When was the first time you realized how bitterly unfair life was? That’s a chipper question. Nary a gloomy sentiment to be found. A touch of cynicism? Perish the thought. It’s a simple query to start your week off right and bright.
So, how old were you when you realized that fairness was an allusion you’d spend your entire life chasing? Despite being taught from an early age to play fair, no one really does it. Life, contrary to our idealism, devolves into a battle for self-preservation with a dash of selfishness. It’s me first and you can bugger off.
Okay, yes, that was cynical, and the outlook is the epitome of gloom. It’s a little black rain cloud on an otherwise sunny day. It’s rain falling from blue skies. It’s a question that’s best asked over a pint of ice cream, a large pizza, and (if it’s your thing) a glass of something potent.
I’m all out of ice cream, it’s too early for pizza, and I don’t drink anything stronger than tea. It looks like I’m plum out of luck so, I’m pawning the question off to you. Or, you could send the treats, and I’ll tell you about my moment of awakening. The time I first became acquainted with this cruel reality.
If you couldn’t tell, last night I had trouble sleeping and ended up watched strange things on the inter-webs. It has put me in a bit of a mood. You’ve been warned! The voice in my head— I call it Stewart— is using a horrible British accent and a cadence that suggests it ate Jane Austin for din-din.
Never fear, I shall break free from the bonds that bind and once again communicate like an ordinary person. Or, at least, a close facsimile. The least I could do is speak like someone who lives in this century. I’ll just clear my throat and— that’s better.
Stewart can be so obnoxious sometimes.
It also asks questions like: when was the first time you realized how bitterly unfair life was? That’s a perfectly mundane question to ask on a Monday morning before anyone has had their first cup of coffee/tea. You might not feel like a functioning adult yet, but this tickler should help. It’s not like it’s weighted with a sense of doom, sadness, and an overwhelming feeling of, oh my God, life sucks.
Nah, it’s a reasonable question that shouldn’t interfere with anyone’s mood. Why would it? Oh, I don’t know, maybe we don’t want to start our week with a reminder that no matter who you are or how hard you try, the cards are stacked against us. We’re climbing up a mountain with a bungee cord attached to our ankles. The snapback is brutal and inevitable. The whiplash is intense. Is that what you’re talking about? Who wouldn’t want to start your day with those thoughts bouncing around you head?
Oh, shut up, Stewart!
So, it’s just me then? I’m the only one who wakes up thinking about things like this. Okay, well, that’s unfortunate and a bit of a shock. I thought everyone asked these questions and had a voice in their head that spoke with a deplorably fake accent. It looks like I was mistaken. My bad and oops.
But I’m not retracting the question because I’ve come this far. I might as well answer it. If I don’t? The tickle in my brain will become so severe that I’ll have to scratch it with a pencil, and I don’t think that’s medically advisable. Besides, I don’t know which hole to stick it in, and I’m too lazy to figure it out. It’s safer and more efficient to answer the question and get on with my day.
So, when was the first time I realized that life wasn’t fair? This is a little silly, and you’re going to laugh at me. I should find it a bit embarrassing, but I think it’s funny in an innocent— awe, you precious little thing— sort of way. It makes me giggle, shake my head, and ask, what was I thinking?
This is one of my first memories, and I’m not sure why it sticks out so prominently. I was three years old, and still learning the basics, like putting on my clothes and wondering why I had to wear shoes. Actually, I still haven’t figured out why shoes are a thing. I’m convinced they’re all destined to burn in the fiery pits of hell for the sins they have committed.
Sure, that’s not biblical, and I’m taking certain liberties with theology. I watch the news and see a lot of people taking liberties with scripture. If they can do it; why shouldn’t I? At least I’m sending inanimate objects to hell and not people who fall in love, change their pronouns, or have certain skin tones. Discarding shoes, unlike people, makes sense. They’ve actually committed unpardonable sins against humanity and my arches. To hell with shoes!
Was that a cynical jab? We are talking about how unfair life is so…
I was three years old, and my parents were getting us ready for bed. Pyjamas were donned, teeth were brushed, and the necessary potty time was in progress. My older brother was done and ready, but I put my tiny hands on my hips. It was time for a protest, a proclamation of dissent, and an expression of discontent.
You would assume that I was going to moan about going to bed, or I wanted one more story. Most kids have a list of reasons why their bedtimes are too early. They try to draw it out as long as they can. They exclaim, it’s not fair and stomps off, but not me. Well, at least not that night. That night I had more pressing matters to attend to.
With the sincerity, and seriousness of a toddler, I asked: Why does he get to stand up to pee, and I have to sit? It’s not fair. I wanna stand too. It should be my choice, but you’re forcing me to plant my bottom. Why? Why can’t I stand to pee like my brother?
Was I a budding feminist trying to, literally, stand up to the man? Oh no, it wasn’t anything so grand, and typing that sentence made me laugh. My brother was my hero and, therefore, my direct competition. I wanted to do everything he did, but I wanted to do it better. It was a part of my ingrained stubbornness and my naive attempt to be closer to my brother.
If he could stand, so could I and I wouldn’t miss the bowl. (Okay, now that was a jab). Put me in coach I can do it, but my hopes were dashed. My parents explained the anatomical differences that made it easier for him to stand and why I had to sit. We didn’t have the same parts. If girls pee standing up, it just runs down our legs. When boys do it- I don’t have to explain the full mechanics, do I?
Boys and girls are physically different, my parents explain. To which I replied, that’s not fair! I wanna do what he does. I can do what he does. Why can’t I? just because he’s a boy doesn’t mean I can’t pee standing up. It’s not fair.
Oh, sweetheart, bless your heart and brace yourself for a long list of gender-based inequalities that will blow your mind. You’ll spend a lot of your adult life saying that things are unfair, and peeing standing up will be the least of your concerns. Wait until you find out about the pink tax or being paid less because you menstruate.
It’s not fair, but life is bitterly unfair for so many people and for a plethora of reasons. Most of which don’t make any sense. We have found ways to justify it or make it okay in our minds. If you try to point out the missing links in the logical, people get defensive and angry. Some will literally die on that hill of denial because they won’t let logic interfere with their justifications.
It truly amazes me how hard we work to make life more difficult for large groups of people. We don’t have to do it. We could balance the playing field, but we fall back on the tired old: Life’s unfair, and then you die.
How does that make it okay? Life is hard all on its own, and it doesn’t play fair. It throws chronic illnesses our way and forces us to live in chronic pain. It fucks with our minds until we snap and get diagnosed with a mental illness. It strips us of our dignity, leaves us in a puddle of our tears, and forces us into silence because that’s just life.
That’s what all the people say. You’re riding high in April, and you’re shot down in May…No, wait, that’s a song, but it’s right so, why are we making it harder on each other?
I don’t understand why we marginalize people based on— There’s no good reason to do it. We have plenty of excuses, but they don’t add up. Not when you look at a person for what/who they are: Flesh, blood and bones just like you, me, and that other person. We might look different, love different, or have more breast tissue (yes, boys, just in case you didn’t know, you have breast tissue too), but so what?
And this isn’t what I sat down to write. I wasn’t in the mood to get on this particular soapbox, but here I am. My three-year-old self would be proud. That’s it, sis, don’t sit down. Pee standing up.
Um, no thanks. I prefer to sit and scroll through Instagram. I don’t like the sensation of hot liquid rolling down my thighs. I really don’t want to be on here, having this conversation. It makes me incredibly uncomfortable, and I don’t wanna.
Yet, here I am. My inner asshole is ruling the roost today. It’s using a bad accent, offending a portion of the population, and stirring a pot that’s already boiled over. Yeah, this one will do well.
I’ll dismount my make-shift podium in a minute, but I need to say one more thing. Life doesn’t have to be a constant battle for a fair shot. It doesn’t have to be an endless string of disappointments until we die. When you hear a snowflake like me say that equality for all should be an attainable goal? It doesn’t mean we want to take anything away from the people who already enjoy the privilege.
There isn’t a limited supply of fairness, and it’s not one of those infomercials where you have to be one of the lucky callers. This is Oprah giving cars to her studio audience and a helicopter dropping dollar bills over a crowded park. It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet, and you don’t have to watch your waistline. There’s enough to go around, but first, we need to learn how to share.
We can stop telling people that life’s unfair, and then you die because, to a certain degree, it doesn’t have to be that way. We can control some things, change others, and we can level the playing field. We can give each other a fair shot at a good life, and that’s all anyone wants; a fair shot.
Which, by the way, isn’t a free ride. It’s hope that our hard work, perseverance, and intelligence will payoff. We still have to climb the mountain, but we can do it without a cord tied to ankles. That’s not asking for too much.
As for the stuff that’s out of our control? Life’s unfair, it’s hard so, let’s be there for each other. Let’s be a helping hand and not another boot on the neck. We can choose kindness, compassion, and empathy. We can be the person we needed when we were knocked down.