Competitive Suffering

A couple weeks ago I was scrolling through facebook because my life is made up of free time and what else am I going to do, when I saw a meme about motherhood.

I love memes. Every time I see a meme I will stop and read it. I can’t help it. It’s in big print. It reminds me of my favorite form of literature: children’s books. This one featured a person laughing and the tagline was something like “When someone without kids tells me they’re exhausted”.

Ah. My favorite form of bonding. Competitive suffering. The gist is pretty simple: my life sucks more than yours. The good news is that you don’t have to have kids to do this! Anyone can compete! But parents always win. (they also compete amongst themselves: working moms vs. stay at homes, moms with absentee husbands vs. moms with asshole husbands, etc.)

Memes (in my two minutes of research) included the “You think a 40 hour work week is a job? HAH” and the “I don’t have enough time to be exhausted” uber champion who will win by… dying first, I imagine.

What all these memes really manage to accomplish is the backhanded self-compliment. It’s a humblebrag at the end of the day. “I’m married and fertile and my kids are healthy and vital and I have time to also post that I’m so busy with my awesome life I’m tired.”

Being single tends to involve a lot of feeling inferior.  After all, we’re not “winners.” “Winners” get married and have kids.

Given that singles are then obviously the losers, you’d think we’d get to win at losing. In fact this is not so. Because as we all know, with more blessings come more complaints about the blessings. If your children aren’t the problem than your spouse is. Single people simultaneously have it worse and better. and Marrieds and with kids have it worse and better too. It all depends on what each party is trying to “win”.

If a single person is tired, they’re immediately trumped by someone who says “you think taking care of yourself is hard? Imagine taking care of little people.”

How right you are. Clearly my exhaustion doesn’t exist.

How wrong it is to let someone else’s comments belittle my own experience. When you’re single it’s easy to feel inferior, the internet is waiting for you and expecting you to feel inferior, and the reality is most people don’t realize that’s what they’re doing. No one ever means anything personally, and yet it’s very hard not to take everything we read and make it personal.

We’re now at a point in society that saying “I’m tired” is the impetus for someone else to explain to you how much more tired they are and how you’re lucky for your amount of tired and not theirs. It’s not even a real competition. It’s like two people who are broke trying to decide who has less money. Everyone’s a loser.

Someone else suffering does not negate yours, and yours does not trump someone else.

We do a disservice to our fellow humans when we compete instead of commiserate. Think of the missed opportunity! The fact that you could have something in common with someone whose lifestyle is completely different from yours, why not take advantage of that?

Getting to know how other people function is remarkably refreshing. And often reminds you to be thankful for the reasons for your own exhaustion, privately.

Life’s hard. It’s hard for everyone. Isn’t that common ground enough?

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