Thursday, December 8, 2011

#47 The Ninety-Nine Percenter Pipedream


"Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
They will say: "How his hair is growing thin!"
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
They will say: "But how his arms and legs are thin!"
- The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Young or immature minded people like us experience a thought, after staring long and hard in the mirror, I mean really digging into all the relevant the physical and mental spaces - those pores, those milk jug ears, the hot mess of subcutaneous psychological untidiness - that leads to one conclusion: we are disgusting. We are repulsive trolls.

Yet the thought is fleeting. It gets swept up and defenestrated by our primal narcissism, like a buried toy meeting a mulching lawn mower. Most of the time we are thinking this: 'We deserve all the world's attention! All of it. And none for anyone else. We're going to make ALL the babies. Except we don't want attention from ugly people. Or the uneducated. We hurl drinks at their faces when they approach. The temerity!'

Chuck Klosterman put it another way. He said that every person he knew as a young man seemed frustrated that he/she didn't have the kind of mind blowing love that they felt entitled to.

The paradox isn't imaginary. It implicates hard cold laws of sociology and probabilities. Because the story of romance in the real world is not millions and millions of radiantly happy couples holding hands to the very horizon. Instead, the story is this:

-Teenagers: Skinny people sobbing because they are SOOO in luv and just got dumped.
-20 Somethings: Half are furiously onanistic and the remaining are in an obviously lop-sided relationship based on infatuation by one and guilt by the other.
-30 Somethings: Everyone is bored except for that one perfect married couple who is so resplendent and chatty at parties yet secretly seething with mutual disgust and goes home to wordless dinners where they fantasize about murder to the sound of clinking silverware.
-People past 40: Yuck.

But as for the mind-blowingly passionate love mutually felt? Love, True Love, like between Westley and Buttercup in The Princess Bride? Who has that sh*t?

And there's a reason for this. And it's the same reason that Yankees pay Derek Jeter but not you to start at shortstop. Westley and Buttercup aren't like us. They aren't the people you see on the 22 line or in your yoga class. Those people are normal. They're flawed. And I'm not talking about personality flaws, like Ike Turner having a touch of a temper. I'm talking the sh*t that reflects on your market worth: being bad at cocktail conversation or blue collared or balding or bacned or a touch unsymmetrical. Small flaws, really. 99% of people have them. But these flaws we don't forgive. Not in ourselves. Not in others.

The sweetest, most decorous persons that ever lived - put in a dating situation - would turn into a judgmental a**hole. F*cking ruthless. Because that's what humans do. We judge, judge, judge. And, oh yes, we will find flaws. And one flaw of yours in particular will stick in our craw. The Flaw. Sometimes it's your crappy job. Or strangely oversized mouth. We fixate on it, like hyenas spotting the gimp of the antelope herd. Except we don't self-admit to what we're doing. We reframe the Flaw to implicate something abstract or vague in your character (e.g., you're a workaholic, you're needy) so we don't feel like superficial bastards and can sleep at night in the event we dump you for having a recessed chin.

And as a function of this delusion that we convince ourselves that romance isn't like professional baseball, online commerce or commodity trading. Instead it's predicated on a special connection - that spark between Westley and Buttercup is personal, two hearts beating as one and all the other vomit-inducing platitudes that appear on wedding place cards. We distinguish it from basically every other free exchange in the world - i.e., where value is established by a mountain of public, agreed-upon consensus, not by what one individual person feels at a given moment. We will praise and express general affection for the idea of two homely, socially insignificant people loving each other in some god forsaken hovel or marsh - like it's cute, but don't for a second impose that construct on us. Ef that. Because unlike Shrek or Danny Devito and Rhea Pearlman we aren't weirdo losers.FN1

The delusion is sustained over time partly because not all Flaws are equal, at least in a limited sort of way. Generally speaking, the Flaw people focus obsessively on is the one they are most terrified of exposing in themselves. The overachiever angles for the handsome bar tender four years her junior so she can say to herself, 'I am desirable. All those years I busted my hump to get into Cornell, then KPMG, and otherwise compensate for social rejection but I'm dating a pretty person now, which ipso facto means I am a pretty person, right? Suck it, Bakersfield High!'FN2

Of course, a fat guy who buys a sports car still can't run fast. (On the plus side his sports car will never dump him for Carl Lewis). There's no cheating an efficient market. Even in the realm of romance, there's a cool kid club, and it's highly select and you're either in or you're out. If you're reading this blog, you're out. You're a ninety-nine percenter. You are a repulsive troll.

The point is that our conflicted feelings of narcissism and self-loathing reflect on final calculus a tension between our personal expectations (which are huge) and the allotment social markets will allow us (which is, at least usually, rather modest)). San Francisco isn't especially unique is this regard but it is on the vanguard of a nascent collective psychology that demands fairytale endings for very ordinary people. And that's the kind of psychology that's bound to make us alienated and unhappy. And that's unnecessary.

The thing about life in America, in San Francisco, right now, for the readers of WTANGISF, is that it's f*cking awesome. And it's not f*cking awesome because it's a fairytale. Or because you're going to marry Jake Gyllenhall or Blake Lively. It isn't and you're not. It's awesome simply because the air is clean and mild, you have a decent apartment, a gym membership, a few friends, and you're not eking out a polluted, hellish existence on 12 rupees a day in Delhi. You're a repulsive troll but you're also a lucky son of a b*tch.

FN1. Right? Wait.

FN2. Go Taft.

18 comments:

  1. Sir:

    A most excellent blog entry. Hopefully you are well rewarded for your brilliance if not here then elsewhere.

    Best regards

    M

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  2. Can someone explain to me why there is so much poo on the streets of San Francisco? I love this city, and surely it is illegal to drop a duce on a proprietor's doorstep...why isn't anyone doing anything about this?

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  3. Another masterpiece. I remember fondly '09 when the comments section was as crowded and tense as the ESW dance floor on a Friday night. But I think all those people have since moved to New York because of you.

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  4. Do you really believe 99% of humans are cynical, repulsive trolls, or otherwise not self-aware enough to be as cynical/self-loathing as you? Seriously, I really want to know.

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  5. I got about one third in. Scrolled and found "The point is" which usually signals a short and concise roundup of the argument. But no, only more ranting.

    But in the last couple of lines, the writes comes full circle. The post started about looking in the mirror and ends with ranting against people who feel bad even though they're better off than most people on the planet. It's an OK conclusion, but perhaps it would have been even better if the author ran his thoughts through to the end before grasping for the keyboard.

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    1. I follow your blog for a long time and must tell you that your posts always prove to be of a high value and quality for readers. Keep it up.

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  6. Cynical, repulsive trolls (AKA: psychopaths) only make up about 1-2% of the world's population. Sorry to burst your cynical, repulsive trolly bubble, but Humans are defined by their ability to empathize. All the neuroscience shows Humans care about what all the others feel and are affected by others' feelings. Do some of us like attention? Yes. That doesn't make us psychopaths. Humans deserve and need love to survive. Only someone as cynical as you could turn the desire of love into something negative.

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    1. Damn right, Anonymous! And that's the reason why 90% of the worldwide population lives in a sea of wealth, health and joy and we do everything we can for the that 10% who can't afford a healthy meal to, well, not die.

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  7. I guess I should apologize, but I laughed so hard at this. The best love story about those that can choose which humans they desire in their life.
    I swear, dealt with a "customer" the other day, he is a PTSD Vet and he was angry as hell. Kicked the counter and threw his false teeth down on the counter. Had his son with him, twenty something. The son just stood there, and gently took over the situataion with a soft voice and a gentle smile. He loved his father so. Not because his father was a model citizen, but because his father was, well, his Father. What love I saw that day in the eyes of that young man. This is love, not a "trying on to see if it fits", but a shared life, no matter the ugly, no matter the pain of lost dreams - he still loved the one that he could call his Father. Love doesn't always, if ever, come out of romance novels about the ones that go about choosing their dream companions and the disappointment that follows. No one measures up, because we all start with ourselves as the standard to excellence. How disappointing, but never the less, great insight and still laughing at the irony of life the media has created for us. Plastic dreams and plastic people never see love, just an image. Images are like fake food, never satisfying, just filling, for the moment.

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  8. I am sure with a little effort to be in San Francisco can find a good parking space and a public that is not so difficult to park a vehicle

    San Francisco Public Parking

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  9. Brilliant! Sometimes if dating too much or even going out on too many dates makes us less capable of finding or even less capable of feeling that great mutual love that we otherwise would, if we preserved our emotional resources and used it more sparingly.

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  10. Hey I like your blog. You are right fat guy can not run fast even he buy a sport car.

    San Francisco

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  11. It's like SF's unquantifiable exceptionalism in the face of America's feelings of unquantifiable exceptionalism & the boring off, the want of personifying exceptionalism but only having materials things to prove ones exceptional. "I can afford a 4,000$ apartment & no one can tell that my jeans cost 300$, so I must be interesting." But generally those kinds of people lack personality & in general play it safe ie aren't very funny. Material compensation for a general lack of soul or genuine insight.

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  12. Where are you in 2012? The Giants just won the World Series. Your thoughts?

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  13. I like the part about Princess Buttercup, but dude go smoke a joint and get your dick sucked by some escort. You sound pent up.

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  14. Male To Female Ratio For San Francisco, CA/California

    The male to female ratio is 100:97, and the female to male ratio is 103:100.
    The male population is 394,828, and the female population is 381,905.
    There are 12,923 more males than females in San Francisco; in percentage terms, there are 3.27% more males than females.

    Source: U.S. Census Bureau Data


    is this blog built on a lie?

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    1. No. Just built on a sarcastic premise.

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  15. What happened to this blog? I want more.

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