Saturday, May 12, 2007

the grass is always greener... so let's mow it down!

Here's my first response in the "Just Ask" challenge. (By the way, I still need more questions!)

Elena put forth the following query: How much does grass grow overnight? What is the deal with the American desire to mow grass daily?

First, Elena, I love this question... it hits close to my Memphis heart. Memphians are especially fanatic abou their lawns--possibly because the hot, humid summers in Memphis produce especially beautiful lawns--and I definitely grew up in one of those households where the growth of the lawn was tended more obsessively than the growth of the children. Unfortuntely, I can't answer the first part of your question ("how much does grass grow overnight?"). I suspect that there are several variables that must be considered--climate, type of grass, shade, rain, make and model of lawnmower, etc. But the second part of your question I can certainly speculate about...

FYI, you are not the only one who has been befuddled by the American lawn obsession. (See, for example, V.S. Jenkins' The Lawn: A History of the American Obsession or T. Steinberg's American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn.) My instinct is to say that a "perfect lawn" is one of many markers of suburban success, much in the same way that an expensive barbecue grill, an SUV, and an in-ground pool are. It's something that the neighbors can see, and presumably admire, as evidence of one's having "arrived." Look at me. I have property. After all, your average proletarian doesn't have the time or the resources to produce such a magnificently superfluous work of art. I know firsthand that the meticulous care of one's lawn serves as a kind of neighborhood pissing-contest, and mowing it everyday not only testifies to the owner's attention to bourgeois detail but also to the robust fecundity of the lawn itself.

But here's a less-Marxist explanation. Mowing the lawn is fun. It smells great. You get to be outside, so its status as a "chore" is diminished. And we have lawnmowers, so it's not all that laborious anyway.

And if the added benefit is that your neighbors think you're Ward Cleaver reincarnate, all the better.

1 comment:

Elena said...

Thank you, Leigh :)! What a great response! I aske because, well, I am allergic to cut grass. And pollen. And weed. So, I get to be the vicitim of a pissing contest, basically ....