The Americans

This post still needs work, but I’m bored of tweaking it. It started as a parody and a joke, and then turned darker, and then got silly again, and now it doesn’t know which way it’s coming or going. I’ll make you a deal. Be your own editor: If you want the lighter version, skip the italicized sections.

Confession: Sometimes I amuse myself by thinking about all that archeologists might say about our civilization after its collapse, when they dig through the undigested plastics with their careful tools and try to recreate how we lived.

The Ancient Greeks weren’t Ancient Greeks at the time. They were just ladies washing clothes and cuffing children, trying to get food on the table and wondering when the men would be home.

The Americans were a strange breed, from what we can tell.

(We could discuss their larger quirks at length, such as 1) their love of individual motorized rigs able to seat more bodies than would ever be desired, and to move faster than would ever be appropriate, 2) their insistence on the health benefits of rigorous and timed movements each day to compensate for the lack of physical work from which their technologies had freed them, 3) their cheerful involvement in free advertising [often paying great amounts of money for the privilege], or 4) their dissatisfaction with the world they had created and their repeated attempts to escape it [alternate worlds were frequently entered into for lengthy periods of time; some folks rarely emerged; the term was “virtual”]. I mention only four. I could go on.

However, for today, we will focus on three rather minute obsessions of the Americans and their contemporaries: spice, gender, and verdure.)

For instance, they chose two particular seasonings as their favorites, and they paired them, and kept little shakers of them always to hand. Whatever other spices they used, they nearly always started with these, and sifted them over a large percentage of everything they ate. In going-out places, they set them in little cups on the tables, or packaged tiny amounts in little paper bags, so that no one was ever without them. They called them Salt and Pepper.

They loved color, and colors meant something to them. Pink was considered a feminine color, and blue a masculine, and though a girl child could wear something blue, there were decades in which no self-respecting boy child would ever, ever be dressed in pink.

Boy and girl genders were very important to them, so much so that they began to experiment with them, and try them on as if they were clothes, and switch them.

(Some historians would feel that it was a reduced value for gender that tripped them up; this historian feels it was an obsession. Though styles changed every decade or so – the men this season were tough and swaggering, the next, tender and compassionate – at any given time there was only one proper way to be a man [or woman] and anyone who failed to meet the standard was left to wonder if he could be a man at all. Whether one was male or female determined how one could be used, forcing gender identity to carry far more significance than being, for example, human.)

Americans loved women’s bodies, though they did not particularly love women, and had a particular pattern for how the bodies should look. While the breasts should be as large as possible, the belly should be completely flat. The great trick was to have all the foods without looking like one had eaten them. The culture used squeezing garments, purgings-and-abstainings, and even knives and surgeries to get the proper female look.

The Americans were interested in growing things, and fought long and difficult battles with vegetation. Around their homes, it was customary to plant vast areas of tiny leaf blades, which created obvious problems. In wet areas of the country, the blades had to be cut compulsively over and over for fear of them growing too tall, which was not accepted in polite society. Two inches from the ground, evenly trimmed, was the standard. In dry places, creating such a large area of low foliage required careful seeding and constant irrigating to get it to grow at all, and just when it got started, the Americans drove heavy motorized equipment across it to trim it off again at two inches. We have been unable to discover any purpose in this entire practice, save recreation.

Americans also found autumn leaves enchanting, writing them into their songs and painting pictures of their beauty, but such leaves were not permitted to fall into their spaces and remain. All traces were quickly cleared, to the tune of considerable labor and backache.

It was believed that allowing fallen leaves to rest on the tiny leaf blades would remove the necessity of cutting the latter repeatedly.

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4 years ago

I like! Thanks for the laughs. Somebody who escapes me at the moment said if you can laugh at yourself, you will never cease to be amused!

4 years ago

This is excellent!????

4 years ago

Just love it! Wish it was longer!

4 years ago

Waiting for: The Americans, part 2
I loved it!

4 years ago

We do the strangest things????

Audrey P
4 years ago

More, please! I didn’t realize how strange we are!

Kendra Sensenig
4 years ago
Reply to  Audrey P

Ha! This is great!

4 years ago

I remember listening to a similar podcast in school that mentioned our worship of the strange Golden M’s, with red roofed shrines on every other corner.

Mirian Miller
4 years ago

The part where you talk about mowing lawn made me want to laugh out loud!!

4 years ago

This made me laugh but I wasn’t finish reading. I also vote for part 2.

Aimee Stauffer
4 years ago

Yes, what Rachel said!

4 years ago
Reply to  Aimee Stauffer

Please continue the article! Its good to consider how ridiculous some things are.. that we so ignorantly do! ????
Do you write a newspaper column? This would be great for that!

4 years ago

I love this. 🙂 It’s really fun to examine ourselves and our habits from an alien’s point of view.

4 years ago

You are my sister!! I wholeheartedly agree with all the opinions in this article and this is the. first. time. ever. that I have met anyone else who thinks about these things the same way that I do. The grass, the tragic, hilarious, waste of time and energy to produce grass of uniform lengths is one of the things I mourn about the culture I live in. My back yard got it’s first cutting of the summer last week because my husband longed for the smooth, even look and I finally gave in. It’s horrible. It looks so ugly now. I liked it better when it looked natural. And looks aside, it fed my goats better when it wasn’t cut. WHY would my husband want to cut and waste our perfectly good grass and then buy expensive hay for our pets!! Only because he is part of American culture and everyone else does it this way. I belong to a church where several people are employed as lawn cutters and I find it difficult to respect these people. It seems wrong to make your money off of other people’s stupidity. I consider it similar to making a living raising tobacco or selling cars. The cars!! The craziness of taking such a huge expensive vehicle to places where a bike or nice walk would do! And the obsession with gender! This historian agrees that it was an obsession, not a case of reduced value that brought on the strange practices associated with gender. Thank you for the confirmation that it is American culture that is odd, rather then me that is odd, as some of my friends seem to think.

4 years ago

I guess you’d have heard of the Nacirema people? The classic paper from the ’50s:

4 years ago

Fun read! Keep going!
Occasionally we speculate about future archaeologists digging in our backyard. They will surely wonder how so many elastics and hair clips came to be concentrated on one spot.

4 years ago

This is great! It reminded me of what one of my classmates at FB said about when our civilization is uncovered. It certainly could be said, “They glorified the right angle.” ????

4 years ago

This was so good I read it to my children during homeschool today. And now we ponder whether you too are a fan of Nathan Pyle’s Strange Planet? ????

Lucinda J
4 years ago

So funny! I read it to my sister and we both laughed and laughed. She mentioned Nathan Pyle’s Strange Planet right away, too. 🙂

4 years ago

Oh Shari you must add more to this story????

Arla Graber
4 years ago

Now that you’ve started, where will you stop?

4 years ago

What fun! I like how you think out of the box. I do wonder what those archeologists will think of us!

I wonder if our obsession with cutting the leaf blades around our homes has anything to do with being made in the image of an orderly God. In my area of the world (Washington state), failure to do so for just a few years would render the yard an impassible jungle of briers. Unless, of course, we pastured animals there… but I like space for the humans apart from animal dung!

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