Cookie Cutter Lives

As I drove the back country roads to the next town over, on my way to get groceries, I looked around me at the wide open sky and the rolling farmland, the mountains the backdrop to it all.  I watched the eagle swoop from above to snatch some unsuspecting little animal that was now going to be lunch.  I long to have a house out there, in the middle of nothing.  (come on lottery ticket!)

Drake Landing Cookie Cutter Lives

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As I crested the last hill, the sprawl of the town I was heading to was laid out before me.  I realized you could see an almost visible line between the old town and the newer area that had been built up in the past few years in response to the pre-recession population explosion.

My eyes strayed to the left.  The new subdivision on the hill.  I realized it stuck out – a copy of the city here in the rural countryside.  Rows upon rows of half-a-million dollar houses, with barely discernible differences, all shades of grays and beige.

I realized that this is the world we are bringing our children up in.  Houses need to fit in and not be too different from the neighbors house.  Certainly no bold colors.  No individuality to them.  Nothing that would stand out and cause talk.

This has become the life of our kids.

School is taught one way.  You’re expected to learn that way.  Our children are instructed for long hours on how to fit into the mold of today’s society.  Woe is the child who is different.  That difference will be pointed out and talked about and taunted and ridiculed.  Different is evil and something to be eradicated on the school playground.

I’m one of those square pegs that’s never fit into the round whole of society.  Bil, even more so.

And we’re bringing Vista up in that same tradition.

Part of me feels bad.  I know we’re setting her up to have a hard time in school (should we ever decide to send her).

But the reality is that my child is different.  I want her to embrace her individuality.  Her desire to wear a summer dress and a winter touque.  The various combinations of hats and sunglasses.  The way she can look at the flowers and see the butterfly.

I makes finding friends difficult, but those friends tend to be solid, lasting, steady…. not fair-weather flakes.

So my question for you today:

Why is individuality so scary to society?  Why does different = bad.  Why don’t we encourage, rather than trying to suppress, originality.

 Cookie Cutter Lives
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16 Responses to Cookie Cutter Lives

  • oh my love… such genuine, vulnerable questions you ask. and those questions, i hope, are in the head of every parent because we need to encourage originality and celebrate each person’s unique awesomeness, no matter how “square” it may be.

    why is it scary??? because it’s different and a vast majority of people are ignorant when it comes to differences of any kind (and i’m trying to not preach because there are many a thing that i too am ignorant about.)

    but… my sweet friend… posts like this one can only help to combat that ignorance and promote awareness and tolerance.

    so, good on you… as per usual, you put many people’s thoughts into words.


    Jenn Reply:

    @nic @mybottlesup,

    I think that you’re exactly right. We need to ‘celebrate each person’s unique awesomeness’ rather than forcing them to hide it in a closet.

    And I do agree that ignorance is behind fear a lot of the time. People are afraid of what they don’t understand.

    I guess all we can do is try, as much and where we can, to educate those that need it. ;-)


  • Heather says:

    I’m all about being weird.

    I live in one of those cookie cutter communities. Where parents LONG for their children to go to school, to get out of their hair. And I, I want my babes at home, with me, so I can control (to some degree) the level of innocence they keep. (that would be a whole other topic, but ANYWAY….)

    Nobody takes a stand, because that requires work. No one wants to work anymore. The want careers, but not jobs. Work is too damn hard. And, it sucks…for them. ;)

    That is all. For now.
    .-= Heather´s last blog ..I broke up with Chef Boyardee =-.

    Jenn Reply:


    You, my dear, are a beacon for individuality. If V grows up to be a fraction like you, I will consider it a great accomplishment.
    But you know better than most what a heavy heart comes with being different, sometimes.

    And I’ve never considered the laziness quotient in this. But I suppose, to some degree, we are ignorant about those things we are too lazy to educate ourselves about.

  • Lisa says:

    We just recently bought a new house and in our search we avoided those cookie cutter communities and opted for a smaller house because it provided more to us. People around us kept questioning why we weren’t looking here or there and my answer always confused them. I was looking for more than a house, I was looking for a community, a neighborhood. Cookie cutter is boring, predictable and not for me.

    I hope to raise my daughter to feel free to express her individuality, to not be afraid to be different than her friends, to recognize that it is peoples differences that make them special.

    People are afraid to be different and that sucks. People like to feel safe in the shadows and that sucks too.
    .-= Lisa´s last blog ..The Chimes at City Garden =-.

    Jenn Reply:


    When I bought the place we live in now, I did it for the same reasons as you. I bought for the community and the fact that every house on this block is different.

    I wonder if people would be less afraid to be different if it came with less persecution and more acceptance. Or if it’s the fear of being different, itself, that’s the problem.

  • Colleen says:

    Interesting analogy. You could say that while the outsides of the homes may all appear the same, the insides could be decorated to fit each’s own individual personality. And isn’t it what is inside that matters? By living in a seemingly same home you are not forcing others around you to live by your standards of taste and design?

    Devil’s Advocate. That’s all.

    It’s cheaper for builders to hammer out houses like they are cars on an assembly line. So Capitalism defines progress. Isn’t that always the case (unfortunately)?

    I agree with you, don’t get me wrong. I’m tired of different being scary. I battled this when we decided not to have our boys circumcised. But I realized that if we teach them to be open and accepting of others that they stand a better chance of being received with openness also. Maybe not in grade school, but for their adults lives. Like you said, my hope is for them to weather the storm of flaky friends and find the steady, strong ones.

    I also think it’s interesting that a lot of people “say” they don’t mind “different” but those are the ones hiding their mouths behind their hands, the first to whisper in to another’s ear how weird “different” is. I hate that they hide their own self-consciousness in the cloak of social acceptance.

    I hate that I, myself, have done this too. It’s so hard to find your path and walk it without pause.

    I’m so worried about school for the boys.


    and hugs. LOTS of hugs.
    .-= Colleen´s last blog ..A Tiny Tank Cannon. And A Nose. =-.

    Jenn Reply:


    Absolutely! It’s what inside that matters. That is the core of our individuality.

    But by forcing the outside to conform, are we not stripping away some of that individuality to the detriment of the inner self?

  • I think, for a lot of people, they want to be accepted. And to be accepted, they need to fit in, and to fit in, they need to conform to what others are doing, which causes a whole heck of a lot of same-ness.

    And yet. We are such a rainbow of colors. I think the reason we might not always see it, is because people tend to gravitate toward others who are like them. A clump of this here, and clump of that, there. Because it is WORK to accept people’s differences, and it is EASY to accept people who are exactly the same as you.

    It is also WORK to maintain our unique individuality as we grow. Peer pressure is such a bitch. Wanting to be liked is a very basic, human condition. But for those of us whose parents (like you and Bil for Vista!) encourage us to express our individuality, allow us to explore the world and form our own opinions, give us room to grow into the adults who are, to the very core, the people we are meant to be – well, we are the ones who go through life square.

    For a long time, I struggled with that. But now? I revel in it. I celebrate my difference. My kids see me doing that, and they will be that much stronger when they get the feeling that they *should* be doing what everyone else is.

    Obviously I have a lot to say on the subject, but I’ll stop now before I write a novel :).

    .-= Andrea’s Sweet Life´s last blog ..While A Child is Visiting =-.

    Jenn Reply:

    @Andrea’s Sweet Life,

    Yes, I get tired of the sheep and their bleating about what we should wear and like and think.

    And perhaps that’s why I surround myself with people like me – mutual freaks ;-)

    You make an interesting point – it IS a lot of work to maintain our individuality the older we get. And that doesn’t stop once we’re adults, either. I think the older we get, though, the less we’re forced to care what people think.

  • Michelle P. says:

    Yes, I have the same visceral response to the lines and lines of suburbia house all lined up without any distinguishing features. That’s why I live in the house and neighborhood I do. But, I’m going to object that this is all something new. When I lived in Winnipeg, I remember rows and rows of little post-war houses lining the avenue. And again in Toronto. Even looking back further, to my home town and the early parts of last century, you’d see lines of company houses all standing in a row.

    Economies of scale. It’s easier and cheaper to turn out house after house in suburbia rather then take the time to develop individual properties that suit the owner. It’s easier and cheaper to turn out child after child from the public school system.

    It’s also more consistent. Like going to McDonald’s for a hamburger. You know what you’re going to get. It’s that consistency that makes it appealing for individuals. They can identify where society’s boundaries are and how they fit into the world. They don’t have to take the risks of stepping outside those boundaries. Less risk also mean less individuality. And it’s always been there — social norms, class systems, castes.

  • jenn says:

    in my opinion, the people that look down on others for being different are scared, they are scared you are better than them. scared they are missing out on something great (which they are) so they put up their best defense mechanism, meaness. kids especially can be very cruel.

    i was brought up to be different, to branch out, as i have taught my children. i have also learned that no matter how we bring our children up they will fall into a comfortable place just for them. for example my oldest is one of those sports oriented kids and wears only the “preppy” or athletic clothing, but he is also very artsy at the same time. my middle son you could find wearing an array of clothing..shorts with cowboy boots and a toboggan, and wants to be a farmer. none of us are farmers..

    i had a teacher in school that would tell us “if we were all the same, the world would be a very boring place” that quote stuck with me since 3rd grade and i’ve used it often.

    like you said, the REAL friends will be constant, steady..they will love our children for being who they are and im ok with that!
    .-= jenn´s last blog ..A Perfect Dozen =-.

  • mel says:

    I always wonder why individuality makes some uncomfortable. I could never understand how it affects you, although I try by the pieces you share. Haley started off school in Catholic. I was afraid to send her to public. Afraid that it wasn’t streamline and consistent enough to provide the best educational opportunity. Then 2yrs ago we switched. Now she is able to express herself in a more diverse environment. Other than a Navy Blue polo, she can wear whatever she likes. They learn different methods of math so that each kid can use whichever they find easier and the classroom embraces kids from all walks of life and those that require additional resources. I couldn’t be happier with the diversity that is housed and the acceptance that is displayed in our school. Children are products of their environment. I firmly believe that. I try so hard to teach my kids to love and accept those no matter how different and to encourage those around her to do the same. I wish you the best in finding one that best matches your wants and needs. Vista deserves the best.
    .-= mel´s last blog ..I’ll be on my boat. =-.

  • Lu says:

    Honestly I don’t even know what “group” I am in. My mom always pushed us to be individuals…starting with our “weird” names. She always encouraged us to make our own path, and fuck ‘em if they don’t like it. When they tried to suspend me in 8th grade for dying my hair green on St. Patty’s day, she went down to the school and ripped the principal a new one. The funny thing is I was never rejected by one group, but accepted by them all.
    So basically, just raise V to be like me and it will be all good.
    But I do know what you mean b/c I know kids who were picked on or whatever…but they are all billionaires now. So, yeah.
    P.S. MY HOUSE IS BRIGHT PINK! (It works in the Everglades)
    .-= Lu´s last blog ..Updates and other awesomeness. =-.

  • sarah says:

    I live in the country with a few house nearby. The push to conform is just as strong here as it was when I lived in a more suburban area, if not more.
    Fear and the herd mentality. It’s the first thing that I can think of when people reject the unusual.

  • Kellee says:

    I wish I knew the answer to those questions.

    I love individuality. I think that kids that are taught to embrace that in themselves grow up to be the most fascinating and happy adults. You’re doing a good thing for Vista. <3

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