If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s a whiner. So you can imagine how horrified I am to discover that I have become one myself. And the worst part is, it took a comment from my own mother to point out how bad my whining has gotten.
It all happened innocently enough, in a long distance phone call last week, where I was telling Mom all about a dinner party for eight guests I’d hosted the night before. After reporting on the menu (in great detail, of course – it’s just what we "foodies” do!) my part of the conversation somehow veered off course and ended up in a giant rant about how hard it was to manage broiled stuffed mushrooms, roasted pork tenderloin, baked au gratin potatoes, toasted French bread and a warm apple crumble – when each of those items requires a different cooking time and temperature setting. This led me to make the very same comment I must have made at least a thousand times over the past thirty-seven years: "I’d give anything to have a double oven!”
All I wanted from Mom was a little pity. And what was her response instead? "You know, Lee, your great-grandmother fixed three meals every single day for twelve people on nothing but a wood-burning stove.” Ouch. She was right. There I stood in my modern, twenty-first century kitchen – surrounded by state-of-the-art gadgets and push-button appliances – whining because I wanted twice the convenience I already had.
That really woke me up. I started paying attention to what I was saying, and the truth is, I’ve got life pretty good. But do I appreciate it? Apparently not.
I say stuff like, "They never have enough check-out lanes open in this stupid store!” Well, how many women in third-world countries would give their very souls to have access to the volume of foods available at a grocery store like mine? A few hundred million, at least.
I gripe about houseguests using up all the hot water. Big deal. In another half an hour the water heater has completely filled back up, which certainly beats having to chop wood, build a fire, haul water from a well and wait for it to warm up, just to take a hot bath.
I walk into a department store and complain because I don’t like the current fashions. Did I have to weave the fabric? Did I have to cut out the pattern? Thread a machine? Stitch a seam? Sew on a button? No.
When I make comments like, "Cleaning these bathrooms is a real pain!” even I’m aware of how absurd that sounds. After all, it certainly beats the alternative having to trot out to a "one-holer” behind the barn!
I whine about frivolous things. "This lipstick doesn’t last ten minutes!”, or "Doggone it, they put honey-mustard dressing on my hamburger, and I hate honey-mustard!”
I whine about things that can’t possibly be changed. "Look at all this traffic. I’ll never get home in time for ‘The Barefoot Contessa’ now!”, or "Ooh, gross, those little fuzzy green things are starting to fall from the pecan trees again.”
I whine because I’ve gained weight, as if eating pork chops had nothing to do with it. I whine because I broke a fingernail, even though I was using it to pry open a can of paint. I whine because it’s hot. Or muggy. Or dark. Or windy.
But the whining that I hate most is whining about being too busy. That’s when I start thinking about my great-grandmother again. She raised ten children. She had no electricity or running water. She grew her own vegetables, chopped her own cotton, cured her own meat, churned her own butter, and baked her own bread. She made every dress she wore and every quilt she slept under. She sweated in the summer and froze in the winter. She sold eggs to make money, and used that money to buy more chickens to lay more eggs.
Back in my great-grandmother’s day there was no such word as "stress”. You just did the work you had to do, because nobody else was going to come along and do it for you. And the last thing on earth you would ever do is whine about it. I wish I could be more like that myself – which is why lately, I’ve been trying really hard not to be such a whiner.
But I still wish I had a double oven.