Filtered Life on Social Media
Accentuating the positives
Jane Sanders Illustration
Some of my friends on social media seem to think my life is perfect.
“Is your life as peaceful as it looks?” they inquire.
“I want my friend Melissa’s life!” they enthuse.
“I hope your boys realize they live in a paradise,” they sigh.
I can’t imagine how they’ve come to this conclusion simply by reading my (obsessively edited) Facebook posts or admiring my (heavily Photoshopped) photos depicting (carefully cropped) farm scenes of my devoted (too tired to cheat) farmer/husband or my (occasionally) happy sons frolicking (playing Xbox) in sunlit meadows (their undershorts).
I have to admit, however, that it gives me a measure of satisfaction (swollen head) knowing that so many people (the sister of a guy I knew in junior high school) apparently believe my life is far superior to theirs.
Yet, these expressions of envy and admiration also make me feel (a tiny bit) guilty. Is it possible that I have accidentally (shamelessly) accentuated the positives of farm life a little (way, way) too much?
At these moments, it occurs to me that perhaps I have not been as forthcoming as I might have been regarding the less-wonderful aspects of life in the country. Or, as they say in social media terminology, #countryproblems
The truth is, it ain’t all one big Shangri-la. Take, just for example, country water.
Our house is supplied with water from a 80-foot hole in the backyard. The good news is that well water is sort of free (you still have to pay for electricity to pump it out of the ground and into our house) and pretty much unlimited. The bad news is that this sort-of free, unlimited water is also untreated, unfiltered and loaded with minerals that wreak havoc on every surface it touches.
Thanks to hard water buildup, for example, I already need to replace the new “oil-rubbed bronze” faucet that looks so adorable in my rustic farmhouse-themed bathroom. The finish is corroding, and the only fix appears to be throwing the whole thing away. In other words, I’m prohibited from having an adorable farmhouse-themed faucet because....I live in a farmhouse.
Fun with well water doesn’t end there. Rust and mineral deposits make it extra-difficult to get sinks, tubs and toilets looking clean, and the only reason I know our towels are supposed to be white is because I remember how they looked at the store. Never mind what hard water does to human hair. No amount of product will force my baby-fine strands to stand up to the weight of all those minerals. I haven’t had a good hair day since I arrived on the farm in 1992.
And I try not to think about what our family might be ingesting in our drinking water. To be honest, our tap water looks and tastes pretty good (far better than the nasty-looking brown stuff that flows out of faucets in town), but I sometimes I worry. More than once, our water has suddenly taken on a foul odor we traced back to a decomposing mouse or frog which somehow got into the well and drowned. As far as I’m concerned, well water has one thing and one thing only going for it: sort-of free.
That reminds me of yet another aspect of country living that literally stinks. I can honestly say I spent the first 30 years of my life blissfully unaware of what happens to the contents of the toilet after it is flushed. Then I moved to a place beyond public sewer lines. A septic tank, I now know, is like a delicate flower that has to be handled with care and finesse. Woe unto the houseguest who unknowingly exceeds the maximum sheets-per-flush. All I can say is It’s a good thing I’m married to a farmer who grew up around a bunch of cows. No other husband would have the stomach to handle our plumbing repairs. Forget roses. There is nothing sexier than a man who comes bearing his own toilet snake.
Being in the hay business also comes with its own special bummers. Yes, the emerald-green Bermuda grass fields are lovely, the rows of round bales glow like gold in the setting sun and the scent of fresh hay wafts through our windows. I will admit, it is a pretty poetic way to make a living. I will also admit that we have teeny-tiny bits of hay every freaking where. All the time. In our vehicles. In our carpet. In our clothes. In our washing machine. Even in my intimate apparel. A small price to pay, but it does get old. Just the other day, I found myself wondering how many other mothers have to fuss at their child for wearing new fuzzy house slippers into the hay barn?
Housekeeping challenges aren’t the only drawbacks to this life. Limited access to basic goods and services is also a never-ending drag.
Need a place to house an overflow of out-of-town company for the holidays, for instance? No worries! Just book them a room at the only accommodations in town – the no-tell motel. As long as your guests bring a gun and their own sheets, they might even get a little rest.
Or maybe it’s late at night and you’ve just realized you’re out of coffee. Unfortunately, the grocery store closed at 9 p.m., and the 24-hour supercenter/drugstore/anything is 30 miles away. That leaves you with the scary gas station, the town’s lone after-hours merchant. It may or may not have any coffee, but if you’re in the market for rolling papers, incense or shady-looking new friends, you’ve hit the jackpot.
Then there is clothing, shoes, electronics, specialty foods, and a thousand other everyday items you can rarely find locally. When you live in the country, you can’t just pop into the mall on your way home from work. You have to travel to where the stores are. The simplest purchase can require Normandy-level planning and strategizing. I try to make each trip worthwhile, so it’s nearly impossible to spend less than half a day shopping, and a whole day is not unusual. Tell me. Who has time for that? As far as I’m concerned, Amazon is right up there with the combustion engine when it comes to inventions that have revolutionized life on the farm.
So that is the ugly truth about life on the farm. Not everything is blue skies and apple pies. Our world may not be as quite as perfect as certain farmer’s wives may (um, inadvertently) make it appear on Facebook, but I will still click the “like” button any day.