Brute Reason

A collection of thoughts about psychology, social justice, and anything else I give a shit about. freethoughtblogs.com/brutereason

Topics: feminism / psychology / lgbtq / sex / politics / abortion / health / mental illness / language / depression / sexism / sexual assault / fashion / racism / education / social justice

my actual writing, if you're curious

Ask a Russian, ‘How are you?’ and you will hear, for better or worse, the truth. A blunt pronouncement of dissatisfaction punctuated by, say, the details of any recent digestive troubles. I have endured many painful minutes of elevator silence after my grandmother (who lived in the Soviet Union until moving to the United States in her 60s) delivered her stock response: ‘Terrible,’ to which she might add, ‘Why? Because being old is terrible.’ Beat. ‘And I am very old.’

[…]The Russian food critic and cultural historian Anya von Bremzen recently offered me an intriguing hypothesis as to why this might be the case. In Soviet days, proclamations of joy, enthusiasm and optimism were associated with state propaganda and officialese. As a citizen of a Communist utopia, you were pretty much supposed to feel fine all the time (never mind the time you spent squabbling over the communal stove or waiting in a two-hour line to buy toilet paper). So, Ms. von Bremzen explained, a moan or a complaint would be considered a more authentic, non-state-sanctioned response to ‘how are you.’

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