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.