Monday, July 27, 2009
It has become a universal refrain amongst the most open-minded, wonderful moms I know that "I don't judge another mom based on anything." I say it myself, I understand why we say it: We realize parenthood is really difficult and that what may work for me may not work for you. It is aspirational, in a way, so that when we see the mom feeding her little girl excessive amounts of Pixi Stix on the plane, we try to understand that that may be the one way that her darling daughter will sit still, it might have been a promised treat, maybe they are organic Pixi Stix....!
I understand it but sometimes I wonder what we are doing to our own moral compasses to take so much pride in not judging anything. When do we cross the line between being open-minded to becoming unopinionated in a borderine-lobotomized way?
This sort of obtuse question came to mind last night as I was (for the first time in many weeks) reading the New York Times magazine cover to cover (oh how I have missed you!). Did you catch the article called "Love in 2-D" about the growing legion of Japanese men seeking love and companionship with...body-pillow girlfriends? Yes. That's right. There is a growing number of adult males in Japan who are in "relationships" with body pillows printed with these sort of pre-pubescent wide-eyed anime characters on them. They take the body pillows on dates, some have sex with them, they say things like "a 2-D relationship is much more passionate than a 3-D one" and, of their "companions," "she is my life's work."
Reading this article, my mind was racing. Terms like child pornograpy and sociopath jumped around in my head. But another, probably highly-conditioned portion of my mind kept reeling in my gut reaction and telling me to not judge, to be empathetic, to put myself into these mens' shoes. Obviously they are lonely. Obviously they have been hurt. Most probably would love a real relationship and are using these pillows as a substitute till they get there.
Who knows. I am just curious about this phenomenon of being tolerant of everything. I think part of being a mature, thoughtful, sensient person in the world involves seeing nuance in situations. I hope to raise empathetic childrend. But, end of the day, I am also pretty sure that the idea of a grown man romancing a pillow of a 10 year old girl in a bikini is objectively disturbing. And yet--I recoil at the idea of coming to such a conclusion. Such a judgment. Because I don't judge...!
Maybe it's the fact that I wouldn't want even these Japanese pillow-lovers to judge certain aspects of my life. Maybe it's the internalized belief that we never truly understand what somebody else is going through, or what is really going through somebody else's mind. Maybe it's the greatest acknowledgment of the human condition to not judge--because, really, we all do what we need to do to get through the day. I don't know. But I do wonder about the amount of pride I have taken in being ostensibly "non-judgmental." Why is it so important to me?
...Incidentally, has the NYTimes Magazine always been so child-centric? In case you missed it, check out this beautiful article about an inspirational lesbian couple fighting to keep the child they have fostered since she was a 2 week old with crack in her bloodstream, incapable of even a moment of sleep. And also this piece about the messages we give our children, as told from the point of view of a columnist who grew up living in fear.