Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I can't get no self-satisfaction...

It doesn't seem like such a terrible concept, "self-satisfaction."  It seems, in theory, like a trait to aspire to.  So why does it irritate the shit out of me, in practice?  Among my friends and acquaintances there are very few self-satisfied specimens - I tend to attract and be attracted to neurotics and self-loathers, as a rule - so mostly I observe self-satisfaction from a distance.  Blogs are a rich source, and op-ed pages.  The Bush administration of course was a bonanza.  In these instances smugness is infuriating but not without it's compensatory pleasures.  ("Well, I may be a self-hating lazy fat old person, but at least I'm not a smug bastard!")  When I note it in people I actually know, however, things get more uncomfortable for a lot of reasons, not just the most obvious one, which is that smugness is sort of a deal-breaker, friendship-wise.

I'm going to get in trouble for this, but I'll confess that this happens most with people I know who get pregnant.  It's like some complacency switch gets turned on when spermatazoa penetrates egg.  Dear fecund friends, please know I still love you, but I sometimes can't take you.  That "glow" people talk of, that halo of self-actualization, drives me nuts.  I should say here that not everyone I know who's gotten preggers has succumbed to this - I avoided my good friend Helen for months during her pregnancy, dreading that I would find her so changed, and was so extraordinarily relieved when I finally bit the bullet and went to visit her, and found that she was still her same sharp, funny, questioning self, who never once said anything to me like, "Having a child will be the best thing that's ever happened to you."  

I should also say that I'm aware that this generalized irritation with breeders probably says more about me than it does about them.  I'm sensitive about this subject, not so much because I haven't gotten pregnant yet as because I don't know if I want to, and in truth I'm a little worried about what that says about me.  I find myself unfairly irritated by women who passionately want children, who spend years of their lives and tens of thousands of dollars that could be going to raising a kid who already exists, just to pass their precious DNA on to the next generation.  It strikes me as arrogant - as self-satisfied.  When I think of wanting a child, I think of it IN SPITE of the genes I'll pass on - the hysteria and ineptitude, the tendency toward plumpness and a certain hirsuteness, the, well, self-doubt.  

And this is where it gets really fucked up.  Because while I loathe, am totally allergic to, smugness in friends and acquaintances, in presidents and foodies, it's that very lack of doubt, that talent for happiness, that I most want any child I might have to possess.  What is that?  Envy?  Probably, I guess.

And the worst part is that one person's smugness is another's confidence.  What I see as the proficiency and cool of Obama I'm sure others see as arrogance.  What I see as self-promotion others would explain, and rightly, as a healthy pursuit of a career.  What I see as blithe assumption of specialness, many a pregnant woman would experience as the simple joy of making a new life.

And in what I see as semi-coherent ramblings about what I woke up thinking this morning, I'm sure many of you might see the smug assumption that anyone might give a shit. 

So, um, nevermind.

44 Comments:

Blogger candyschultz said...

Well I am chuckling. I hate smugness of any kind either. I actually have a visceral reaction to it. I do think procreation has so much evolutionary history attached to it that it can't be parsed simply. I don't remember feeling smug when I was pregnant - only terrified. I waited a long time as I was not sure I wanted children.

As for Obama he has so much humility attached to his confidence anyone who thinks he is arrogant is not perceptive.

9:36 AM  
Blogger Zora said...

Oh, der. All through that first paragraph, I thought you were talking about masturbation!

A friend of mine once said, "Our strengths are our weaknesses." I think of it whenever my husband crosses the line from confident to smug, or whenever I go from having high standards to being hopelessly critical.

But self-promotion and self-actualized pregnant ladies are just objectively awful. And Obama is objectively good.

10:34 AM  
Blogger Retro Chick said...

Gosh yes, I recognise that pregnancy smugness.

It dfrives me nuts, I know some women who haven't sucumbed, but a lot of them are better than me now they have spawned, apparently anyway!

2:40 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Julie, this is a bit of a non sequitur for this particular post, but perhaps it actually will provide you a bit of self-satisfaction (or at least plain old satisfaction.) I just finished your book last night, and I have to tell you, I have been making homemade mayo and vinaigrette in the damned Cuisinart for probably over a decade now and I had NO idea that's what that stupid little hole in the insert was for. I, rather moronically, thought it might be so there wasn't a vacuum created, like the reason for the tiny hole in the top of a to-go coffee lid.

I am obviously both a nerd and an idiot.

Thank you. Seriously.

4:07 PM  
Blogger poetees said...

I have to tack on to the above comment, as this has nothing directly to do with what you wrote, but--well--it KIND of does. I just finished your book, and I really loved it. But the ultimate compliment to you should be that I read your book every single second I could, I literally carried it with me everywhere and read snatches at every opportunity. The reason I had to read this way is because I have two kids, a 15 month old and a 5 month old. Yes, I bore both of them and they are only 10 months apart. I'm not smug, just nuts.
(Also! We are moving, and on the last night at our old home, a day or two after I finished your book, I HAD to dig out my cookbook and I made Bifteck Sauté au Beurre because you got me so excited about it, as well as the artichokes...I'd never eaten an artichoke before, like that--I wouldn't have known how, that you were supposed to skim the leaves between your teeth!)

10:53 PM  
Blogger Karla said...

Oh my frigging god have to comment because I feel wrote that myself.

A woman I work with just had a kid and you'd think she was the only one to have ever achieved this miracle. She spoke of NOTHING but her pregnancy at work, for 7 months. We all knew exactly how many ounces she gained....each week. She brings the baby to work and we all have to Worship At The Altar of Motherhood. Only the women of course. I went and hung out with the men, I mean, why do I have to look at the baby just cuz I am a girl?

Luckily I have plenty of friends who are NOT smug who have kids, maybe that is why they are my friends?

sorry, my mom gene just is not there. Not that I don't love my godkids, etc., but babies, like dogs, are really only fascinating if they are your own.

Smugness...grrrr.

Anyhow, Hi, I'm Karla, the Texpatriate, from Austin, living in Norway. How ya doin?

10:00 AM  
Blogger Nicole said...

Ha! Too funny...

10:51 AM  
Blogger jenbentib said...

Last year I had an easy pregnancy and delivered a beautiful baby girl. I hope I avoided smugness. Yes, becoming a mother has been an incredible experience. (To name a minor benefit: breast-feeding means extra reading time, right now I'm enjoying _Julie & Julia_) Yes, it changed my life forever. (I'm discovering that every annoying parenting cliche is true). Still, I salute women (and men) who put off or decline parenting. Having kids is the easiest way to add "meaning" to your life. It certainly has mine, and I don't use quotes derogatorily. Only to say that looking for meaning on a less obvious path is admirable, and not evidence of some kind of social failing. What does it say that you're not sure you want to have kids? Certainly not that you're selfish (that argument never made sense to me, isn't reproduction the ultimate act of narcissism?) It means that you are a thinking, reflective, and brave person.

5:09 PM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

What I want to know is how you manage not to feel a great deal of self-satisfaction right now....you went from a 'dead-end job' to getting your first book published and then made into a movie! You should feel like you won the lottery!

8:33 PM  
Blogger Naomi said...

Just finished your book. Savored every word while in Maui - and tending to my sweet 2-year old twin girls. A great adventure for someone who spent 25 years in the formal workplace, and now is focused on motherhood. There is no smugness here, just enjoying these little beings and their genuine ways. Your book inspired me to purchase "Mastering" (and I admire you even more having perused the volume), and to tackle more culinary feats as well as to write creative prose.

Thanks for a great adventure. I'll see you at the movies.

11:05 PM  
Blogger arks said...

This also has nothing to do with what you wrote the other day. I finished your book about 3 weeks ago and loved it. My husband heard me laughing so much that he read it too! The week before the inauguration we were in DC and since we had never seen the Julia Child exhibit decided to check it out. It was way too crowded to leave a stick of butter where you did without someone seeing us do it, however! We ended up spending two hours in the exhibit. I'm so glad you wrote your book; I feel like I knew Julia Child after reading it. Can't wait to see the movie.

8:21 AM  
Blogger Canadian Observer said...

I've only just begun to read your book, Julie, and if the first chapter is any indication and from the posted comments of those who have finished it, it appears as if I'm in for a treat.

Smugness in pregnancy - All the young women I know who are, or have been pregnant, show no signs of this malady at all.

I agree with y'all, Obama doesn't have a smug bone in his body. He will be in Ottawa on the 19th. and I will try my damndest to be there too.

Beverly from Montreal

4:11 PM  
Blogger candyschultz said...

I just finished your book and I am so sorry I waited so long. It is wonderful. I love the language - I speak it myself. I am so sick of people getting their pants in a twist over language when there are people being tortured and killed (some by us) or starving out there in the world.

I hope Amy Adams can play you the way you read. I wouldn't like it otherwise. Good luck on your future endeavors.

7:08 PM  
Blogger Kerry said...

I totally get you on the kid thing. I have one, and he's a kick in the pants -- I have laughed more in the past five years than in the other 31 years combined.

However, I also know without a doubt that if I hadn't have gotten pregnant, my life wouldn't be any less wonderful than it is now. It's MY life -- I have learned not to depend on others to make it great.

Looking forward to the movie and the new book.

9:48 PM  
Blogger Krissyface said...

I know exactly what you mean. I opted to only have one child with my now ex husband, because my daughter came to me as a surprise (I said PULL OUT, fucker!) and though she is an awesome kid, I did not feel the need to spread mine and my ex's seed all over the next generation like SO many of my friends who went on to have 2 and 3 little'uns...

Of course, my blog is called "Fertile" but I swear it's more about my brain than my ovum.

Anyway. I think you're a kick ass writer. I'm glad I've discovered you...

6:28 AM  
Blogger Ted said...

Even though I'm a guy who has procreated (only once, though) I know whereof you speak. Having a kid is exciting for those who are going through it but parenthood overall is pretty mundane, right? It's like being excited about succumbing to gravity.

I liked your observation about wanting your kid to be confident and well adjusted even if you don't feel you are. I'd like to instill self deprecation (one of my specialties) in him but after eleven years he is having none of it!

9:42 AM  
Blogger arks said...

I have 7 children and to date, 16 grand children. Another one is due on 2-14 and another on 3-17. My kids are like guppies!! I didn't give birth to all our kids...lot's are adopted. The good news is they are all doing ok....but it was really rough raising them.....AND it really is unconditional love...really.

7:41 PM  
Blogger Daniel M. Perez said...

I have nothing to say on this topic, but I am almost done with Julie/Julia and it's cool to find you are still blogging. Added to the RSS feed reader.

You have, however, made me curious about trying out a gimlet.

8:29 PM  
Blogger Luda said...

Totally love the book! Also love using the word FUCK!

I do agree with the prego woman smugness. Jenbentib really hit the nail on the head, it's the easiest way to give your life "meaning." Those people should go volunteer and get over it. Sticking things in and pulling them out of your vagigi doesn't neccessarily make you deep (hee hee hee) or profound. I also find there are very many smug pet owners so moms don't own the market. As a former Austin-ian I noted it was also a hotbed of smuggness, but I called it hippie-pretentious.

However Julie - I have to point out that you must have a degree of confidence and huevos to do everything you have done. You have a completely hilarious youtube vid. It takes guts to put yourself out there, so don't be jealous.

On the having babies front, it is completely up to you and your uterus is your business. It was a very difficult decision for me to make despite my in-laws constant encouragement. But I did feel that there are tons of dumb-asses out there having babies left and right, and the world needs more reasonably intelligent entrants to give our future a fighting chance. I am really glad I finaly decided to take the plunge. I hope that wasn't too smug.

8:57 PM  
Blogger April said...

I don't like children. I never, even as a child myself, never liked children. I was happy for my friends when when first starting having kids 20 YEARS AGO, but my god, we are all now at the age where only medical intervention brings about the pitter-patter and frankly, after the way most of that first round turned out, why a second?
It seems to me, as a non-breeder, that babies have replaced tiny yappy dogs as the new accessories. What happens when they hit that aweful age of well, 3-25. I wonder what happens when the next fashion comes in.

9:44 AM  
Blogger tiur said...

Hi Julia,
I thank you for giving me idea to cook and to know that one can learn french cooking in a simple way.
I just finish reading your book on Julie and Julia project.
I am looking forward to your next project.
Tiurlansitompul@yahoo.com

4:49 AM  
Blogger Tiur said...

Hi Julia,
I thank you for giving me idea to cook and to know that one can learn french cooking in a simple way.
I just finish reading your book on Julie and Julia project.
I am looking forward to your next project.
Tiurlan Sitompul

4:56 AM  
Blogger MOOO ROOO said...

hee hee


you should come to shop more and carve - it will get your eggs going...

no really

4:59 PM  
Blogger bokeno said...

PEH! So glad I'm not the only one who wakes up with a load of rambling psychosis scurrying through their groggy/sleepless night mornings. "Who the hell can I lecture today?" I wonder....

2:25 PM  
Blogger arks said...

Julie...please say something...I'm awaiting any comments from you. I'm a new "bleeder" and hate that I'm not hearing from you. Perhaps you're very busy....movie and all!
ARKS

6:07 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Julie,
just wanted to let you know I'll be posting your book on my website today. The Website is dedicated to encouraging people to live creatively everyday and I love the creative premise of your book. Thanks for putting such a creative idea out there!
Jenn Mason
www.EverydayArtistStudio.com

11:32 AM  
Blogger Jill said...

i just LOVE your blog. write more!

6:30 AM  
Blogger Libby D said...

I think what fascinates me about you is that you don't mind exposing yourself in your writing. I won't kid you, it isn't always pretty, but it's refreshingly honest. I can't even resist editing some of my uglier thoughts in my diary, which I share with no one.

I will weigh in on Mommy smugness, since you went there. I am almost 50 and sterile, so I may have been smug about a lot of things in my day, but not my ability to produce my offspring. I must say that most of my friends who are mothers started later in life and many had difficulties conceiving. They were far from smug and turned out to be really excellent mothers. (Some of them, surprisingly so.) They can all converse about other topics besides their own children and the children themselves are tolerable to be around. A few friends went through infertility treatments. (Painful to watch, so I can't imagine going through it personally.) Some that weren't successful procreating on their own, but still wanted to be parents,adopted. My dearest friend adopted a wonderful boy who is now 15 and a rocket scientist.

I discovered that I couldn't have children at the age of 25. I was unmarried at the time, so God knows, I certainly wasn't trying to have any. However, the option to have children is just one of those things most of us take for granted. You see complete morons reproducing everyday, so you just assume that it is a choice you will have in your future. I did get married, eventually, in fact, I got divorced and married again 10 years ago. My husband and I don't have any children, other than our two dogs and our cat and we are very happy. Having children isn't right for everybody and I think that's o.k. If I had wanted children badly enough, I would have found a way. The same thing will be true of you...if you and your husband want them badly enough, you will be parents. If not, don't feel guilty enjoying the wonderful and full life that you do have. I can assure you that in a few years some of the same smug mommies you know now will be happy to loan you their kids any time you want them! (BTW, I do know one extremely smug mommy but she is a younger than me; about your age. Do you think maybe it is just your generation of mommies? I hope not for your sake!)

Anyway, we are getting a new puppy at the end of April and I am feeling pretty superior about that. Maybe next time you can blog about smug dog owners:-)

Hey, I am ready to read you new book!

10:20 AM  
Blogger Miss Havisham's Tea Party said...

Motherhood is overrated.

8:14 PM  
Blogger Miss Tracey Nolan said...

I'm coming to the Julie Powell party late, having just picked up "Julie & Julia" this weekend. So glad to find you still blogging, I was beginning to worry that once I finished the book the withdrawal would be...difficult.

You have a singular voice, one I look forward to hearing from for years and years!

Re: smug breeders and all pregnancy related stuff, I roll my eyes right along with you...

3:09 PM  
Blogger Elena said...

Hi there, I followed your project waaay back then, and when I have quiet time at work I look at it again. That thing is funny, and I enjoy it just as much now as I did then. I can't believe it's been 7 years. I bet you can't either. Good luck -- I'm looking forward to the next book!

3:16 PM  
Blogger Ele (Eleen) said...

I AM ON THE VERY LAST PAGE OF YOUR MASTERPIECE. I AM READING IT, REALLY SAVORING IT, LINE BY LINE TRYING TO MAKE IT LAST. I CAN HARDLY BEAR TO BE AT THE VERY VERY ENDING SENTENCE. AS A MATTER OF FACT I HAVE LOST THE PAPERBACK VERSION THAT I PURCHASED. IT MUST BE SOMEWHERE BUT I HAVE THE SAME DOMESTICITY GENE THAT YOU DO, AND A WONDERFUL HUSBAND THAT PICKS UP WHERE I DON'T!! I HAD TO GO CHECK IT OUT AT THE LIBRARY SO I CAN FINISH IT.
LOVE YOU LOVE YOUR LANGUAGE (as I too am a potty mouth)LOVE JULIE & JULIA. I ALSO LOVE BORDER'S WHERE I FOUND IT ON THE SALE TABLE BY PURE ACCIDENT OR FATE.
I PROMISE TO PAY FULL PRICE FOR THE MOVIE TICKETS AND YOUR NEW BOOK. I CAN HARDLY WAIT AND I WILL BE AT THE OPENING NIGHT HERE IN THE DENVER,CO AREA.
PLEASE DON'T EVER STOP WRITING. I CAN SAY THAT YOU HAVE BECOME MY MOST FAVORITE AUTHOR, I LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR GREAT READS OF THE FUTURE.
ELE IN DENVER
SORRY ABOUT THE CAPS I WORK IN THEM

4:31 PM  
Blogger Edith said...

well, if you want my opinion, which of course I am sure you do, you have the stuff of which great motherhood is made. That includes drinking, swearing, and making a big mess. And of course, being really really funny.

Frankly, kids are a LOT less work than French cooking. I do realize (as should you) that when it comes to children, if you don't like what you create, you can't throw it out and start over. But really, that too makes it easier.

11:40 AM  
Blogger Deirdre said...

Yeah, I admit it, I had the smugness. But now that the kids are getting older, I'm looking for a project........

8:38 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Have just stumbled across you after your book was mentioned on Nigella Lawson's website. I now need to read your book and go back to the beginning of your blog! I spent last week in France and came back all inspired by French food. Been trying to decide what French cookery book to buy, but I think your story is going to suit me just fine!

7:11 AM  
Blogger Julie Powell said...

Hey, Arks - I couldn't find a way to email you. But here I am.....

11:23 AM  
Blogger hollarback said...

For every smug annoying current preggo, there is picture of her own Mom, preggo, drink in hand, lighting a cig. Just keep that in mind, it makes it easier. Or at lest it makes me smile.

Yes it's nice,etc... but I would be happier for them if they would just ease up. I have fallen away from many friends over this exact thing.

5:44 PM  
Blogger erin said...

A song I came across a little while ago, then read this entry. It fits, I figured.

It's the second to the bottom song: http://www.garfunkelandoates.com/music/

10:17 AM  
Blogger k41150 said...

I detest those pregnant women who think that they invented the entire concept of pregnancy and that they're creating a real, honest-to-goodness miracle. Childbirth is not a freakin' miracle. I happen to agree with Bill Hicks who once said: "Childbirth is no more a miracle then eating food and a turd coming out of your ass." Yup.

BTW...what do you suppose it says about you that you don't think you want kids? Why in the world would you feel that you have to succumb to the physical capability of bearing children and that not to do so makes you something *less than*?

You are who you are. Period.

7:51 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

I know I am a long time past getting on the procreator hate train, but (as you have at many points in my life) hit a sensitive spot I myself am going through right now. Although I would have to throw most of my irritation towards the men in these situations. I know that they are excited and proud to be new parents and, for the most part, are trying to give their new baby the best start possible, but if one more new father starts on me about how terrible cesarean sections are or how awful it is if a mother doesn't want to breast feed I may start throwing punches (hopefully I will avoid hitting actual babies). I know it is coming from a good place, but the high and mighty attitude of the people who don't actually do much of the work once the fun part is over is infuriating. I say, no one with a penis should be able to judge on whether a woman wants to be a biped, office working dairy cow who has to hide in her boss's office so she can hook herself up to a painful machine and worry about leaking through her clothes the rest of the time. So I say sing it sister. Sing it loud and proud. Let us bring the smack down on proud parents everywhere (as long as we are careful not to hit babies). (as you say, Hey Ms. TMI - there you are!) The next time you get worked up on this topic, check out this NYT piece you may have seen in a little while back...

http://warner.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/02/why-i-dumped-the-pump/?scp=1&sq=Ban%20the%20Breast%20Pump&st=cse

3:00 PM  
Blogger hunnybeetee said...

Ugh! I know exactly what you mean! My sister exudes this smugness with her kid, I intervene saying that she is screaming at her child while she sees this a regular discipline. She yells at me saying smugly "How would you know?" as I have never had a kid or have been married. Its so fucking annoying!!!!!!!!! Thank you for so eloquently writing exactly how I feel. Reading your blog is like therapy because there is someone else in this world who thinks what I am thinking too. I hope you read comments from previous posts.

6:44 PM  
Blogger krissya said...

I love your book and I am almost coming to an end! Yes, most of the people on my job have kids and act like I know nothing about children just because I have don't have them yet. Meanwhile, I really want to have children and plan to get married next year and have a baby with the man I love. And they act like my life is meaningless because of it. But I don't see anything wrong with having a baby through other means, as you seemed to imply. I am sure if you do decide to have children you will love them and pass on the value of success, whether you adopt of decide to take those drugs you said in your book you would have to take-AND THAT WOULD be okay by my book.

4:10 PM  
Blogger krissya said...

Although I do not eat red meat, I thought I really love home cooked recipes and I love the idea of putting the time into cooking recipes. Some of these recipes seem really difficult and it must have taken a lot of patience going on a wild goose chase for ingredients. I live on Long Island so I was surprised you have access to lard, and some of the other ingredients in the book, but then you live in queens so there are a lot of stores. But I love to cook and bake and food made from scratch is so much healthier. A home baked cake is so much healthier than store bought, especially now days when cakes are not fresh baked. Well where you live you might have access to more home made bakeries.

4:16 PM  
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6:12 AM  

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