I would love to be able to take a drug that would prevent me from ever being smug. A Smug Drug. I loathe it when I catch myself feeling that way.
It happened just the other day. It was (finally) a lovely day, and I went for a run along the water near our house. I couldn't help but notice that there were an awful lot more folks out jogging than there had been all winter. I felt a little, yes, smug seeing all these fair-weather runners. Where were you in the sleet and snow and rain? I thought to myself. Then I came up behind a woman who looked exceedingly cute from behind. Cute little ponytail, cute matching shoes and shorts. Also, she was wearing a shirt from a fancy marathon. Hmph, I thought, you're going awfully slowly for someone in such a cute outfit!
Then I reached my turnaround point and went back. And passed the cute woman again, only from the front this time. Which is how I could see that she was HUGELY pregnant.
I felt so ashamed, I had an urge to stop and confess to her what I had been thinking. And it made me look around at all the other runners and think, who am I to pass judgment on them?
Smugness is never a good thing. Smugness implies a feeling that something good has happened to you because you did all the right things, and everyone else didn't. When people get smug, temperatures start to rise. I'm not bothered by fertile people, for instance, unless they're smug about it—you know, "Well, I've always taken care of my health, and I started early, so I figured I'd have no trouble getting pregnant!"
Tertia's post about red flags and hot buttons got me thinking about the issue too, because several posters mentioned the word "smug" in relation to folks who push their buttons—especially in regards to the mothers working vs. staying home issue. So, for the record, I'd like to say that I do not feel smug about working. Rather, I feel very grateful that I have a job that allows flexibility, a husband who pulls his full weight and maybe more, and an income that permits me to afford good childcare. And I'm not annoyed by, defensive about, or dismissive of women or men who stay home.
What I am annoyed by is the fact that our society still makes it hard for people to have children AND fulfilling careers. (Including the career of raising & educating children, which pays close to nothing.) I'm more "free" to quit my job than a lot of women, but I'd still have $140,000 of loans to pay off, my contributions to Social Security and my retirement fund would cease, and my health insurance would have to come from my husband's job. And if he died or left, I'd be in a tough spot. I would work even if all this were not true, but I can tell you, when I was pregnant I was really hoping that I wouldn't discover that I wanted to stay home after the baby came. Likewise, a woman who stays home because she can't swing doing all of the housework and all of the childcare AND a job with inflexible hours isn't really making a free choice; she may really want to do it, but like me, she's also reacting to some powerful outside forces, in this case to the inequality of societal norms. So I get annoyed when people insist that the fact that some woman can work or stay home means that the feminist ideal has been achieved, and don't question it. (Not to mention that the vast, vast majority of people in this country do not have the luxury of any kind of choice at all; for them, it's find cheap childcare and go to work, or get evicted.) I do wish that more women were willing to take on the battle of sexism in their families, workplaces and government. I remember marching for the ERA when I was a kid; what happened?