Lawn People – Paul Robbins

I thought Lawn People was a very interesting read, taking something that I rarely think about in depth and analyzing its history, meaning and place in society. When I think of my lawn, I think of it as the place that everyone else I live around has, but I can’t think of any real reason why it is necessary for us to have it. Some people plant trees outside or use it for gardening. We have a few bushes lining the front of our porch but that’s about it. My mother does her gardening in the backyard. The only time I can think of me using the lawn extensively is when I was little and used to play outside all day. Other than that, it’s just a rectangle of grass that needs to be cut every now and again. We don’t keep it maintained and I don’t think my parents ever felt the need to, especially since both our front and backyard are pretty small.

What I find silly about people who do take care of their lawns, is that even if they use chemicals and recognize that it’s detrimental to the water supply, they continue, as Robbins points out. Maybe it is because the lawn has become such a personal thing for homeowners. It is like how a lot of people have that feeling about recycling that one bottle in the trash won’t make much of a difference. It doesn’t affect that person directly, or it seems not to for them, so they have little concern.

I enjoyed learning about the differences in how people in different parts of the world use lawns. For the United States, people mostly have lawns in suburban areas and less so in rural parts. Professor Hickcox taught me that suburbia shows people’s desire to return to rural settings. People have something to care for, as they would animals, except it’s their lawns. In Europe, the lawn is agrarian in meaning. It is a celebration of the rural way of life that was expropriated by the growth of industry. Did Americans have their rural way of life taken from them? It doesn’t seem that way. So is it a status thing? Robbins speaks of how people with lawns are influenced by other people that have lawns. At what point does it stop being homage to agrarianism and become a status symbol?

Look at those beautiful lawns that aren't really used for anything.

I think what drives lawn people to continue caring for their lawns is that the idea of caring for a lawn is ingrained and taking for granted. I have never questioned until now the commercials I see for weed killers and grass fertilizer. We don’t grow grass in our front yard for any special use. We aren’t getting anything physically satisfying out of it. The lawn is a mental complex.  Lawn people take care of it like it’s their kingdom, that they can show everyone else. It takes hard work and dedication and makes you feel proud, but that’s all mental and emotional. It may have been used for social gatherings long ago, but outside someone’s home – nothing really. It’s a cycle of self indulgement that is hard to recognize because business that provide lawn care services fed off of it.

“Where your lawn means more.”

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