Thursday, October 31, 2002
BAD LUCK AND WORST WISHES TO YOU AND YOURS
Thanks for answering my last message. I was about to write to all my friends and say "Look! That's me in the rabbit blog," but then I remembered what I wrote and decided I'd better not.
I certainly appreciate your insights, but I don't think I exactly made clear what I was trying to say. I don't believe that I falsely associate success with happiness, as you suggested. In fact, I'm pretty happy most of the time, as I tried to intimate in my first paragraph, and it's my opinion that happiness actually has little to do with personal circumstances, and is more the luck of the genetic draw. Some people are born contented, some are middle-of-the-road, and some are miserable no matter what happens to them, and if you're in the last category all the money and fame in the world won't help you.
The issue I wrote to you complaining about is my guilt and ambivalence over the fact that I can't seem to feel genuinely glad for my friends when good things happen to them, or genuinely sorry when bad things happen to them. We're all trying to be successful at whatever we do, not because success automatically equals happiness, but because there has to be some kind of point to life, and if you're not struggling for raw survival you have to expend your energy somehow. I've tried to accomplish plenty of things that I consider worthwhile, with varying degrees of success, but for some reason it galls me when someone I know personally does something worthwhile and succeeds spectacularly, and that's what I don't understand. If a total stranger wins a MacArthur fellowship I think nothing of it, but if someone I grew up with stars in an opera at the Met I feel sick with envy. Not for very long, but long enough to make me wonder what's wrong with me.
Thanks for listening,
Seeking to Know Myself
Dear Self-Seeker Formerly Known As Nervously Glancing Around,
Sounds like I misread your letter, and your problem. I guess having "a pretty nice life" sounds kind of crappy to me, but maybe I'm just hesitant to characterize what kind of a life I have, exactly. For someone whose letter I completely misread, you handled your follow-up pretty delicately. I tend to get surly and defensive when people misunderstand me. Maybe you do have a pretty nice life after all.
So now you're saying that you have a problem with feeling good for your friends when they do really well. But then you mention not feeling happy for "someone you grew up with." There's a very important distinction here. I mean, if you don't manage to feel happy for your friend who just got a book published, that's a little weird. But if you don't feel happy for that girl who sat next to you in Spanish class, who sometimes called you Porkmeister? That just means you're a human being.
There's some weird phenomenon that occurs when we find out that someone completely random who we once knew is now rich and famous: We feel sort of angry and annoyed. "He's not so fucking special!" we think, picking lint from our pants. "She was a total fucking dork in high school!" we say, kicking a nearby plant stand, which promptly falls over and spills soil all over the rug. "I don't care! I hate this fucking rug anyway!" we screech, grinding the soil into the rug with our boots. "I'll win my own Genius Grant and buy a new rug!" we sob, fumbling for the nearest bottle of prescription drugs to OD on.
Tellingly, though, real geniuses rarely hone their craft in order to purchase new rugs. This is what fuels our desperate rampage through the medicine shelves.
But let's end on an equally petty high note, shall we?
Back in '99 or so, some guy who read Filler emailed me to tell me about how he had run into someone I went to high school with. He found out that this woman was from my hometown, and he said, "Wow, do you know...?" and she said, "Yeah, why?" and he said, "I love that cartoon she does with Terry Colon..." and the girl reportedly got mad and said, "She was never a writer in high school! I was on the school newspaper, I wrote all the time! She was a fucking cheerleader!" The guy said, "Wow, what did she look like?" and the girl replied, "Guys thought she was cute, but she totally wasn't!"
That's what it's all about, folks. Forget the nice rugs and the trips to Belize - torturing people you went to high school with is priceless. No reward can compare to having dedicated henchmen out there on the streets, seeking out those who knew you way back when and torturing them. And when they write to you, to tell you every detail, every word? Well, there's nothing quite like it. You have an experience like that and you realize you were never really living before that moment.
Of course she was wrong, whoever she was: Guys didn't think I was cute at all, and in between football games I had plenty of time to write lots of desperate, alienated, rambling shit - I have piles and piles of angst-ridden notebooks to prove it. The anger and alienation in those notebooks is what fuels that one moment of grace, that successful minute or two of Nanny Nanny Boo-Boo, Stick Your Head in Doo-Doo euphoria, in which I was completely and delightfully misunderstood, interpreted as a flat character who undeservedly got what she wanted without having to work for it. Why should that be so enjoyable? Because nothing could be farther from the truth.
No one is ever worthy of your jealousy. Not even me, glorious me, hot sausage and me me.
Tuesday, October 29, 2002
GLANCES WITH WOLVES
I have a pretty nice life, all things considered. I live in San Francisco, I have a job which doesn't expose me to toxic chemicals, and I'm not completely repulsive to the opposite sex. Life could be better, but it could also be a huge hell of a lot worse. Perspective is the key, as I see it - the degree to which I'm glad I'm not a homeless person or a Rwandan refugee is much, much greater than the degree to which I'm sorry I'm not Michael Stipe or Brad Pitt.
So what's the problem? Well, I have a lot of good friends from college, and although we now mostly live in different cities, we stay in touch and visit each other frequently. And as we creep into our 30's, the undeniable fact is that most of them are a lot more successful than I am, and some have even hit the big time in a small way - had a book published, gotten tenure, been featured on "60 Minutes", or what have you. But am I happy for them? No. I'm jealous and I harbor secret, shameful wishes for their downfall.
This disturbs me. These are my friends, people I care about - how can I not want the best for them? Superficially, of course, I'm happy when so-and-so says he's planning a one-man show, but I can't deny that in my heart of hearts the first thing I think is "I hope it flops." I don't know what wretched insecurity drives me to this pathetic behavior.
My questions are these: a) am I a terrible person? b) are your less-successful friends transparently jealous of you, and do you despise them for it? and c) are you secretly jealous of your more-successful friends?
Nervously Glancing Around
There's a scene in the movie Comedian where newcomer Orny Adams is talking to Jerry Seinfeld about his doubts. He says something about how all his friends have wives and kids and they're moving up the ladder, and it makes him doubt the last ten years he's spent trying to make it as a comedian. Adams says, "I mean, what do I tell my parents?" Seinfeld is incredulous. "What do you tell your parents?!! Are you kidding me?" Adams says, "But my friends own houses, and they have kids..." Seinfeld says, "Yuck!"
The two are a study in contrasts. Adams believes success will make him happy, while Seinfeld is demonstrating, by going back to doing stand-up in small clubs, that even a tremendous amount of success won't cut it. There is no resting place. Seinfeld could sit on the beach eating doughnuts for the rest of his life, so why is he working clubs again? Because he's only happy when he's honing his craft.
You're nervously glancing around not because you're not successful enough, but because you falsely associate success with happiness. What do you want? What could you accomplish that would feel good to you?
I've had some seriously good fortune, but I still have to wake up and do it all over again every day, because if I'm not somewhat productive, all my good fortunes don't matter worth a shit. That's what I like about Comedian. No matter how great things have gone for you in the past, you still have to work hard and struggle and sometimes the fries are soggy and the audience doesn't like your jokes. That's a reason to celebrate, really. There is no paradise, and thank god for that. If you imagine that others have found paradise, if you're comparing your life to other lives, it's a sign that you're off track, that you're mad at yourself for not following the right path, or for not putting in enough effort, or for not taking enough risks. So, to answer your question: Sure, sometimes I'm jealous of certain friends, and sometimes some friends are jealous of me, but those feelings have nothing to do with anyone's successes - they're merely an indication to us that we're resisting our callings, or wasting our talents.
Everyone is pathetic and insecure now and then. The happier among us know that such feelings usually indicate that it's time for a change.
What could you do that would feel like a worthwhile accomplishment, if only to you, and why aren't you doing it?
Wednesday, October 23, 2002
HE'S HIS OWN INVENTION
That gets me in the throat.
Usually the rabbit tries not to throw gasoline on pop cultural wildfires. Actually, that's complete bullshit, the rabbit throws gasoline on every stupid wildfire she stumbles across, without discrimination. But she tries to abstain from chatting breathlessly about what everyone else is chatting breathlessly about. Why? Because she's a fucking self-conscious poser, that's why! Who else could use the third person so shamelessly?
But still, you have to hand it to Eggers. When your ass is on fire, smoke generally gets in your eyes, in the form of greed, confusion, and the sudden urge to spend the rest of your life sipping fruity drinks in Belize. Instead, Eggers is gently sallying forth with his little projects. I admire his courage of conviction, and his inventiveness, and his ability to get out of his little writerly hovel and make contact with other people. Big popularity and wealth might send the rabbit farther into the confines of her dysfunctional brain. She might retreat into herself and become lost in the labyrinth of her own demented psyche.
Or, she might just get her nails done a lot, by sweet-smelling humans with PhDs in manicurology. She might wander about in leather pants, looking for a fetching handbag that matches her mood at that moment. She might lay around reading books all day, while sweet-smelling humans with PhDs in massagology gently prod her soft flesh with their hands.
Oh, but she'd keep it real, yo! She'd still go jogging and stuff, on the streets, with all the little people right there, in plain view! And she'd still do her own dishes, sometimes. She might move to Santa Monica Canyon or Pacific Palisades, but she'd still have a piece of Keepin' It Real Estate back in Los Feliz which she would lend, rent-free, to her Kato Kaelin du jour.
God, do I want my own private Kato Kaelin! But with better hair.
Tuesday, October 22, 2002
PSYCHOSOCIAL RAMIFICATIONS OF THE NON-CALLING MALE
I have a question, and it's one of those annoyingly ancient questions for which thousands of anonymous young women are seeking the answer at any given moment, on any given advice column page in any given magazine with coupons for a dollar off the new glittery lipstick shades, or (more pathetically) in the smudgy I'll-take-this-over-suicide-bomber-stories-with-my-Sunday-morning-coffee page of the newspaper. OK, the question is this, and I'm ashamed even to be asking it. I'm annoyed at myself for bothering to wonder it aloud, or worse to spell it out on a keyboard I should be using to do actual work:
Why didn't he call?
There was a lot of lovely kissing, in fact the kind of making out that feels like it's altering your neurochemistry. There was a mutual appreciation of certain bands and novels and other good things. There are mutual friends, and complementary styles of sarcasm. What gives? (In case you're wondering, yes, the ball is clearly in his court.)
I'm asking you, Rabbit, instead of Suddenly Susan, because I know you'll tell it to me straight. You'll spare me the blithe pep talk and go right to the neurotic heart of the thing. It can't be true that, if it has nothing to do with me (all my friends assure me of this, they do, they really do) I can glean nothing from the experience. Give me a ridiculous generalization about men or dating or the breakdown of communication in the era of post-capitalist alienation. I'm a nice person, and I need something to work with here.
A fellow perpetual 13-year-old
Dear Perpetual Preteen,
Thanks for writing. Luckily for you, love scientists have been studying the no-call phenomenon for years, and have come up with a volume of objective data on the subject.
The Three Possible Reasons Why He Didn't Call
1) He didn't like you.
2) He liked you but thought you might get weird about everything.
3) He forgot you existed.
Please note that there are a myriad of subreasons that fall under each of these major three reasons. For example...
1) He didn't like you.
a) He didn't like the way you acted like you knew everything about everything.
b) Your teeth bugged him.
c) He thought you were too enthusiastic about everything he said.
d) Your friends sounded creepy.
e) You appeared not to have breasts.
f) You seemed a lot smarter and more successful than him, which was annoying.
g) You seemed a lot stupider and less successful than him, which was annoying.
h) You smelled weird.
i) You were too cynical and negative.
j) You were too positive and cheery.
k) You talked about your battles with the people in your office too much.
l) He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but something about you was sort of gross to him.
m) He can't really remember anything about you, and neither can his penis. (See also:#3, below)
2) He liked you but thought you might get weird about everything.
a) He liked you but you appeared to think he was great, not in a frivolous way but in a somewhat serious way, which means he wouldn't be able to just hang out and see if he liked you, maybe by sleeping with you a few times, without you taking it really seriously. I mean, sure, maybe he would end up liking you after that, but it's not worth the risk that you might freak out and stuff.
b) You didn't seem like the kind of person who might sleep with him for no good reason.
c) You seemed like the kind of person who might call and say, "What the fuck? Why no call? Did you not say you would call?"
d) He liked you a lot, so much that if he did sleep with you a few times, he might very well find himself in a serious relationship, which means no more evenings on the couch eating bean dip straight out of the can. Fuck that shit.
e) He knows for sure that if you spent another night together, you'd get very serious and before you know it, the two of you would be planning a very expensive wedding, and then you'd be having kids, and buying a house, and he's just not in the financial position to take all of that on right now.
f) You seemed like the kind of girl who's very open about her emotions. Eww.
g) You aren't afraid to say what you want. Screw that noise.
3) He forgot you existed.
a) On the way home from his date with you, he picked up some sour cream and onion Bugles. Mmm. He had forgotten how damn good sour cream and onion Bugles are! By the time he got home, he couldn't remember where he'd been all night.
b) After his date with you, he caught the end of the Oakland-San Diego game, then watched a few porn videos. The next morning, it rained. A few days later, you emailed him at work (Subject: Hello!!! Remember me?!!). Assuming it was spam, he threw it away without reading it.
c) It's been overcast all week. He's thinking about getting his car washed, because it looks like shit. He's gonna order the chicken parm for lunch today, he's already decided. The World Series has been pretty excellent so far, don't you think?
Should you take any of these reasons personally? Why, of course you should. How else will you decimate your ego so completely that you're terrified of going out on another date, for fear of being rejected? How else will you eventually resign yourself to go out with the first person (see also: chump) who doesn't reject you, thereby condemning yourself to a lifetime of mediocrity and silent longing, which is, after all, The American Dream?
Go get 'em, tiger!
Thursday, October 17, 2002
M IS FOR MARKET
So ... when we find that person, we shouldn't expect a bed of rose petals. But - because this comes first - how do we find them?
To my way of thinking, the problem is an inefficient market. Our romantic "choices" are roughly bounded by where we happen to be, who we meet at work, who happened to live in the same dorm as us, etc. Those have nothing to do with what interests or temperament we might have (except work, but that's a whole 'nother can of worms).
So even if you're sitting on a good "product," there's no good way to bring it to the attention of potential "customers." There's no QVC hawking eligible girls, no B2B solutions matching potential guys, Nasdaq facilitating nookie trades. Not even infomercials.
Did you get all of those marriage proposals when you were doing Filler because you're that damned cool? Well, yeah. But national exposure doesn't hurt, either.
D. Tony Goins
Well, just how high quality is your product? Extremely durable, high quality goods that are a value at any price tend to create demand wherever they go, even if they only go to the corner store for the occasional 32 oz. bottle of High Tide Gatorade. Also, do you have a bullet-proof marketing plan? You've not only got to identify your target demographic (this can take decades), but you also have to figure out what kind of marketing will appeal to that demographic. Lots of products launch badly because their marketing team misreads the particular needs and desires of their demographic.
Remember that the best marketing strategy is the one that plays on the natural strengths of your product instead of exaggerating or mystifying your product, promising things to the consumer that the product can't remotely deliver. Without brand loyalty, you've got nothing. And I don't think I need to tell you just how fickle today's consumer can be.
Reaching potential customers is the easy part: Squeeze referrals out of every friend and former customer you've ever had.
If that fails, you go with plan B: free samples.
Good luck out there.
Tuesday, October 15, 2002
WORTHWHILE DIGRESSION #1
When I was growing up, I watched a lot of television. Mine was one of those homes where the TV was always on, in a time when the stereotypical, middle-America, nuclear-family, happily-ever-after sitcom ruled the airwaves. I indiscriminately took it all in, with the result that I grew up believing - despite being raised in a single-parent household - that this was the norm. In fact, it was not merely the norm, but an entitlement, an inalienable right, as though Thomas Jefferson had left out the phrase "the pursuit of".
When I began to be interested in girls, I asked myself this bizarre question before I would even think of dating someone: could I picture myself married to this person? If not, well, it never went any further. The outcome? I've only ever dated four women, two of whom I married, another to whom I was briefly engaged (never at the same time).
Not surprisingly, I'm on my own now, and have been for the last year or so. All my adult life, I've been defined by my relationships. I suppose I still am; huge, overstuffed steamer trunks and duffel bags full of unresolved issues weigh me down, informing even my smallest actions and decisions. I've occasionally tried to sort through the detritus of the last twenty-five years, but I always end up carefully re-wrapping all of the brittle-edged memories, the ticket-stubs from the emotional roller coasters, the faded pressed flowers of young lust, and lovingly packing them all away again.
I think that I've finally reached a point where I can start looking for happiness (or at least contentment) from other sources, like travel, good books, and cinnamon toast made from home-baked bread. But it's hard; I always believed that I was destined to find true love, always believed that my life would take that path.
The cinnamon toast really helps, though.
Thanks for contributing the first Worthwhile Digression of the Rabbit Blog Worthwhile Digression Series.
Some Themes Explored In Worthwhile Digression # 1
1. Myth of happily-ever-after, as perpetuated by American popular culture, creates unrealistic expectations of adult life, featuring effortlessly cheery married life that does not include dirty windows, overcast days, lint-covered bathroom floors, attacks of bad gas, irrational fits of anger, coffee stains, lost laundromat stubs, vague feelings of dissatisfaction, etc.
2. Fantasy of "perfect mate" destructive in its tendency to incite search for human who meets arbitrary criterion created not by spending time with various humans to see which qualities and weaknesses compliment one's own qualities and weaknesses best, but by witnessing fictional characters on TV who have nice skin and shiny hair and say things like "Oh, honey." when they're mad.
3. Allowing oneself to be defined by relationships and having huge trunk loads of unresolved issues seemingly go together like ham and cheese, or like Shields and Yarnell, who probably got divorced and sued each other at some point.
4. Happiness can sometimes be found in simple things, for example, travel, good books, and cinnamon toast made from home-baked bread. [Please note that this last item requires that you learn to bake bread, or that you coax someone you know into baking bread for you.]
In my opinion - what the fuck do I know? - but in my opinion, you'll get a lot more happiness out of that cinnamon toast if you're willing to tackle your unresolved issues. I find that, when I pack my issues away, or "decide" to be happy, the closet door tends to bust open and boxes full of my crap fall out all over the floor. Instead of cleaning it all up, I tend to react by sitting in the middle of my piles of crap and weeping piteously that no one understands.
OK, so let's review: What the fuck do I know?
Three Ways To Sort Through Your Unresolved Issues
1. The Relationship Strategy Get into a relationship with some unsuspecting mortal, then take advantage of their good graces by unpacking boxes at random, preferably while they're in the middle of an important phone call, or right before they leave for work. This will lead to fighting, self-loathing, and the strange tendency to shut out other, more satisfying aspects of your life for the sake of the compulsive unpacking of boxes.
2. The Therapy Strategy Bring boxes of your shit to the therapists office every week, so that the two of you can sort through it all, somewhat methodically, for an hour at a time. This can get expensive and tedious, but if you've never done it before, this is probably a good place to start.
3. The Quiet But Practical Strategy Quietly unpack a few things every other day, spending the most time and energy on bad habits and repeating patterns of behavior that don't get the desired results. Cultivate an appreciation for your own mess, but don't give regular tours of your junkyard. Now, here's the seemingly contradictory part: While you're keeping your complications to yourself, you also have to be straightforward, honest, and most of all, vulnerable with the people who are close to you, while stepping outside of yourself enough to invest in their needs and concerns as well - without having those concerns and needs constantly supersede your own. The Quiet But Practical Strategy is all about recognizing and embracing your ability to complicate things, but without dragging your stuff around town and expecting unconditional love for it. That's just boring.
4. The Quick Fix Strategy If you really want to make quick progress on yourself, no matter how screwed up you are, call your closest and most trustworthy friends and ask them to tell you what they'd like you to work on. Refuse to get defensive or hurt. Contemplate their input, and make an adjustment to your behavior or attitude if you think they may have a good point. If you don't have any close or trustworthy friends, I'd go back to #2, which is all about hiring a trustworthy friend until you can make a real one of your own, or recognize which of your current friends are actually trustworthy, despite your impressions to the contrary.
True love is never out of reach, but it becomes more and more likely as you learn to sustain yourself and live a full life without the idea that some fallible human can step in and save you from yourself time and time again.
Wow, that was really groundbreaking and insightful. I think I'll speak entirely in clichés for the rest of the day.
Walking a thin line, but staying the course,
HAVE YOU NO STRUCTURAL INTEGRITY?
if you like found magazine you might be interested in the latest work from negativland, "DEATHSENTENCES OF THE POLISHED AND STRUCTURALLY WEAK".
they went around to junkyards and took photos of destroyed cars and the things they found inside. (there's music along with it.)
hope that life is treating you well.
Strange how sad and small other people's lives can seem, especially when it seems they might have died in some manner of fiery crash. But it's tough to appreciate the good things in someone else's life. Especially when they're poor, they burn tacos on the stove, they have miscarriages that they're indifferent about, and they're waiting for a money order so they can visit some jerk in another town. How do we know it wasn't a blast, though, burning those tacos?
OK, it's a stretch, I'll admit it. But then, I think of the things that people might envy and/or pity me for, and I'm struck by how little anyone can know about your day to day reality, no matter how many clues are strewn about.
It's impossible to catch a glimpse of someone else's life without having your own prejudices come into play. Sometimes you visit someone and think: "I wouldn't want this kind of a life." You might even pity them for their shitty apartment, their go-nowhere job, or their aspirations to write music, which you automatically interpret as a desperate, failed attempt to make it big as a rock star. Meanwhile, they're living a life that's in line with their values. Or, maybe they aren't, but how the fuck would you know either way?
I guess what I envy the most in other people is not what they're accomplishing or what they have materially, but rather how much they seem to derive satisfaction from what they have.
What's interesting is the interpretation people attach to their lack of satisfaction with their lives. Instead of asking: "What is it about me that I can't appreciate what I have? Is the stuff in my life all wrong, or is there something wrong with the way I'm experiencing my life, and prioritizing my needs?"
Instead of asking tough questions, most people turn to really obvious, concrete, external things, and they say: "If I had more of that, I'd be happy." Watch "Hidden Hills" or "The Mind of the Married Man" or "Ally McBeal" for the perfect pop cultural reflection of this sickness in motion.
1. Fill in the blanks: "If I had more __________ I'd be a lot happier."
d) cool stuff
f) chocolate malts
We covet these things in other people's lives, falsely imagining that they could provide us with an escape from the dreariness of a life filled with work and responsibilities that can seem utterly arbitrary on the wrong day. It's easy enough to admire the lives of those who have access to such escapes.
We imagine that massive amounts of money could bring us rest. We imagine that sex with a wide variety of extremely attractive people would bring us happiness, suffering under the illusion that if our sexual appetites were filled completely, we could find peace. We imagine that expensive crap could make us happier or make us feel better about ourselves simply because we'd be the envy of others. We cling to an empty, childlike dream of a domestic bliss that looks more like a postcard than a realistic grasp of the day to day of family life and the responsibilities that go along with it. Why do we feel so entitled to pure, unadulterated happiness? Doesn't that make us vile bourgeois losers, this notion that we should be completely satisfied around the clock, and if we're anything less than satisfied, it's a travesty? Why do we crave a resting place?
2. Fill in the blanks: "If I had more _______ I'd be a lot happier."
a) courage of conviction
b) of a meaningful connection to the people in my life
c) fearlessness in pursuing things that exploit my true talents
d) good books
e) patience with myself and others
See how pussy and chocolate malts are vices, but doughnuts are virtues?
But what do you really need more of? Can't you start from what you have now? Is your couch too ugly, is your ass too fat, are you tired of doing the dishes six times a day? Do you really need a new couch, do you really need to look perfect, do need to hire a maid, or do you need a new way of looking at your life?
Just listen to your own thoughts, day in and day out:
If I had more money, I'd be a lot happier.
If I could afford my own house, I'd be a lot happier.
If I could find someone who would love and adore me even when I'm trudging around in sweatpants, I'd be a lot happier.
If I had more courage of conviction, I'd be a lot happier.
If I had more, I'd be a lot happier.
If I had more, I'd be a lot happier.
If I had more, I'd be a lot happier.
If I had more...
This is a digression, albeit a worthwhile one.
Tuesday, October 15th. A good day to cherish your own worthwhile digressions. Write them down and send 'em over. If they're worthwhile to you, they're worthwhile to the Rabbit.
Monday, October 14, 2002
Today is the 1-year anniversary of the Rabbit Blog. You can celebrate by eating a doughnut in honor of this special day. Bavarian creme is the traditional choice, but you make the call. Isn't it great to have a real, legitimate excuse to eat a doughnut? I certainly think so.
In other news, Found magazine is doing a national tour which sounds highly ambitious and weird.
I love Found magazine, so I was happy to get their note and to peruse their latest finds as a means of distracting myself from my dreary mood, stemming from a combination of a nagging half-cold, some overcast skies, and those bad stories in the news.
It's funny how the world inevitably reflects your mood. When your mood is dark, the strangest things find their way onto your radar and under your skin. I found myself fixating on this heartbreaking find in particular.
This is why now, more than ever, we need doughnuts. Doughnuts filled with stuff.
Thursday, October 10, 2002
THE DAY AFTER CHUMPDAY
Somehow, your website has eluded me for well over a year. I think I wore black for 2 months when Suck went down. Well, I live in England, so I probably wore black for considerably longer than that. But now I can read your blog and it's like old times.
I am not sure if I should be addressing the rabbit, but I do have a question, and I can't imagine you stand on ceremony. I just read the blog about dying your hair red and eating watermelon jello and feeling brilliant, and doing a 180 the next day. I undergo similar transformations, feeling witty and brilliant and the next day not
remembering how exactly it was that I felt so confident, and actually wishing someone had told me to shut up while I was being pithy.
My question is, are there a lot of folks out there like us? Or are we special? Should I stop reading other people's blogs and deciding they understand me? I am 30 and sometimes I feel as ridiculous as I was when I was 13...
One step away from eating a jar of ritalin,
Dear Preteen Girl,
Did I really dye my hair red and eat watermelon? I don't remember that. I don't even like watermelon that much. Maybe that was some kind of rhetorical device or metaphor used to portray that sassy, kick-up-your-heels, throw-your-hat-in-the-air Mary Tyler Moore thing. Mary got away with it, of course, because she was a cynic underneath it all, and wasn't at all certain that she was going to make it after all. But I think maybe I try not to act too sassy these days because I have a haircut which, unfortunately, brings to mind the word "spunky!" - yes, the exclamation point is mandatory. As in, "Look at that spunky! girl with that spunky! haircut of hers." You can't very well go around kicking up your heels when your hair makes you look like a shorter, fatter, world-wearier version of Milla Jovovich, can you? Oh, how I long for my former drippy, shapeless long hairstyle, a hairstyle that said, "Please don't look at my clothes, which suck."
So, yeah, sure, we're all 13 inside, a little fact that Jane Pratt used to build her media empire.
And yeah, we feel witty and brilliant and then the next day we're embarrassed at everything we said, because clearly we weren't actually witty or brilliant, or why would we be hunched over our desks wearing ill-fitting skirts and the most hideous, outdated shoes imaginable? If we were so goddamn witty and brilliant, wouldn't we be impeccably dressed and lounging in one of those expensive leather artist-designed MOMA chairs, sipping on something organic and pure that improves your attitude and makes your skin less saggy? Wouldn't we gracefully pull off the spunky! haircut, because as rich and powerful as we are, how could we not be convincingly spunky!?
Dark thoughts. But as the spunky! writer of a "blog", I have to own all my moods, good, bad, and ridiculously, embarrassingly giddy, because it's all there for anyone to peruse at any time of the day. So be like me, own it. At some point, you have to let go. So you thought you were the Queen of Sheeba. Why the fuck not? So someone says, "My, that Preteen Girl, she really thinks she's something special! What's she smoking?" Who thinks that way, aside from threatened losers looking for something good to smoke? Maybe I'm a sociopath, but I've never cared what threatened losers think.
OK, that's a lie. Sometimes I get really angry about threatened losers. Again, like a 13 year-old. What do 13 year-olds do, but act like threatened losers, and worry about what other threatened losers think about them? The poor little chumps.
At least we're not late for Earth Science right now because we're examining our latest zit in the bathroom.
Wednesday, October 09, 2002
WHY'D YOU HAVE TO GO AND MAKE THINGS SO COMPLICATED?
See, the way you're acting like you're somebody else gets me frustrated!
I love singing lyrics that reflect the complex emotional needs of teenagers. I particularly love it when those lyrics get stuck in my head, and I hear them playing on an endless loop, over and over and over again. This is the viral nature of the undeniably catchy song.
I just wish that I was dating someone who went and made things so complicated, because then I could sing those words with a lot more conviction. As it turns out, I gave up on men who made things complicated a while ago. I make things complicated enough on my own without spending my time with someone who's hellbent on complicating things even more. Now I prefer to spend time with those who make things less and less complicated. No debating, no complex discussions, no endless analysis, slicing and dicing, or intellectualizing things that are only accurately summed up in simple emotional terms. You get into a supportive mindset, you try to stay vulnerable and open, you calmly discuss your needs and the needs of the other person, you strive to be as generous as possible, while representing your own needs as accurately as possible. End of story.
I'm sort of down on the therapy-driven notion that people in a relationship should understand all the nuances of each other's psychological landscapes. Sure, it's interesting enough to map out your own damage, winding through all the weird influences and tweaked, misfiring synapses and bad habits and projection that come into play at any given time. But if you can do that pretty thoroughly on your own, or in your writing, or with your friends, why pay someone $100 an hour to sort through your volumes upon volumes of material and approve it, consistently, in keeping with the practice of empathic attunement, and why carry an expectation of True And Complete Understanding with you, out of the therapist's office, onto the street, where it's liable to injure untold dozens of passers-by?
I'm not saying that severely fucked up people (like myself) shouldn't spend some quality time with a mental health professional, one who is patient and kind and becomes a model for the kind of empathy that any healthy person should eventually feel for him or herself. But it's easy to feel that the relationship between patient and client is a model for a love relationship, when in fact it's merely a model for the client's relationship to him or herself. This is particularly true during couple's therapy, when two people often fall into the trap of: "See, the therapist understands how I feel! Why don't you?" Um, because I'm not paid to act like I understand you, you fucking psycho.
Then people say: Seek to understand first, and then you'll be understood. Give first, and you'll receive. I'm not so sure. There are people who you can seek to understand, seek to give to, and they just take and take and they still don't give a shit about understanding you in return. They're not bad or mean, they're just screwy, or they don't like you very much, or they don't like themselves that much. Who cares? Find someone who's mellow and appreciative, that's what I say, preferably far more mellow and appreciative than you are. Find someone you want to emulate, not someone you want to help.
Even if you're far behind your mate in terms of basic good qualities, you can make up for it in other ways, like with witty anecdotes or backrubs or by making really good cherry pies. Hence the song...
Can she bake a cherry pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Can she bake a cherry pie, charming Billy?
She can bake a cherry pie, quick as a cat can wink her eye.
She's a young thing and she cannot leave her mother.
I guess the idea here is that sure, she makes a mean pie, but she's not putting out, so screw it.
Back to the teenager song. I also wish that I could date someone who acted like somebody else, because then I could sing, "See, the way you're acting like you're somebody else gets me frustrated!" Can't you just picture the poser guy that our teen singer, Avril, is dating? Can't you just imagine him, acting like somebody else, someone a whole hell of a lot cooler than he is? Or less cool - there's really no telling.
It makes me chuckle to think about going out with someone who occasionally acts like a completely different person. I mean, sure, if they've got some kind of a split personality, that's just interesting. But someone who's insecure enough to act cool when other people are around? Yowza, it's so Breakfast Club, it makes my toes curl! I love it!
I guess there are people in Hollywood who do it. It would be funny to see this kind of behavior in action... except that it's not. It's just depressing and tedious.
"And you fall and you crawl and you break and you take..." I'm thinking this part must be about development hell.
Anyway, that's enough of that for one day, don't you think?
Me, overrated me!
Hot mustard and me me!
Tuesday, October 08, 2002
GOODBYE BOOBIE TUESDAY
I think it's total bullshit that I haven't posted since last Thursday, too. It's not like I've been out of town or anything. I have no fucking excuse. I guess my friend the angry little squirrel was here this weekend, but other than that... Well, there was the bridal shower featuring dainty tea sandwiches at that fancy hotel.
I hate fancy hotels, I have to admit. I mean, I love them when I'm visiting some friend and we're sitting by the pool, and I put up a little flag on my lounge chair that signals to the cabana boy that he's meant to bring me another gin and tonic ("What's this, no extra limes? How many times did I say no limes, fetchy boy?"). But that's just practical. The truth is, the food isn't that great at most fancy hotels. It's alright, in a stuffy sort of ice statue/tea sandwich kinda way, in a way that pleases 80-year-olds with few functioning taste buds. The ingredients aren't insanely fresh, the chef isn't unbelievably talented, so why pawn a kidney? Fawning service and a landed gentry atmosphere? Why do we all want to feel like landed gentry when we're really just the smelly proletariat in bourgeois sheep's clothing? Why do we crave that feeling of having battallions of handmaidens at the ready to satisfy our every whim? Why do we long to be just like those unsightly white people who wander about their drafty castles in ill-fitting riding pants, constipated and needy and strutting about with delusions of grandeur, halitosis, and very painful corns?
Maybe my problem is that I have no class and no appreciation of the finer things in life. Well, that part is undeniable. But it seems to me that it all adds up to make believe. Let's pretend for a moment that we don't work constantly. Let's pretend for a moment that we're not just cogs in the wheel. Look how the little servant people bring us stuff to nibble on! For a moment there, as the little scrapper was refreshing my tea, I forgot that I have to finish that Excel spreadsheet by Tuesday morning's staff meeting.
Ah, well, I guess I'm just bitter because I couldn't even afford to valet park my schlepmobile, and had to park in the affluent neighborhood across the street and walk. Walking is for the poor, damn it! I actually said to the valet guy, "Look, I'm poor. Where can I park?" Not like my dented, keyed '91 Honda Civic wasn't enough of a clue. I guess I like saying I'm poor. It cracks me up that people are self-conscious not just around people with money, but around their footservants, too. Here's the thing: The footservants are poor, just like you are. My favorite is those really expensive shoe stores where the clerks act haughty because you're wearing something scrappy and disheveled and you're not acting adequately self-conscious around their nicely-lit shoes, which means that you clearly can't afford them. Um, who's the dreamer in this scenario? Maybe I can afford them and maybe I can't, but I know for a fact YOU can't.
I just hate retail. I wouldn't even know to call it retail, except for the fact that when my manager at the Gap fired me, she said I didn't know a thing about retail. She was right; I barely knew what retail was. All I knew was that wandering around a brightly lit space the size of my bedroom straightening stacks of ugly clothing while listening to "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" six times an hour wasn't my idea of a good time. Neither was approaching a "client" browsing the Levi's in order to try to "get them in a Gap jean", or suggesting that a "client" join the realm of the hopelessly uncool and buy some red socks to match their red shirt. Neither was being told by my 40-year-old coworker, "I think that woman is shoplifting!" and seeing a hulking, seething Sweetums of a woman with several bulging shopping bags who looked like she could knock me flat with one casual blow, and being expected, at age 17, to confront the woman, as opposed to, say, letting someone who has puberty solidly behind her do it instead. Man. I wouldn't do that job again for all the tea sandwiches in China.
Of course, they aren't too big on tea sandwiches in China.
So what am I saying? Well... wait, why do you ask? Do you think the Gap might be hiring?
Thursday, October 03, 2002
YOU CAN RING MY NOBEL, RING MY NOBEL, MY NOBEL, RING IT RING IT RING IT
Not surprisingly, a certain Nobel Prize winner is all up in my kitchen. Why one of the most influential thinkers of the past century would scramble to weigh in on this blog is no mystery to me. Clearly he's heard from inside sources that my deceased father was an expert in monetary economics and huge fan of his, a fan like one of those fainting girls at an Elvis concert is a fan of the King. Not satisfied with looming large in one man's life, this demonic legendary thinker has to bust his way into my playground and throw his big ideas around, making me look like the charlatan and flaccid pretender that I am.
But I have to play along, because my daddy would want it that way. So here's the original letter from the guy who wanted advice on how to lay his lady-friend, along with a more thorough and informative response from the monetary mix-master himself, Milton Friedman.
You strike me as the kind of female type lady who has had to wrestle with that great kick-in-the-crotch of a male friend who, quite accidentally and entirely unavoidably, falls palm-sweatingly in love with thou. Don't fucking deny it, it's half your demographic.
So I come out to my female lady-friend. And, as per her behavioral patterns with other level-jumping friends (patterns I was quite aware of beforehand), well, she has cut me right off. No returned emails or calls no more. (There is also a physical distance element as well, she no longer lives in my city. She moved out due to a messy breakup with a long standing boyfriend - also a mutual friend. Sure, this may be germane, but is too complicated to get into really.)
Which doesn't seem quite exactly fair, you see, the whole breaking off of communication - as much as life should be fair. Because I was under the impression that I wouldn't be risking our five plus year friendship by doing as such. And, see, not to inflate my own place in her life, but she is expert at closing out people. All sorts of people, friends etc. I know she is running short on people. And I, regardless, want to be at least a friend, somebody there for her, in the noblest sense. Right? It's noble right?
So, I guess the question is: How do I get that fucking stupid cat back in the bag?
Dear Cat Herder,
Your personal unhappiness is a direct result of your failure to evaluate your relationship against the principle of enlightened self-interest. Instead of shining this revealing light upon your problem you have engaged in a certain type of fuzzy-logic thinking common among neo-liberals and socialists. This can no better be evidence by your grasping at straws when you ask yourself what your motivations for continuing the relationship are and simply answer "somebody there for her, in the noblest sense". The only reason you have is that you wish to give away more while receiving nothing in return. There is no return on investment. This sort of bleeding heart liberal thinking is exactly what leads to an inefficient, bloated nanny state and as such will breed in her an unhealthy dependency on you. From almost any perspective you have become involved in an inefficient relationship.
How has this happened? With no potential return, either now or in the foreseeable future, the value of this relationship, this asset as it were, should be zero. Why has a normally efficient market mispriced this relationship? Without knowing all the details I believe this particular market failure is due to an unwritten agreement between the two of you to perpetuate an information asymmetry. I would postulate that she knew you wanted to exchange bodily fluid, and you knew she knew, but you both pretended that only you knew, thus creating a fake asymmetry. You allowed this state to continue for some five years with the secret hope that you would accrue some booty in the future and she allowed it to continue for economic benefits conferred during the time of the relationship. When you came out and expressed your desire to renegotiate the relationship on fairer terms, allowing the asymmetry to collapse, and she was unwilling to do this, you quickly came to the realization that you were left with an asset of negligible value. Your stated reason to continue the relationship is likely based on either one of two things: a denial of your earlier failure to efficiently assign a price to the relationship and an attempt to convince yourself of some value now or a certain liberal induced guilt due to your now increased economic success. Neither of these is a good reason to continue the relationship.
That said there might be other reasons to continue the relationship, to find a fair market value above zero, but this time you must apply some of the free market principles introduced earlier. Many people shy away from applying these principles to relationships, believing that monetizing certain benefits is difficult if not impossible. This is, of course, where a Nobel Prize winning economist earns his money. Some things are obviously very easily accounted for. Dinners and gifts bought and received, free accommodations in interesting, expensive cities or, say, Atlanta. In your case it would appear that you also put some value on "emotional attachment". Consulting with some of my other colleagues here at the University of Chicago’s economic department none of us has actually experienced this so intuitively I would put a zero dollar value on it. On the other hand there is much empirical evidence to suggest others do put value on "emotional attachment" so I would suggest valuing it the following way. Imagine talking to someone on a 1-900 number. Imagine them laughing at your jokes and commiserating with your problems. Figure out how much that is worth to you per minute and how many minutes you would need. That should give you a pretty good idea of the value. You might want to consider other valuation techniques, like how hot are her friends and will they engage in an efficient relationship with you?
And while sex is not a possibility with the woman in questions, sex is easily valued on it’s own given the black market in such things. On the other hand there is likely an enhanced value of sex with emotional attachment that cannot be valuated separately from one another. In this case apply the Walter Becker equivalency principle as described by the following statement, "Would you rather be with a $400 a night hooker or a $200 night a hooker with a heart of gold?" Of course I have little in experience in valuing sex because as a Nobel prize winning economist I get all the poon tang I can handle.
As you can see, being able to properly valuate relationships is your key to success and happiness. Often we are led astray by people who instead wish to e-valuate relationships, applying e-motion to what is clearly a simple, logical process. Good luck.
Special thanks to Brian Garland for conjuring Nobel prize-winning economists for my/your/our entertainment.