The Taste of Sour Grapes

courtesy of Joe Shlabotnik

courtesy of Joe Shlabotnik

Resentment bubbles up in the strangest of places. This morning’s bit of bile comes, oddly enough, in the form of an attack on the practice of enjoying a late morning meal with friends.

“Brunch” I learned today “is for jerks.” At least that is what I thought I’d learn by reading a New York Times Sunday Review article by David Shaftel published under that exact title. What I learned instead is not what makes people who brunch jerks, because that is never really explained, but rather how obligations can sometimes make people petty and sour. 

David, you see, used to enjoy brunch himself. But no longer. Now he sees the completely innocent practice as “a twice-weekly symbol of our culture’s increasing desire to reject adulthood. It’s about throwing out not only the established schedule but also the social conventions of our parents’ generation. It’s about reveling in the naughtiness of waking up late, having cocktails at breakfast and eggs all day.”

Oooh, “reveling in naughtiness.” You can almost hear an antebellum drawl from David as he fans himself vigorously proclaiming, “My, oh-my, oh mercy me, they’ve combined orange juice and Champagne. And they’re drinking it on The Lord’s Day, even. I do believe I’m having the vapors.”

The silliness of it all is heightened by the fact that this is actually his most damning charge. But his real problem isn’t that brunch is naughty or that it abandons the “established schedules and social conventions of our parents’ generation.” He reveals his real criticism in a single sentence when he writes “now that I have a young daughter, brunch is completely impractical.”

So it’s not that people minding their own business while enjoying a meal with friends are necessarily jerks. It’s that they remind him of a lifestyle he used to enjoy, but no longer can.

Most of us only get to choose one, though.

Realistically most of us only get to choose one. So choose wisely.

Instead of graciously accepting his own lifestyle choice he chooses to lash out at those who have chosen differently. Thus the “well-off young professionals who are unencumbered by children — exactly the kind of people who can fritter away Saturday, Sunday or both over a boozy brunch” have, in his mind, suddenly become adolescent jerks.  

It’s an all-too-common attitude toward those of us who are child free. We’re told that we’re irresponsible, selfish and now, apparently, even jerks. We’re none of those things, of course. But sour grapes must taste better to those who are unhappy than the bitter medicine of accepting personal responsibility for the course of one’s own life.

Perhaps there is some small consolation in believing that having a child somehow makes you a grown up. I’ve always thought that adulthood began once you start owning the consequences of your decisions. By that measure, David and others like him still have a lot of growing up to do.

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17 Comments on “The Taste of Sour Grapes”

  1. Wondering Celt October 20, 2014 at 8:38 am #

    I have kids….frequently think “what the hell made me do this?!!!!” but hopefully (for them) I do get over it and carry on. They are the age now that they nag us to take them out to brunch!! This did make me smile. You are spot on in your analysis IMHO so brunch on, my friend, brunch on! This guy’ll grow up one day hopefully 🙂


  2. Debra Kolkka October 20, 2014 at 9:13 am #

    What a silly gripe. People take children to brunch all the time. Maybe his is an obnoxious brat and better kept at home.
    I had my son when I was very young, giving me the best of both worlds, I think. I enjoyed my time with him and when he left home I was still young enough to travel and see the world, something I continue to do with relish. I also go to brunch, sometimes with my son.


  3. digger666 October 20, 2014 at 9:13 am #

    Reblogged this on digger666.


  4. inmycorner October 20, 2014 at 10:54 am #

    Your writing is brilliant! I am right there with you – following your logic and becoming intoxicated by the words. Bravo


  5. Deb October 20, 2014 at 11:16 am #

    I am not quite following the chart. We have children (5 of them aged 4 to 16), money and time. Life is what you make it, if you really want it you make it happen. Pick two? Much easier to go for all three and be happy.


    • Brian October 20, 2014 at 11:28 am #

      Congratulations on managing all three. I’d say that you’re almost certainly more the exception rather than the rule. I know for us money and time were always at significant odds to the point of almost being mutually exclusive.


      • Deb October 20, 2014 at 11:43 am #

        My comment is probably more aimed towards parents. We come across other parents making eternal excuses ( emphasis on “excuses” ) for why they can’t do things, when a little planning and thinking outside the box would mean they could make everything happen.


  6. Liz October 20, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

    “I’ve always thought that adulthood began once you start owning the consequences of your decisions.” This should be a bumper sticker, a poster, whatever! You have hit the nail on the head.


  7. G G Collins, Author & Journalist October 21, 2014 at 3:01 am #

    Mee-oow! Just another childless jerk enjoying brunch.


  8. Laura Hilger October 21, 2014 at 4:34 am #

    This is right on-love it!!!!!


  9. Laura Hilger October 21, 2014 at 4:35 am #

    Reblogged this on Strucknwords and commented:
    While I’ve always wanted to write something like this, I’ve tried and it’s never managed to sound balanced for both sides to hear. Thank you to Brian and Shannon for putting this out there!


  10. Erin October 21, 2014 at 10:42 am #

    Spot on … and something we have seen and experienced ever since we made the decision to be child-free. We’ve learned to shrug off the veiled comments from those who wish they were in our shoes. I can understand why some choose to have children — I’m sure its an enriching experience. I wish those same people could understand why some choose to be child-free … which is no less enriching, but in a different way. Neither decision is wrong … if it is what those making the decision really want from their lives.


  11. Jason October 29, 2014 at 11:45 am #

    Hi Brian & Shannon,

    Almost every persons position on this subject is skewed by their personal experience, except perhaps those who are young enough to make a decision and then change their minds 🙂

    Living life intentionally provides the opportunity to experience fulfilment and happiness, no matter the course we decide to take regarding children.

    You guys are successful at pursuing the lifestyle you chose to because you had a dream that you made a goal, created a plan and had the discipline to execute your plan. No doubt life has thrown up some challenges along the way, so you have modified your plan. Your goal is now being realised, you are successful. That is awesome!

    Some people have children and create a goal to have a happy and successful life that includes kids. We have and love it.

    I feel for those who let their lives happen without intention: The lonely person who has not gone out and tried to meet others half way. The people with kids that they perceive as a burden, rather than a source of joy to be nurtured and readied for a life of happiness. The couples without kids who work for 45 years, retire and then decide it is time to start ‘living’, but are not sure how…

    Aim to be successful. There are millions of ways to success, it may be best achieved from a position of happiness:

    I really like to think of creating a successful life by visualising myself in my seventies, with the benefit of old(er) age, looking back at what has made me happy, and then forming my plans for the next stage of my life with that in mind.

    Tread your own path, on purpose…



    PS Rafting the Grand Canyon is Oar-some! 🙂


  12. julesdownunder October 29, 2014 at 9:27 pm #

    Sounds like someone isn’t happy with the choices he’s made. We went the kid route and yes, we lost a few years of leisurely brunches. Did I miss them? Definitely, though I certainly didn’t begrudge the choices of others. Life is choice and being an adult is living with your choices in a positive manner. (That being said, I’ve returned to the world of brunch… yippee!)


  13. Julie & Marc Bennett November 6, 2014 at 5:45 pm #

    Great article and equally insightful comments. We are also a child-free couple (conscious choice) we are, at times, subjected to the anger or jealousy of others (yes, even family members) who made a different choice (and are now regretting it more often than not). Thanks for highlighting that maturity and adulthood should really be marked by one’s ability to take responsibility for one’s choices (even if one doesn’t like those choices!). We all have a choice in how to respond, react and live our lives accordingly. We’ve even had many people that “it’s easy for us” to live this chosen lifestyle of full-timing in our RV (currently) while we live and work from the road as we don’t have kids. Interestingly, most of the people we meet along the way are retired (naturally) and families! Youngish working child-free couples are the rarity in this instance, at least, in the RV world.


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