“You’re so smart you could do anything, you should have a house, a nice car…”
“If you’re so smart why are you still cooking, you’re not a lawyer or anything”
“[name redacted] bought a house, aren’t you so jealous”
The mainstream way we assess status is dumb. We use the absence of houses and careers as evidence that someone sucks at life and then, even worse, if someone has those things we shit on them as pretentious, phoney, spoiled, or lucky and talk about how intangible things are more important anyway.
I was working at Wolfman’s when it was briefly changing ownership and I remember the new big boss saying at the end his introductory speech …and hopefully we’re all going to make a lot of money. I cringed. I guess that is the point, I guess that’s why I’m here I thought. But it wasn’t, if I cared about money I wouldn’t be washing dishes at Wolfman’s Pub. I cared about Wolfman’s itself, I cared about the neighborhood. I thought: if I owned a bar I wouldn’t be in it for the money, I’d try to be what my neighborhood needed. I’d try to be the home away from home for the people who have no real sense of home.
The comment at the top about not being a lawyer came from my beloved Bob. I replied that I’m smart enough to know the universe is meaningless and we all die alone so it doesn’t really matter if I’m a fucking lawyer. I don’t care about cars and houses, when people ask me what I do I say I’m a writer and a musician because the fact that I cook for a living shouldn’t have to be my identity if I don’t want it to.
I don’t rank status by clothing because someone dresses to express themselves authentically looks better, more confident, more at peace, more attractive, than someone trying to dress to impress.
I’m guilty of one thing though. Ranking people by romantic partner. Not always, not everyone. For example my above mentioned Bob who is A) Someone I think is truly fantastic and B) is single. I imagine that whoever he ends up dating I will feel isn’t quite deserving of him.
For the most part though I understand people who stay in shitty relationships just to be in relationships. The same way the loss of a job is a crippling loss of identity for overachievers and protector/provider types, the absence of a romantic partner feels like the absence of a self for the romantics. I know because I did that. I wasn’t ready to leave Simone until I met Mandi and when that didn’t work out and I was about to be alone it was the only time in my adult life that I didn’t want others to know the truth about something. I kept trying to make it work with Mandi long after it obviously wouldn’t and I tried to keep up the appearance that she was ‘with me’ right up until I’d emotionally bonded with Maria and everyone started seeing it.
Because I know that I look at guys who’ve been dumped and think there is something she knows about him that I don’t and it must be fucking awful. I don’t think they must have been incompatible or maybe it’s something wrong with her that made her leave a decent dude.
I’ve used the term trophyshield a few times when I talk to Olivia as a throw back to when I first wrote about the night we met in my sobriety blog. Actually the morning after. I needed everyone to see that I could get a girl in order to protect my own ego and as soon as she left I was simply myself again and I was miserable.
Things worked out with Liv, obviously, from that trepidatious start. Except for one night I devastated myself by trying to actively use the status I felt from the relationship. I took her to Vern’s when all my old frenemies would be there and I thought I’d be throwing it in their faces that I had this amazing super cool girlfriend. But of course to them I was still me, just there with some chick who looks like a boy. And I saw how many of those guys that I hate have horrible, terrifying, relationships that they cling too and show off as an ego defense and I was disgusted with myself that I tried to do that. Except they all use the explicit hotness of women as a ranking and I thought how cool Liv is would just somehow be tangible for everyone and they’d be jealous, they’d realize their own relationships were shit.
A feeling I couldn’t get because none of the frenemies would openly look at me. I was a pariah, nothing was going to change that tonight. And it got exponentially worse when Liv got upset seeing me be affectionate with Simone and I completely melted down, thinking that everyone else was thinking ha! Even his girlfriend, that he came here trying to show off, doesn’t fucking like him. I had to consciously keep myself from being suicidal.
Just to wrap that story up; it took 45 minutes of sitting in the car, mostly in silence, to unpack all the things each of us were feeling and get to a good place and go have a good night elsewhere.
And she makes me extremely happy, which is the ultimate way that I aim to rank people. We’ve had 3 near-fights in our 75 days and each one has brought us closer and gotten us to understand each other better.
So yeah I put too high a social status on romantic relationships. I pride myself on the fact that Simone still thinks I’m great and I truly believe if/when everyone knew/knows how great Olivia is they’ll think I must be amazing too if she likes me as much as she does.
And the fact I’m happy should be the only ranking that matters, the fact that anyone is happy is all that should matter.
Going back to the quotes at the top that got me thinking; the one about with [name redacted] buying a house prompted me to say that [name redacted] is so selfish, spoiled, basic, and ugly inside that they’ll never be happy so I don’t care at all.
We all seem to imagine that surfers, mountain climbers, back packers and anyone living the simple life has found a purer kind of happiness than modern life and yet most of us don’t chase that because we’re so scared of falling behind in the rat race, which ever race we’ve chosen.
And I think that’s what leads people to pretend they’re happy, which is the most toxic thing of all. The first step toward happiness is probably admitting that you aren’t, just going by the way these tropes work. People who deal with a break up by angrily saying they’re better off, people who deal with poverty by hating the system, or the rich, or minorities, or their political opposites, and people who stay in terrible relationships trying to make it work are the saddest people of all because it prevents them from trying, from moving toward their actual goals.
But then why aren’t we more sympathetic to people who seem to have it all but aren’t happy?