For whenever life gets you down, Mrs. Brown.
I tend to deal in extremes—I’ll either binge myself sick or practice a monk-like asceticism, run five miles or take five naps, write a novella a week or take five more naps, and so on. While this is all, admittedly, pretty damn unhealthy (and counterproductive), I think the extreme detachment I’ve forced upon myself might be for the best.
Like most chumps (i.e. human beings), I’m down to fit in somewhere. But, being a man of extremes, it’s more like I’m down to fit in anywhere—the result of which has been a series of misadventures that have made a Zelig out of me. I think so, anyway. A list of the things I have been since I was ten, by grade:
Grade 5: Skater/punk, or at least what I think punk is at the time.
Grade 6: I find Monty Python, but not deodorant. Constant erections.
Grade 7: Unbridled classic rock enthusiasm.
Grade 8: Dave Matthews Band, Dispatch. I begin neglected academics. (In eighth grade, I am approximately a college freshman.)
Freshman year of high school: All the cool kids I’d been trying embarrassingly hard to get chummy with the last two years find the upper-classmen. I had neither the interest nor invitation. Also, I was in a band with my best friends, and that was more than sufficient.
Sophomore year: The band broke up. I meet a “cool” junior who’s secretly a real person. He tries to turn me onto Phish, and I feign enthusiasm (we’re the best of friends to this day). I start taking AP classes.
Junior year: I find out that there is more than one standard of cool and uncool and take a big bite out of the forbidden fruit: I become proto-self aware. I first hear the word hipster, buy thick-rimmed glasses. It is drilled into my head that I can write, which is the worst thing for everyone. Grades continue to suck, but I’m still kind of sure I’m going to go to a really good college (like I said, proto-self aware).
Senior year: All my upper-classmen friends vanish, kids in my classes are all amicable toward me, I think, because I’m barely passing and am therefore not a threat in class rankings. I get accepted, somehow, to a couple of decent schools.
Freshman year: I enroll at a state school that isn’t Rutgers so why bother naming it. Somehow I get assigned to live with two normal, well-adjusted, good-looking dudes. I react to this by reverting back to middle school mode and once again become the funny fat friend who uses big words. 100-level classes put me in classes with whatever the discarded byproduct of the cream of the crop is and am thereby deterred from pursuing friendships. All friends are made by roommates and I tag along. I meet one kid who listens to Radiohead and likes Tim and Eric. He will transfer after this year.
Last year: I try to transfer, but, having not done any work since seventh grade, I am forced back. Being delusionally certain that I’d be somewhere else, I don’t have any plans for housing. I end up in a transfer dorm with new people (Simon, if you see this, hi Simon!). I pretty much ignore classes and start intentionally wording things uncomfortably for my own amusement. It gets old, but I keep doing it because it’s easy.
I’m sick of trying to be ironic and detached. It makes me say and do dickish things that, if I were honest with myself, I might not do. Probably, there’s just no hope for universal brotherly love, but there shouldn’t be; this is Earth, damn it. But I used to love talk to people regardless of whether or not they were me and especially if they weren’t. Evidently, there’s an inverse relationship between self-assurance and narcissism.
People around my age seem to think that detachment qualifies as an identity, but it doesn’t. It’s a black hole that sucks in every subculture that gets too close to it and condenses them into one ugly singularity. All the brightness you see is just surrounding a center of dense nothingness.
I think what I’ll do is stop thinking in terms of cool and uncool and move onto neat and not neat. Cool is social, neat is personal. Tally Hall is neat. Liking them might be the last honest thing I’ve done. Furthermore, I’m going to make an effort to stop scoffing. I won’t scoff if I can’t articulate to myself why I’m scoffing. No reflex scoffing. Reflex scoffing = equating something being different with it being inferior.
(“= equating.” Let’s enjoy that.)