Built for Bittersweetness

Marla Rose
7 min readMay 13, 2022

On a recent Saturday, I met some friends for dinner for the first time in many months. We have known each other for a long time, nearly twenty years, going back to when we were new moms looking for vegan community for ourselves and our children. We raised our herbivorous kids together and shared our resources as we tried to navigate the early 2000s with children who had a decidedly different upbringing than their peers.

It was interesting meeting up with these dear friends again; we really had such a formative time together when we were raising our children. These are the moms, after all, I navigated everything from vegan holidays to tactfully troubleshooting birthday parties at the turn of the century. We have been through it together so we have that natural closeness borne of having gone through something uniquely unusual together. Even given that, I have noticed that with this period of extensive stress and prolonged isolation, when I do see friends, we tend to go deep really fast. There is not much of an appetite for light chit-chat these days: After pleasantries, we seem to dig into the rich, loamy depths right away.

One of the topics we wandered into was the casual, aggressive and entrenched racism of most of our parents growing up, particularly against Black people. Having had parents who came of age in a very segregated country during a time of little awareness or desire to push past their own internalized white privilege, we were raised in this thicket where racist attitudes were completely pervasive and normalized. We talked about the ways that we rejected and rebelled against these mentalities that were embedded in our households and got in trouble for violating or simply just challenging the norms with regard to race. Whether it was dating outside our race or just opposing racist attitudes, we got the message, implicitly and explicitly, that poking this particular bear could get you into deep trouble so taking a principled stand was not an easy choice for a dependent minor to take.

It was one we did to greater and lesser extents but the alienation of being misaligned with the doctrine of our culture and our households may be at the root of why we all grew up to be activists.

Lately, I’ve been reading Bittersweet by Susan Cain. I’m not far into it yet but from what I’ve read so far and from…