My father, a staunch conservateur of societal norms, once claimed that a divorcée is more “socially acceptable” than a single woman because she was once “validated” in the eyes of society.
“Who the f*** is society?” I asked. That’s the real question here.
My father flung the word “society” around as if it was synonymous with God. The only difference is that I often personified God as “the old man upstairs,” damning the sinners to live in Satan’s fiery, scorching basement while awarding saints with piña coladas in heaven. But “society” was the one entity I couldn’t put a face on.
“Seriously, who died and made society boss, and why the f*** should we care about what it thinks?” I wondered.
If I were to ask Merriam-Webster what the heck is this “society” drivel my father keeps talking about, it would say, “society is a community, nation, or broad grouping of people having common traditions, institutions, and collective activities and interests.”
But as I got older, developed a mind of my own, and my father grew more threatened by my doubtful questioning of his traditionally held values, I now believe Merriam-Webster’s definition is utter bullsh**.
If you were to ask me to define what “society” truly is, I’d say it’s a monstrous collective of brainwashed “groupthink” where anyone who dares to have an independent mindscape shall be shunned – for eternity.
“Dad,” I’d say. “I don’t see myself as the marrying type – or even the relationship type for that matter.”
“But society won’t like that!” he’d respond.
“Having kids isn’t something I see in my future,” I’d say.
“Tsk, tsk! Society will look down on you!” he’d warn.
Is that it? So if I do what I want to do, some intangible concept is just going to give me major side-eye? Oh no, I’m so terrified – someone save me from all the death stares.
But despite “society” being an abstract concept – well, by my own definition at least – I realized that when you piss it off, the consequences of getting on its bad side materializes into a suffocating feeling what you, dear reader, may know as “pressure.”
This pressure, this asphyxiating encumbrance, is what troubles me the most. There is a tug-of-war – or perhaps it’s best described as a game of arm wrestling – in the independent mind where you know what truly makes happy, but yet there’s a part of you that doesn’t want to see your groupthink-bound loved ones disappointed in your autonomous, different, and so-called “rebellious” lifestyle.
I used to sneer at people – or “sheeple” as I would call them – who would sacrifice their wants, their desires, and their happiness just to get a thumbs up and a wink of approval from “society.” But the pressure to please people, especially those who one highly respects like their mother and father, can be so overwhelming, I understand now why people allow “groupthink” to take precedence over their own freedom.
But at the same time, I often overhear people who, in hindsight, wish they didn’t follow the script written for them by “society.” “I didn’t want to do that, but I did it because I thought it was what I had to do.”
I often wonder what they were expecting for being compliant. A congratulatory party – balloons and all – for following the prevailing thought of society?
Truthfully, pressure never really goes away no matter how much one tries to chase the exemplification of society’s “model citizen.” They’ll always demand more – you need one more kid, one more step towards marriage, one more spoke up the career ladder.
That’s just the nature of the beast called “society” – it’s never satisfied.
I’ve come to that realization. After a lot of mental arm wrestling, my fist – not society – finally won the battle. I can’t imagine living a life dictated by “society” – a shapeless entity. And it is me, not it, that would have to live through the consequences of following a script that misaligns with my truest heart’s desire.
Hmm, let’s see – endure a miserable life I do not want just to get a “pat on the back” from society or do what I want to do, turn a blind eye to disapproving looks, and live happily ever after? Take a wild guess which path I’m choosing.
Kimberly Gedeon, founder of The Melody of Melanin, is a content creator and illustrator with nearly 2,000 professional articles published online. You can say hello to her on Instagram or Twitter – she doesn’t bite!