Friday, June 25, 2010

#41 Misanthropy in the Marina

The worst part about middle school was the disorder. It was sociological chaos. You didn't really know who your friends were. You didn't know who YOU were. You'd figured out that being cool mattered ALOT, far more than puppies, ponies, mom, Little League, Nature or just about anything that made people happy, and you’d matured enough to sense how things might turn out for you coolness-wise, but matters remained inchoate. There was optionality. You were just a kid and you knew it. Kelly Clarkson’s get fat. Bad asses with tween ‘staches stop growing. It was still anyone's game.

In situations such as this, situations of extreme social flux, things get touchy. Fiercely competitive. Rumors start. Stupid plastic watches get worn. People are socked in the face. Anything to pick up an edge. Those who weren't vigilant about discriminating against the ugly, the nerdy or the poor would wake up one afternoon thirty-five years old, unshaven and destitute. Possibly handicapped. A Denny's waitress or a prison bottom. You were 13, you didn’t know.

The transition from valuing relationships strictly on whether people are cooler and more advantaged than you are (OMG that guy's so hot! I love hot boys!) to whether people are smart and nice to you and cool enough (as cool as you) is a rite of passage that happens for most emotionally functional, self-aware people by their late twenties. Chronologically, your engagement with the rules of hierarchy goes from bewilderment (junior high) to depression (high school) to savvy (college) to Machivellian over-reaching (post-grad) to gradual acceptance and a sense of proportion.

The people who live in the Marina haven't figured this sh*t out.FN1 You'll see grown-up women with the romantic sensibilities of Justin Bieber fans, 30 something men doing an impersonation of a thirteen year old doing an impersonation of an adult. There is posturing and being loud contestsFN2 and factitiously enthusiastic hugging and everything else associated with hyper awareness of social ranking coupled with a kind of behavioral skills paralysis, like a school sponsored dance where the boys stand on one side and the girls stand on the other, everyone fearful that they'll get punked or somehow exposed, shamed by a mean girl or thrown against a locker by a guy with a tween 'stache.FN3

An enormous problem with populating a city with people who spent their adolescence getting humiliated in dodgeball is that after they graduate from Cal or Stanford or Penn or Cornell and start working at Bank of America and Hewlett Packard they want to be perceived as winners. But they still feel, deep down at the level where their humanity is, like acne riddled losers. This is a devastating combination.

The Marina gets the brunt of it because the former high school dweebs move there expecting that it will be the final stage in their ascendance to the cool kid club. It's not of course, partly because you can't educate or monetize (unless you're D.Trump) your way into the high heaven of being a 9 and partly because San Francisco doesn't have cool kids, not even in the affluent neighborhoods. Sorority girls from the University of Florida just ain't around. They visit for one dork-fested, fog dampened weekend and think, screw this.

But it's worse than that because the generally applicable SF ethos - that shallow materialism and the exclusion of others is a bad thing - holds true even on Union Street. So what you get is a bunch of putatively reformed but resividist dorks thinking like high minded, progressive SF citizens but feeling and acting in the confused and desparate terms of a tweener playing a status game he doesn't quite understand.

The result and WTANGISF is this: not even Marina people like Marina people. All Marina chicks, even the self-sabotaging, silly ones, hate Marina men for being thoughtless, unoriginal hacks/dweebs and all the guys hate the chicks for being supersilious, insecure b*tches. Everyone thinks that they're surrounded by a**holes.FN4 Everyone points accusatory fingers, everyone gets blacklisted. It's a**shole hysteria. It's Douche Scare(TM).

But it's more diabolical than that, because Marina residents, basically, just like thirteen year old kids, aren't really a**holes. You may have some loud-mouth clowns from USC here and there but for the most part it's just decent twenty somethings working their little tails off to friend up and fit in. They try to act douchey and contemptuous, but they're total poseurs.FN5 Socially retarded, sure, psychologically damaged from years of high school nerd harassment, maybe, but bonafide evildoers, no.

On the other hand, the most damning villainy is usually the most subtle. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist and so on. Perhaps the Douche and Bieber-fan factor is eating away at us in repeated and non obvious ways, destroying us bit by bit, like Chinese water torture or 44 minutes of Real Housewives. Psychological battery, spiritual assault. The waves of stupid pulsing out of Bar None, the piles and piles of attitude expelled like so much b*tch effluvia from 6s who think they're 9s: it's easy to dismiss as sociological nonsense, temporary perturbations of the system, like tears in the rain or a fart in the wind. But day by day the alienation builds. The disenchantment. The confusion. Everything - the posh stores, the wine bars, the views of the Bay - is so wonderful yet everyone's unhappy.

We can say all that and still concede this: villainous or not it takes some kind of a warped genius to simultaneously be a misanthrope and a conformist kiss a**. If you go around accusing everyone of being a Douche and then do everything in your power to seek peer approval and respect, then you're culturally engaged, you're mixing it up, but you never have to settle on any particular identity and you never have to settle for a romantic counterpart to that identity. You never have to concede that you're ordinary. There's no confabulation differential in your nutty Lake Wobegon mind, where everything self-related is way above average. You can go to your grave believing your virtue, your charm, your glamour ... it's all unassailable. That no one would dare deny it. Except all the people who know you. And those douchebags can go to hell.

FN1. B&T, cougars, and yuppified breeders are common and colorful and sometimes nuanced Marina character types but not relevant to our immediate purposes. None informs the big picture sociocultural mindset of the Marina, except as an amusing curiosity, like that special ed kid who was integrated into gym class the last semester of the 9th grade.

FN2. When you travel abroad you discover something never discussed on MSNBC: Americans, comparatively speaking (NPI), produce a stunning amount of noise in conversational situations. Americans tend to socialize with the same technique they use to impress bears or panthers, emphasizing decibel volume over word combination. Other nationalities find this trait intrusive and obnoxious of course but mostly you can tell they find it bewildering, like it's an invention of evil they hadn't thought of, a brand new way of being a jerk.

FN3. The tween 'stache is quietly the most dangerous 'stache because with the other 'staches, even the evil mastermind 'stache, there's always the sense that a regular Mike Ditka / Magnum PI 'stache or a Hulk Hogan handlebar 'stache is going to come around to help. But if you're confronted by a tween 'stache, watch out Wil Wheaton, because that's the only 'stache going in your universe. You are on your own.

FN4. A fun fact on the scarring power of high school: when some researchers looked into how much a man's height affects his professional success they found an increase in salary accorded to each additional inch of height but more interestingly they found unexpected discrepancies in the data. Eventually they worked it out: if they controlled for adolescent height, then the effect of adult height on wages for men was essentially eliminated. It all depended on how tall the guy was in high school.

FN5. There's nothing intrinsically absurd about being depressed and tormented by a**holery. It's a sign of complex character and higher level thinking. It's why we love Hamlet and Holden Caulfield. But a word of caution to wanna-be poets and NPR listeners: it will not get you laid. Lionize Hamlet and Holden if you like but those f*ckers could not close. The Situation would have tapped Ophelia ten times by the Fourth Act. In the aftermath, she'd probably hate men forever, start drinking Jager and get thee self to a boob job but she wouldn't have committed suicide. So who's the a**hole?


  1. Typos:

    "A LOT", not "ALOT"

    "Kelly Clarksons", not "Kelly Clarkson's"

    "Acne-riddled", not "acne riddled"

    "bonafide", in italics, not "bonafide"

    "recidivist", not "resividist"

    "J├Ąger", not "Jager"

    "fictitious", or better yet, "false", not "factitiously"

    "thirty-something" or "30-something", not "30 something"; also, maintain consistency with "twenty somethings" (which is also missing a dash): either spell are numbers under 100 or don't.

    "supercilious", not "supersilious"

    "None inform", not "none informs"

    "hyper-awareness" also lacks a dash, as does "acne riddled", "fog-dampened", "high-minded", "kiss-a**", "higher-level", "thirteen-year-old", "Hewlett-Packard", "non-obvious"...

    Cool and Kid should be capitalized in "cool kid club", or put in quote marks: "cool kids" club, or given an plural and an apostrophe: cool kids' club

    Missing commas: between "It's not" and "of course", and after "day by day", "so wonderful", "villainous or not", "particular identity", "inch of height", "if you like" and "boob job"

    :Douche and Bieber-fan factor": either "factors" takes an s or it's "Bieber-fan-factor"

    ... And maybe more, but I've lost count; if you correct these, I'll look it over again.

    Love the blog, but the typos really are distracting. And chicks dig good grammar, so while you may be becoming senile in your advanced years, Mr. Snodgrass, it still helps to pay one of those high-SAT-scoring kids lounging on your lawn to give your future posts a once-over.

  2. Good points, Gaith. Sam's bad grammar (not to mention the profanity!) has been a recurring vexation for WTANGISF editors. The problem, we've discovered, is two-fold. First, grammar isn't interesting or funny. Second, the people who care about grammar aren't usually interesting or funny. Life is curious that way. Jocks are dumb, scientists are boring and jokesters are sloppy. So, we've given up. We've capitulated to larger forces. We're happy when Sam capitalizes the first letter of a sentence.

  3. "Factitious" is the correct word so the joke's on you, Gaith.

  4. Hey I'm self-sabotaging and silly! Go me!

  5. Also, I never hang out in the Marina unless my running group meets up there :D

  6. As a Marina resident, I must say take a small step back and literally FUCK YOUR OWN FACE. It's just a neighborhood where people have their act together and are well educated tend to congregate. Why the intense analysis and tomfoolery? Focus on North beach 'artists', The SOMA New York wannabes, Russian Hill sweater-vest-wearing graphic designers, Casto man-sluts, Wish-I-Was-A-Baller-But-I-Share-a-shitty-apartment-with-4-dudes-and-say-I-Live-in Pacific Heights douchebags, I can keep going....

  7. Using big words makes you look really smart. It's almost like your theories are better than others somehow, because you've clobbered the less verbose members of the population into befuddlement.
    I suppose if the point of the blog is to show off your vocabulary, this is a win.

    ^Trevor - love how you step in to stick up for the Marina. The part where you prove your point about how superior yet normal Marina-ites are, you proceed to point the finger at every other neighborhood you can think of off the top of your head and ridicule them.

    This is altogether awesome.

    For the record, I DO wish I was a baller (in fact, I wanna be a fucking billionaire), and I love my apartment in Pac Heights that I share with a roommate.

  8. "ALOT" was actually a very clever and apropos misspelling, evocative of middle school. Brilliant!

  9. With regards to FN2, you must be comparing American conversation to the conversation of somewhere quiet and orderly, like Switzerland or Sweden. If you went to Argentina, Italy, or India, you would not find Americans loud in comparison.

  10. The problem is not the marina nor the people who live/frequent the marina. The problem is us. We are so ef-up that we expect the others to do something about it. What we need is to smile a little, be nice to one another, and take steps toward greater good. I know you're thinking I am some kind of fool, but tell me Mr. perfect if you're having it any better. At least I don't hurt anyone and I am trying to help you now as well.

    I agree w/ your frustrations because this is what happened to me the other day:
    Have you ever been walking in the street when you noticed some cute girl looking at you while walking on opposite directions and you wished you had talked to her after about 4sec later. Well, I finally did it and I stopped and said hi. She ignored my hello and kept on walking and boy oh boy it hurts. It's like all this time I was right except this one instance.

    So I have started to contact every girl I had a romantic relationship with from the east coast to Sweden trying to convince them to come to this "beautiful" town because I know I can snap them again before they are diluted w/ SFcan women mentality. If that does not work, then fuck my job at Google. I am going back east or south, YES I SAID SOUTH where I can find my future love/wife/mother of my children. At 29yrs of age, I won't sit here and complain.

  11. To the WTANGISF editors... have you tried contacting any of your colleagues that happen to live in other Cities? Can you confirm that this phenomenon is not unique to SF and could quite possibly be something that is plaguing us as a generation, as opposed to just a location?

  12. P.S. from WTANGISF editors:
    Sometimes when grumpy, anti-social old-timers like Sam accuse other people (fictional or real) of being silly and/or self-sabotaging, they can mean it and be absolutely correct, but also totally not mention that such same people are simultaneously (upon objective review and some supposition) super nice and charismatic and in that regard WTANGISF editors encourage readers to consider that Sam like many of us may be, at moments, unfair and insecure and a kind of know-it-all know-nothing jerk. Anyway, several of WTANGISF editors like silly girls so further in that regard Sam can suck it.

  13. This love blahg, that love blahg. Why can't I find a woman/man in NYC or SF. Whatever.

    Uggggggh. It get's belaboring reading about people complaining about their inability to use words to formulate sentences, and then impart those sentences on the opposite sex. Fuck your inhibitions, your anxiety, your apprehension.

    Heterosexual: A person sexually attracted to persons of the opposite sex. Or a person who has sexual relations with the opposite sex. Colloquially known as "straight."

    You probably already know that definition. The point is that straight women are intrinsically attracted to men. Thus, they want you to go talk to them.

    I love the writing style. It's funny. But for the love of god, open your mouth and- get this- talk to a woman.

    Maybe you're geigh? Even if that were true I’m sure you would find a way to complain about that dating pool too, even here in SF.

  14. The people in SF suck, plain and simple. I dream every day of moving back to NYC where people have some sense of style and culture. Good riddance.

    Every "district" here is a bit different, but in reality they are just different flavors of douchebags. The women are just atrocious, period.

  15. I love you writing. It is silly to point out grammar "innovations"... just feel the article man!

  16. Please post again Mr. Snodgrass. I find your writing compelling.

  17. You sir, are a shrewd social observer and gifted and talented writer. Your blog is a joy to read. My fedora is off to you and I bow down to your resplendent prose.
    You are indeed correct, the women here suck! They are shallow, self-absorbed malcontents who would rather go out with their girlfriends than tolerate male company—for proof look no further than the hundreds of Facebook pics posted by women who were “out with their girls on Saturday night.” But this lack of social interaction between men and women in this town is not wholly their fault. The fact is the men in SF are pussies. The legions of tee-shirt wearing, dwebby Web 2.0, politically progressive, sissy-boy fucktards that inhabit SF are a major reason WTANGISF!
    The girls don’t walk on the lot unless they want to buy. They get all hotted-up because they want their walls rubbed. That's why they're out drinking the liquid panty remover. You think they came in to get out of the cold? The pussy is out there just waiting to be taken. The question is, are you man enough to take it from them? You guys keep saying the girls are weak. The girls are weak? No, you’re weak. You can’t play in the man’s game? You can’t close them? Then you’re not a man. You’re nothing. Hit the bricks pal, you’re going down.
    BTW, these very same Marina girls who are so “unattainable” by you pussies will, upon becoming suburban moms (your wives), be spreading their legs for that tatted-up pool boy from Concord while you faggots are at work to keep them in the Danville lifestyle to which they have become accustomed. I’d wish you good luck, but you wouldn’t know what to do with it.

  18. "You know, this kind of unearned, undergraduate darkness that you're spewing with such ease and such adolescent pride, just you wait, mister. You're going to get your little comeuppance." --David Rakoff

  19. Wow, this brilliantly written article made me feel so much better about being a Marina hater. I am also a big hypocrite. You will find me on Chestnut st more often than I would be willing to admit. "factitiously enthusiastic hugging" - I wish I had such eloquent words for attention whores.

    For a while I thought that it was all in my mind and that I shouldn't take personally the energy that the marina inhabitants give off....

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