outside a cheap trash novel.Try snakes and ladders, Nick. That'll give you a taste.

Other than that I am with Kylie and another friend of mine: Better rich and healthy than sick and poor.

Jean's view - as so often - too simplistic: Hard work? Paying off? You could have fooled me. Look through history and some of the hardest working went to a pauper's grave. Probably - as in Mozart's case - quite happily so.

U

Bijoux said...

I would venture to say that the more a person has, the more envious of others they become. The whole "keeping up with the Jones'" routine.

Nick said...

Scarlet: Patronising pity? Okay, if you say so, guilty as charged. Though I've had plenty of miserable and galling experiences myself, despite the veneer of comfort. And I do everything I can to avoid those dull middle class dinner parties, they're pretty grim.

Ursula: Okay, smug as well if you like. Though I spent many years in dreary, lonely bedsits which didn't encourage a particle of smugness. Maybe smugness has crept up on me?

Nick said...

Bijoux: You could be right. That would explain all those overpaid executives who always want to be paid even more. Oh, and you can call me smug and patronising if you wish. No need for middle class politeness....

Leah said...

Hmm. During my very skint years, I definitely felt the cold creeping hand of bitter envy. Rather like standing out in the cold and dark and pressing one's face to the lighted window of a warm room...

I didn't really think the grass was greener but I knew for a fact that those rooms were warmer and brighter than mine. As a result I do like to share a bit of the warmth now when I can.

That said, I also know for a fact that the bright rooms do as you say contain quarrels and heartache. NO one, rich whether rich or poor, has a patent on suffering. But back in the bad old days I think I'd rather have had a bit of pity and a boost than a dismissive hand wave.

Nick said...

Leah: It's funny, even when I was in my miserable bedsit surrounded by affluent middle class professionals, I didn't feel envy, just frustration.

Sad to say, dismissive handwaves and glacial expressions are still all too common. Genuine understanding of those less fortunate in life's pecking order is still a rarity.

And I'm glad you like to share a bit of the warmth.

Nick said...

Now let me see. SMUG: Irritatingly pleased with oneself; self-satisfied. How any regular readers of this blog (which is all of you) can still think of me as self-satisfied is somewhat baffling. I regularly expound on the many undesirable and unhelpful character traits I could do without. Self-accepting maybe but hardly self-satisfied?

Roses said...

I'm with Nick on this one,I don't get envy. It really has me scratching my head.

I think there's a price to pay for everything. I've seen too many people 'appearing' to live the good life and be miserable almost to the point of suicidal.

Having said that, I'd just like enough. But that's more about what I want and has little to do with what anyone else possesses.

speccy said...

Nick, you come in for a lot of unwarranted abuse, which I've been trying (and failing) to understand for months.

Maybe it's the envy?

Nick said...

Roses: Absolutely, behind the facade of a good life there are usually some scary skeletons in the closet. It's easy to be taken in by a rose-tinted image.

Well, thank you, Fiona. But I hope nobody envies me. Believe me, I have plenty of inner demons to contend with.

Bijoux said...

Nope. If I want to call someone smug and patronizing, I will say it to their face, not anonymously behind an avatar. And certainly not to someone I've never met in real life.

Nick said...

Bijoux: That's very principled of you, and I appreciate it. I'm still puzzled at why these labels are being applied to my decidedly un-smug personality.

Ursula said...

Bijoux, what a sweet person you are: You wouldn't say anything 'anonymously behind an avatar'. Really? That is presumably why - in your inimitable fashion - you tick off people who actually have something to say to Nick - give him honest, heartfelt feedback.

As to hiding behind an avatar:

Please don't tell me that your avatar is a true likeness of your good self. It's so retro.

'Anonymity' in the blogosphere? Nick, offering his interpretation of the world, puts not only himself out here but his trust in his readership. That's good and one of the reasons I keep returning to his writing. And, with few exceptions, he appears to take any feedback well (don't call it criticism, Bijoux - though what's wrong with criticism?).

Thanks for reminding me: "Bijoux", such a pretty name - I wonder what your parents expected of you; or did you 'make it up' as your blogging persona? Jewel in the Crown as it were.

Nick, like all good bloggers, puts a subject, a thought of his, out here for discussion. Do you want comments bland or do you want it lively? We only learn and are amused in the mix. And that goes for those much maligned dinner parties too. Any gathering is only as boring (or lively) as you are. So don't put the blame on others.

And, Bijoux: You don't have to meet someone in 'real' life, in the flesh, to get some measure of the person. In our writing we condense ourselves. Any moment now I'll tell you how to make a good sauce by making stock from scratch.

Yes, love you too.

U

Scarlet Blue said...

Blimey, pistols at dawn....
I was going to say that I didn't need pity when I was young because I had no idea what I didn't have. Every year my mum would make me a cuddly toy for Christmas, this was my 'big' present. I still have every one of those soft toys in a box upstairs.
It was only when I started work that I found out how others better off than myself lived and then I figured out the cycle of wealth and privilege.
I did find Nick's words in this post patronising. They are patronising. I wouldn't have commented only I read this post after reading something similar somewhere else and given that Nick writes to me privately sometimes, and therefore doesn't think of me as a stranger, then I didn't think he'd mind too much if I let off steam here.
Maybe Nick should try rearranging his words so that they become a proper representation of what he is trying to say and therefore a true reflection of who he is.
Sx

Grannymar said...

I missed the party, but now I understand your other comments, Nick. Now go give Jenny an extra hug, and remember life could be so less green if you were stuck with, married to, or partnered with some of the people here on the other side of your comment Box!

Nick said...

Ursula: Well, I don't know what Bijoux did to deserve such an aggressive haranguing. She's entitled to be restrained and respectful if she wishes to be. But I know you love lecturing other people on their behaviour, and the longer the lecture the better.

Nick said...

Scarlet: Pistols at dawn indeed. I can tell you the presents I got at Christmas as a child were often just as rudimentary as yours, as my parents were pretty hard up for many years.

I certainly don't mind you letting off steam, but I'm still puzzled as to why I'm seen as patronising when I don't in any way regard other people as inferior, only different.

And I've written before about how hard I find it to explain myself accurately, given all the unexpected assumptions and conclusions placed on what I've written. I seem doomed to an endless variety of misunderstandings.

Nick said...

Grannymar: Some of my blogmates might be hard to live with, I'm sure, but they would probably say the same about me! That is, what they know of the true me minus all the misunderstandings....

Scarlet Blue said...

I think it's because you often contradict yourself, Nick.

i.e Of course I'm aware that I come from a somewhat privileged middle class background and so I don't have much cause to envy other people's lives to begin with. My life has mostly been pretty comfortable.

Followed by..

my parents were pretty hard up for many years.

Plus the information that you went to boarding school!!!

Sx


Leah said...

Hard up for many years and comfortable aren't mutually exclusive. My parents were rather hard up when I was young, and still we went to private school. Ultimately their situation improved. True contradictions are the stuff of life. Personally, I find it exceedingly uncomfortable, and definitely unnecessary, when I'm publicly called out for no very good reason. There's a difference between healthy generative discussion in blog comments, and ad hominem attacks. Ad hominem attacks are uncool.

Leah said...

Sorry, just had to speak my mind!

Ursula said...

Leah: You are SO cool! And a credit to your education: Ad hominem. Indeed.

U

Scarlet Blue said...

*falls off chair laughing*
I'd like to see my parents pay for private education and food!!!!
Sx

Ursula said...

You, Nick, say: "I don't know what Bijoux did to deserve such an aggressive haranguing. She's entitled to be restrained and respectful if she wishes to be."

Restrained and respectful? More 'passive aggressive' as one of our mutual friends would call it.

Let me ask you and everyone else commenting on here: What am I "entitled to"? A little questioning? A little digging below the obvious?

Still, Bijoux is a lesson in how we 'click' with people and how we don't. To me, Bijoux is a fake. Still, I thank you, Nick, for having let me make a connection (even if, possibly, not reciprocated) with Scarlet and Kylie (don't hold it against either - it's not their fault I like them).

Summoning up: I find the likes of a lot of bloggers and Bijoux narrow minded. You want sweet talk? Sure. You'll get it. If you want some real input you know where to find me. Lecture and all.

U

Nick said...

Scarlet: The apparent contradictions are reconcilable. One reason my parents were hard up was because they insisted on sending me to a (fifth-rate) boarding school where I was bitterly unhappy for five years. My father never stopped berating me for my endlessly dreadful school reports.

Nick said...

Leah: Exactly, you were in the same situation. Though luckily your school was a darn sight better than mine. I had to look up ad hominem, as I've forgotten all my schoolboy Latin. Indeed, personal attacks are a dirty substitute for a proper argument.

Rummuser said...

Nick, one of the inescapable reality of life anywhere in the world is if you are in the middle class, you live. It is the upper and the lower economic classes that are unable to. when this reality sinks in, one realises the futility of wanting to be like the Joneses. I personally am like you. You get what you see, warts farts and all.

Nick said...

Scarlet: Meals were pretty basic in my family - usually whatever was cut-price in the local Sainsbury's. Spam, pork pies, instant mashed potato. It was food but hardly cordon bleu.

Nick said...

Ursula: I say again, Bijoux is entitled to say exactly what she wants, and not what you want. And how much of the Ursula blog persona is fake, I wonder?

Ramana: I think you're generalising about other classes. In every class surely there are people who get something out of life and those who let life get on top of them.

Ursula said...

Nick, please do engage brain for a moment: "Bijoux is entitled to say exactly what she wants, ..." What AM I ENTITLED to say?

You have crossed a line, Nick: "How much of the Ursula blog persona is fake, ...?" Maybe the bitch bit. But then you wouldn't believe that, Nick, would you?

U

Liz said...

Just catching up on your blogging. My, what an interesting argument is going on here!

All I have to add is that I have always wanted red high heels - in spite of the fact that I can't walk in heels ...

Nick said...

Liz: I've always wanted red high heels as well. Unfortunately they'd cause too much of a sensation round my way.

Leah said...

Totally an aside: private education and food at the same time here in the US was possible because of tuition assistance

Leah said...

that last was addressed to Scarlet

Leah said...

So...no need to fall off your chair laughing :-)

Nick said...

Leah: Ah, that makes a big difference.

kylie said...

oh my giddy aunt!
theres a LOT going on here!!!

nick, i have a sense of the frustration your readers feel with you and when i told you a while back to relax with us i hoped that your relaxed self would be less of a target but it didnt work so well!!

ursula, i like you too but i think you can be brutal!

the whole hard-up or not question is interesting. i regard myself as having had a relatively comfortable life, have always had every thing i needed and at least a few things i want but there have been times when the discipline required to get by was a bit draining. i'm in one of those periods now: nothing to really complain about but a bit of fiscal relaxation would be a relief (that sounds soo naughty)

God Bless you all!!
MUAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Nick said...

Kylie: My readers feel frustrated? They're not the only ones! Well, I do set myself up as a target by encouraging people to say exactly what they think. And I reap what I sow!

I feel for you in your present situation, honey. You're trying so hard to establish yourself as a doula and nobody's biting. I hope things take off very soon.

kylie said...

i used to have a friend who often reminded me of this quote

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
Martin Luther King, Jr.

i guess i am getting measured

Nick said...

Kylie, I guess you are. And it's a good quote. Anyone can look good in an unchallenging situation, but it's different when the chips are down.

Wisewebwoman said...

Sorry to be late to the dinner party, Nick, the traffic held me up, those appetizers look good, I'm starving. Hello everyone!

You were talking about envy? It's a topic I've been on one end of. Others have confessed to me of envy until I point out their own attributes. People ARE so unaware of their own assets.

As to the slagging going on when I walked in - all points are taken but the ad hominem attacks has got to stop. It just about wrecks good discourse.

Now what were we saying again?

XO
WWW

Nick said...

www: So true that envious people are often unaware of all the equally enviable qualities they possess themselves.

As for all the slagging, it's nothing compared to the four years of non-stop bullying I endured at school. As I said, it's more baffling than hurtful.

Jenny Woolf said...

It might be to do with jealousy. Some people are jealous and some aren't. What do you think? does that make sense?

Nick said...

Jenny: Yes, I think jealousy has a lot to do with it. That and feeling somehow short-changed by life.