Friday, July 8, 2011

Paper Plates & Siblings

Today, I have found myself going in obsessive thought-loops about paper plates. A few things you should know:

1. I dislike paper plates. And styrofoam plates. And those flimsy plastic meant-to-be-used-once-and-thrown-away plates. And cups and bowls made out of those materials. Basically, I dislike single-use dishware of any sort. I find it wasteful.
1a. I understand that there are some cases in which convenience trumps environmentalism-- if you are hosting a child's birthday party at the park, I'm not going to scold you for not bringing your own sturdy plastic dishes and washing them at home later. I can be a reasonable person, however it may seem!
1b. I understand that it is not always my place to ask someone to change their lifestyle. If I don't know you very well and you offer me a drink in a plastic cup or I see you serving dinner on paper plates, I won't necessarily say anything OR judge you.

2. I WILL judge you if I see you using single-use dishware on a regular basis. My Crazy Ex's dad used, I shit you not, STYROFOAM plates as his everyday dishes. He had a pile of styrofoam plates in the cupboard, SITTING ON TOP of the regular dishes. To me this just represented EPIC laziness and whenever anyone used one I felt like crying. Or yelling at him that THIS is what is wrong with the world: when people use something and throw it away and it festers in the landfill for centuries but meh, who cares, it's easier than washing a dish and I'm just one person so it doesn't matter. It DOES matter, asshat.
2a. I understand that everyone can't do everything. Some people recycle. Some people use those fancy newfangled lightbulbs to save energy. And maybe these same people are hanging on to their high-flow shower heads and driving to work every day. Not everyone can do everything, but I think we should all do something. If you're the guy who doesn't recycle AND tosses cigarette butts in the street AND waters the lawn on rainy days AND uses throwaway dishes? A pox on you.

3. At my parents' house I have seen my sister consistently reaching for paper plates when she goes to offer her kids a meal. This bothers me. I understand that they are on vacation and that she is overworked and overwhelmed, but I guess it doesn't fall into one of the 'exception' categories for me. This feels less like items 1a or 1b and more like item 2: repeated, unnecessary use. We're not talking about using paper plates for a big party or an outing, just a regular dinner.
3a. I ask her to please not use paper plates; I offer to wash all the dishes myself. And she huffs at me and rolls her eyes and says things like "They're already BOUGHT, Julia" and tells her daughter to just not use a plate AT ALL.

It's an odd scenario, when someone you love does something that bothers you AND acts like you are purposely trying to inconvenience her by asking her not to. It's a situation I'm not sure how to handle, because she seems unable to hear me out and I also don't want to make a HUGE DEAL out of this when it needn't be one. The problem is that I'm bothered by the paper plate usage and ALSO by the antagonistic response I have been getting when I make what I feel is a reasonable request. It turns the situation into a Sibling Fight rather than just two humans who disagree about something attempting to compromise. And in a Sibling Fight I will ALWAYS be the little sister, the one with less life experience. I'm the one still in school, the one who doesn't have any kids, the one with big silly ideals that will vanish once I get out in the REAL world and see how hard it is. And since I know I'm perceived that way, it is unlikely I'll come out on top in any disagreement.
But I still think I'm right about the paper plates.