Friday, July 1, 2011

Define Good

So what do I mean by "good," anyway?

Good freakin' question.

I guess my conception of it goes back to being a kid. Then, the rules seemed pretty clear. "Everyday" was for the family. "Good" was reserved for company. This division encompassed everything from dishes to hand towels to furniture. For example, company got to experience Great Aunt Charlotte's living room with the plastic covers OFF.

So I've got some of that rattling around in my head. But that's not what I mean, by "good," not exactly. Let me riff for a bit.

I have a friend named Mary Ellen. She is an awesome woman, who has raised two of the nicest, most decent and grounded adults I know. She taught home ec in the same small town school where her husband taught English, and when she retired from teaching, she started making wedding dresses and costumes for ballroom dancers out of her home.

Mary Ellen is funny and smart, and the very picture of Midwestern Protestant pragmatism. But one day, she confessed to me that she had a vice. Huh? I had known her for years, and had never seen her touch anything stronger than orange juice.

Her vice, she told me, was good bread.

What made it good? The taste, the texture, even the way the loaf looked - like it had emerged from a pair of hands, each imperfection like a finger print. It was good because it gave her pleasure on multiple levels. That's an easy, intuitive thing I think we all understand.

So why the hell was it a vice? Because it costs more? The marginal increase was less than a glass of soda from TGI Fridays and the benefit infinitely greater. Because, I don't know, refined carbs are the enemy? I agree we choose many foods that feed without nourishing us, but I defy you to say that handmade bread is one of them. Because women (and increasingly men) are bombarded with crap like this every day of their lives?

My guess on the vice angle is because it was for her pleasure alone. If she could say she was buying it for her family, or to support a local sustainable bakery, it would have been seen as a virtuous act. But because she wants it for no other reason than it gives her pleasure, it's bad. A vice.

I get this, because I get caught in this thinking trap, too. Do you? Or is it just me and Mary Ellen? What "vice" is really something you enjoy but feel too guilty to cop to deserving?

This is screwed up. This is what I want to change.


  1. Awesome as always, Angelle. I have never understood the off-limits, plastic covered room with the inevitably pale carpet. My house looks like it has been lived in, almost to a fault. There are kids here, and you can tell from the moment you enter the door. Usually because they are screaming. I gave up on perfect a long time ago. Love your blog! Keep writing!

  2. When I was a kid, we had plastic-covered lamps. We kept the dust covers on everything - even the plastic that came on the washing machine. Now, I rip off those stickers and covers as soon as I buy an item.

    My vice: Sometimes I treat my startup business as a "vice". It's what I love to do but I don't let myself spend all the time I want on it. Thanks for inspiring, Angelle!

  3. "There are kids here, and you can tell from the moment you enter the door. Usually because they are screaming."

    God, you crack me up, Jenn!

  4. Patrice: Plastic-Covered Lamps is destined to be the next big Dayton band!

    But seriously, that is crazy. I was one of those annoying kids who couldn't leave the edge of a protective plastic coating alone. I would pick and peel at it until somebody caught me or the damn thing was off.

    And to think, I used to wonder why I spent so much of my childhood grounded!