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What Happened to Us?

11 Dec

I know this woman–I know many women, more than would probably admit to knowing me–the fiance of my close friend’s brother (if you were hoping for some comically drawn out web of relationships connecting me to this quite possibly imaginary woman, well, so was I) who recently commented that she wished she were on Bridal Plasty. Now this girl is twenty-two and smokin hot (not that it’s relevant to this discussion), and she not only thinks she needs plastic surgery, it sometimes seems that she’s obsessed with the idea that she needs it–in her words she “would want so much done it’s not even funny.” What. the. fuck.

Let it be known that I do not watch television. I do not own a television. I have never paid a cable television subscription bill in my life. So I had to look up this show. It’s on E!. Being on a television network that includes punctuation in its name was a big red flag to my brain. I regrettably let my fingers surf through Google to find the show’s website. Fuck flash. Right off the bat there’s the asinine auto-play trailer made possible by Adobe’s bloated, disease-ridden crappile of a platform. The voice over:

[Cue romantic engagement photos, slow tempo violins]

There’s nothing like a starting a new life with a brand new…

[Cue mainstream rock band pretending not to be; up tempo]

EVERYTHING! Sundays on E! these brides will fight each other to win the ultimate celebrity wedding and their perfect dream body.

[Footage of quarreling women fighting to have their psychiatric issues cured by letting a highly trained surgeon cut them, rather than doing it themselves like usual]

Jesus. fucking. christ.

After cleaning the vomit from my shoes, I opted to “Meet the Brides.” A comely bunch, not one of them is ugly to begin with. A few are definitely overweight, but so what? In this country–have you been out in public around here? Most people are. Almost two-thirds of them anyway. Sure, none of the women have ‘prefect’ faces (whatever the fuck that even means). So what? What part of any of that justifies what I just watched? Watch that trailer. Hear their voices. The strain, the frustration, the anger–the emotional stakes are clear. And insane. And America is tuning in (apparently) to watch them. It’s sick if you think about.

I’m not opposed to plastic surgery a priori (though I do dislike breast augmentation; I do not want to be groping the same stuff used to glue my bathtub to the wall–no, don’t write me about the difference between silicone caulks and silicone gels, that’s not the point, both are unattractive). It has its place. What bothers me is this sick obsession I see all around me with being something, rather than being. We want the perfect Hollywood face–so I’ll take two nose jobs, a lift, a little cheek lipo please! My own face isn’t good enough–yes, my mother gave it to me, and that’s why I resent her so much–give me someone else’s face because I hate looking at myself in the mirror.

You see, being is work. You have to do it every second, minute, hour, day, week, month, year of your life. But being something? Playing at fantasy narratives constructed around our self-hatred? That’s easy. I am a lawyer, I am a homeowner, I am a model, I am every invented category I jerked off to as thirteen year-old in the back of a run-down movie theater, I am a beautiful fucking snowflake. Never I am. And if you aren’t, then you’re already dead. Your body just hasn’t figured it out yet.

Watching that trailer, seeing those women, hearing people hate themselves, hate being, day in and day out–it makes me weep.

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I Hate it Here

23 Oct

I’ve decided to do this as a weekly column of sorts, updated every Saturday at noon.  A weekly walk in the brambles of my mind, and whatever awful thing it has chosen to focus on this week.  This week, it’s suburbia.

I live in a real life version of Edward Scissorhands’s neighborhood.  Remember the place?  Pastel Hell.  I’ve grown up in Pastel Hell.  I lost my virginity sneaking through a pastel window.  Stole my first bottle of rum in a pastel house.  Where is this hell you ask? Los Angeles County.  It doesn’t matter which part, they’re all the same.  You’ll realize this if you drive from one suburban valley to the next–don’t stop, this is canyon country so you can’t stop here–and as you crest one ridge after the another you will begin to think you’re going in circles.  From every ridge it seems you’re looking down on the ruins of Rome.

You are.  This place is the sepulchre of American society.  The death of us all.

In Pastel Hell we work sixty hours a week in jobs we hate, to buy cars we hate, to drive on freeways we hate, to transport kids we hate to soccer games we hate, and we drown it all down in beer-soaked Sunday afternoon barbecues under the endless California sun.  It’s a gonzo facsimile of paradise.  The big SUVs with all leather interiors and sound systems capable of inflicting orgasms on anyone sitting over the subwoofer, the three thousand square foot houses with polished granite counters and nice hardwood floors, the two towheaded kids and golden retriever–I’m certain that someone, somewhere, holds this image as their fantasy of the good life.

But there’s something about this ‘good life.’  It’s precarious.  See also: Foreclosure Crisis in California.  The ‘official’ unemployment rate is over 12%.  Which means the real unemployment rate is around 20%.  That’s one in five people who are under or un-employed.  Losing those nice homes, those nice cars.  It’s not hardship in the traditional sense, but it’ll do.  The kids do drugs or steal their parents booze.  I did.  The parents are powerless to watch as their children fail to live better happier lives in spite of all the affluence around them, but it’s the affluence that is the problem.

Life is struggle.  Or, it’s supposed to be.  But in Pastel Hell there is no struggle for anything.  The result is that the enormous human potential in this place, the ambition of twenty million people, has no where to go.  So it festers.  Housewives become desperate.  With nothing left to strive for, nothing left to want, decadence is inevitable.  We become petty, because we have nothing important to worry about.  We turn to neighborhood scandal and gossip (remember the all-housewives alert from Edward Scissorhands?).  Our lives devolve and we become little more than chattering apes, screeching at each other in gridlock because our very wealth has given us the gift of nothing better to do.

This was supposed to be the American Dream, but like most dreams that run on long enough our paranoia has turned it into a nightmare–I love that word; the Night Mare, the demon that rides you.  The inversion of the normal order–the sun is down, dark banishes light, and the Mare rides us.  So the attainment of the American Dream in the Southern California sun has inverted the normal order of human life.  Now the American Dream chases us, drives us like a cruel slave master.  Single mortgages become double.  ARMs lie strewn about, shorn from the bodies of slaves who did not work hard enough; the American Dream is an unforgiving master.  It will tear you to pieces if you aren’t ready for it.

We are slaves.  Repeat after me.  It’s all you’ve been trained to do anyway.  Our parents chased their dreams, and now their dreams chase us.  Like the bogeymen of our childhoods, hiding in the dark closet, there is only one viable course of action.  We must confront the beast.  We must stop letting the American Dream chase us into the jobs we hate and shit we don’t need, before it chases us down the barrel of a twelve-gauge as if that were the only escape.  For some it is, and that’s the tragedy.  But it doesn’t have to be.  The beast, like the bogeyman, only has the power we let it have.  So tell it to fuck off.

Think about this the next time you’re stuck in traffic on your two-hours-each-way commute.  Stop living the life you’ve been told you’re supposed to want.  Live the life you actually want.  You don’t have a lot of time left.