It all started with a disposable coffee cup.
Waiting in line for my coffee, there were two women in front of me. They seemed to know each other, their interactions polite, not overtly but in a reserved manner. A bit like knowing of someone but not really knowing them.
They ordered coffees, with one of them handing over a keep cup.
Keep Cup Lady asked the other lady why she didn’t have a keep cup, to which the response being that she didn’t use one.
And that’s when it got a bit weird.
In this sort of strange, passive aggressive manner, keep cup-less lady was shamed for not using a keep cup. She seemed genuinely confused and thrown off guard. She shook it off, but she looked a bit irked by it. I know the owners of this café quite well so whilst the barista was making my coffee, I asked him if this kind of thing happened often. Rolling his eyes, “more than you would care to imagine” he responded. Please tell me that keep cup coffee rage is not a thing.
It is not enough that we feel we are being judged for our choices, this is where we have apparently landed. Cancel culture has hit the café scene.
I buy A LOT of takeaway coffee and I use a keep cup. A personal choice, doing my tiny bit and as a devoted takeaway coffee consumer it seems appropriate. Not worthy of praise equally in the way that not using one is worthy of prosecution.
With my own keep cup coffee now filled with a flat white #butfirstcoffee I went back to the office, the exchange between the two women, tossing about in my head. Sometimes you catch people when they aren’t at their best, so maybe this lady who thought it acceptable to point out this “transgression” was not having a good day. You know when you feel crap so you shoot down everything on your radar because negativity begets negativity.
Feeling pressure from our peers, and from society is not new but it feels like it has shifted and this newer version is to throw shade on the decisions others make. Especially those that conflict with our own beliefs and especially around social issues. Judging people, complete strangers, be it online, on the street, at work and to do so with no context to the life they live. Why do we have to be everything to every cause? I listened to Brene Brown’s podcast interview with Russell Brand and she says “assume others are doing the best they can.” She goes on to talk about the idea of assumption of positive intent and I love everything about this.
Assume others are doing the best they can.
No one person is perfect but lately it feels like we should be. The expectation that our lives are pure, with no contradictions, no ambiguity. The enormous, relentless pressure to be everything to everyone. To be faultless, with impeccably groomed eyebrows, the designer pantry, a purpose driven career and a picture perfect relationship.
Flawlessly photographed and curated for your pleasure and for your Instagram viewing.
And now, this expectation to be living a life fully sustainable with aligned values and virtues. Last month, if you decided to head to the track for Melbourne Cup meant that you probably did not care about the atrocities of the racehorse industry. If you forget to take your reusable bags to the shops do you even care about the planet and unless you are a vegan, then maybe you aren’t doing enough about climate change. It feels so intense, like you must be one or the other, that contrasting beliefs can’t co-exist.
Light or dark. Black or white. Right or wrong.
If you aren’t publicly outraged about something, then what is your purpose?
Let me be clear, this is in no way to take anything from those who are the change makers, the helpers and the social entrepreneurs, the volunteers and the activists. We surely need more Greta Thunbergs of the world but being your own version of this might mean you are doing so, quietly, behind the scenes, no ceremony, no song. It may look entirely different to the next person and that should be okay.
But it doesn’t feel like it’s okay.
To dismiss someone and publicly persecute them for their choices is extreme. The constant need to call someone out for a perceived indiscretion. Humans are contrary by nature. We change our minds, our thoughts they ebb and flow. I worry about climate change but this doesn’t stop me from driving my car to work each day. My six year old has a Lego collection that rivals the set of Lego Masters and one day it will be landfill, I don’t feel great about this, but the joy of watching my son build his masterpieces outweighs this. I purposely chose not to have any of those Coles Little Shop things, but I happily collected the garden herbs from Woolworths.
I’m just doing the best I can.
In KMart last week, shopping for Christmas stuff gave me more pause for thought. If you have spent anytime in KMart since they rolled out their Christmas stuff then you will know where I’m going with this. So much stuff – the cheap and tacky variety (with the occasional wooden reindeer thrown in for good measure). It’s colourful, gaudy, terrible for the environment and testament to our obsession with consumerism. I huffed and puffed at it all, muttering to myself that I wasn’t going to buy anything because I’m saving the planet but then I remembered that I LOVE Christmas and we have a child who believes in Santa and all the magic and Jesus if we can’t spread a little cheer via some shiny red tinsel and flickering fairy lights what then has been the point of this year? In a year that feels strangely unsettling, among the chaos, we need some sparkle, even the plastic variety.
But back to the keep cup (less) lady. Because we don’t often know what goes on in the lives of others, let’s just assume she is doing the best she can. She may not use a keep cup but perhaps she gives her time to a children’s charity, maybe she donated blood last week, maybe not. Using a keep cup but being unkind to someone because they don’t seems at odds.
Kindness to the planet includes kindness to each other.