Friday, May 16, 2008

Affirmation of self

I recently finished a knitting project. I wore it to a knitting group I attend, and it was much oohed and aahed over. I'm particularly happy with how my work turned out (it's rather difficult to tell if something will actually fit while it's still on the needles), but I don't credit all the positive attention to any particular skill. This group admires everyone's work, and all finished objects (FOs) are displayed proudly on their blog page. Having something one invested significant thought and time into be so flatteringly admired is very affirming of the decision to spend time on knitting. Receiving this affirmation is, I think, an important motivator for being a member in such a group. And offering such affirmation to other group members is an unspoken expectation of the group's membership.

I see the same dynamic on the long hair message boards I read. When anyone starts a thread with pictures of their hair, a flood of comments appears with all the same theme: "How beautiful!", "So lovely!", "Gorgeous hair!" Negative comments never appear. Not even constructive criticism (unless it is specifically asked for). Again, I'm sure affirmation of the decision to have a less-common hair length is an important motivator for being a member of those boards.

I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with seeking groups where this kind of affirmation is given and received. But demanding affirmation of lifestyle decisions from the government seems a little over the top. And I believe that's what is behind the movement to force legal recognition of gay marriage: the recent ruling in California was not based any legal obstacles faced by legally registered domestic partners in that state, but on the lack of "dignity and respect" caused by the State's refusal to call their relationship a "marriage". I'm not convinced the court has found the best solution to the question presented to them. Instead of marriage licenses for same-sex couples, I'd like to advocate that our government get out of the marriage business.

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