Google “What’s Your Excuse?” and you will get a list of articles and blogs all about how this one woman—Maria Kang—ignited a controversy over fat-shaming by posting a picture of her very fit self in skimpy workout gear while surrounded by her three small children and the phrase “What’s Your Excuse?” Oh, Facebook! The source of all evil!
She claims she meant to inspire other moms to exercise, but she has received a lot of negative comments about how her inspirational photo and motivational question just make those of us who are already overly tired and stretched too thin by life’s many demands feel ashamed, guilty, inadequate…
Let’s be fair about this: Ms. Kang is NOT the first person to do this. If you search for on-line images using that same phrase, you will get lots of pictures of people exercising with the question “What’s Your Excuse?” plastered over it. The only reason she is really under-fire is that by using her children as props, she is targeting the mothers of young children, and we are a very testy bunch.
So, what’s MY excuse for not working out daily? Um, it’s boring, dull, un-fun, I don’t want to…and for me, those are tougher hurdles than not having time, child-care, granny-care, or being too fat to fit into my yoga pants.
I wonder if Ms. Kang, whose apology proves that she is as thin-skinned as the rest of us, would be insulted by my very honest answer. Maybe. Maybe not.
Over the weekend, I took my children to a festival where one of the many activities was basket-making. Basket-making, and just about any other craft, are not my thing, but my kids wanted to do it, so I sat down at the table with them. A woman who looked like the grandmother in a Hallmark card—gray hair in a bun and reading glasses best described as “spectacles”–approached us with a smile, handed us the supplies and gave me instructions. I smiled and thanked her.
I helped my daughter get started on her basket and pretty much weaved my son’s entire basket as he was more interested in looking at the fish tank in the lobby than doing an actual craft. The Hallmark granny returned, still smiling, gave me a few pointers, made suggestions as to how we might embellish the baskets at home, told me where I could buy more basket supplies…and while I’m sure she was just trying to be helpful, I felt that she was hovering. I hate hovering—especially since I was trying to weave a basket while watching two children who were now in separate rooms and keep an eye on the door for a friend who was to meet us there. I wasn’t in the position to really converse about the joys of basket-making.
So, after I politely thanked her a few times, she made yet another suggestion, and I said, “But I won’t” with a smile.
“You were telling me how I could do this at home, and I said ‘I won’t.’ I’m just not that interested in crafts.”
“Really? Why not?” she asked in disbelief.
“They aren’t my thing.” Yes, I was smiling and using my friendliest tone of voice and being very, very honest. I find crafting as stimulating as toting my garbage cans to the curb every Tuesday. It’s just not my thing, but clearly, she was very insulted.
“That is a shame! Everyone should enjoy making useful things!” she said elevating her voice with indignation. You would have thought I had said something insulting, like “Only idiots make baskets.” I didn’t say that. I would never say that. I don’t feel that way at all. God bless all the basket-makers of the world!
“It’s okay,” I said in a soothing voice as I gently patted her hand, “I have other interests. Not everyone likes to do the same things, dear.” Okay, that was a little condescending of me, but we are talking about someone who was thoroughly offended that I didn’t share her passion for basket-making.
Isn’t it funny though how the mind works? I was reading about all the controversy over Ms. Kang’s “What’s Your Excuse?” and I thought of basket-making because for me, they are one in the same. My excuse is “I’m not interested. I find it dull, un-fun, not my thing”—whether we are talking about weaving a basket or feelin’ the burn.
So, if I posted a picture of me doing archaeology and asked, “What’s Your Excuse?” would anyone find that offensive? Probably not, but I don’t think it would inspire anyone either. What about a picture of me cooking? Or journaling? Or writing in my blog? If I did such a thing, I would expect very few Facebook “likes” and fewer comments. You may shrug, but Facebook doesn’t have an apathy button.
But here’s the true challenge, in my opinion, what’s my excuse for not pursuing the things that truly interest me? Look at the examples I gave here. Archaeology? Really, when is the last time I participated in a field school? Um, before my daughter was born…so, it’s been at least six years, if not seven. How often do I really, truly cook? I guess I cook out of necessity every day, but if we are talking about a meal that I’m proud of, it’s been a while.
Now, to my credit, I DO journal daily and I AM writing in this blog, but what about writing the Great American novel? Yes, of course, that is my dream. Isn’t it the cliché dream of everyone who writes? Other writers—especially the successful ones—overcome huge obstacles in order to write. So, that’s where I have to ask, “What’s my excuse?”
In that sense, I can credit Ms. Kang and the basket lady for inspiring me. I’m not embracing their hobbies, but I am remembering that I do have dormant passions that I should pursue relentlessly and without excuses.
What’s YOUR excuse? (Of maybe you aren’t making them. Maybe you are livin’ your dream right now. If so, good for you!)