roseanne vs. the vma's

I'm just an ordinary average guy
my friends are all boring
and so am I
we're just ordinary average guys
~ Joe Walsh

I have a problem with envy.

Every year when awards season comes around, I gather my pettiness around me like skirts and flounce away from the TV. Or at least away from the channels where one may watch the Emmys, the VMAs, and various other musical award shows. I don't want to see droves of people who are, in my heart's reckoning, not quite as good at songwriting as myself, be fĂȘted and fawned over and asked to give speeches--or even have the cameras pan over them while they watch with sour expressions as rivals give speeches.

The real reason they are there, of course, has more than anything else to do with merchandising. That is, the amount of money their CDs, mp3s, concert tickets and associated gewgaws are able to siphon into the pockets of their corporate sponsors. But supposedly--nominally--in theory--they are being honored for having created wonderful music. As the creation of wonderful music (though I lack the means to distribute it at the moment) is one of the central load-bearing pylons of my identity, this is maddening. I feel like the dog who must sit and watch while I, the foolish human, slowly devour a delicious-smelling steak which the dog is one hundred percent certain is rightfully his. Hence, I do not watch these shows, because I tend to act like an ass and sarcastically insult all the performers, even the ones I like, and detract from everyone else's enjoyment.

As I said, a problem. A problem for which a practical solution still evades me. All I can do on that front is bide my time, keep an alert eye and a grasping hand ready for any resources I can use for the purpose, and continue to get better at writing and playing songs. So that when I do find an opportunity to do more than nothing about it, the quality of music I can actually produce will be as high as freaking possible.

I used to have another, more serious problem with elitism--or, to use the wider-reaching Biblical term for it, pride. I touched on it briefly in my last post.

It came directly out of my extreme social awkwardness and low self-esteem; identity-wise, that sort of pride is a last-resort defense against loneliness. It says, I am not excluded from these social relationships because I am an unworthy ally, but rather because I am so special and different that it is important for me to hold out for something better. Which contains a couple of major untruths right on the face of it. First, the falsehood that certain kinds of people or relationships are somehow better or worse than others. After assuming the first falsehood, the second falsehood states that being unfit to have "lesser" kinds of relationships somehow gives you extra points or makes you more fit to have "better" kinds. Take the two wrong ideas together, and you get a burst of ego-soothing pride every time some incident takes place which ought to have made you feel ashamed. Like all fake "good feelings" that come from lies, though, the emotional energy for it had to get stolen out of another part of your personality. In this case, it comes from robbing yourself of the ability to like, respect and trust others.

Pernicious lies like the above are the sort which ruin otherwise decent personalities and make the people who exist through them impossible to like. All the self-loathing, acting foolish et cetera that I eat raw to try and shake them off are a very small price to pay, considering the risk. And the risk is not totally gone. I still have a somewhat shaky hold on self-respect, still have trouble holding on to friends once I've made them (though at least I can now make friends pretty easily because I like everyone and it shows), still catch myself mentally turning my nose up at things which I know are good and valuable and not to be scorned. It's like Jefferson said: The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Personality construction isn't architecture; it's flow mechanics. It's being able to maintain a standing wave with just enough curl that you can surf in it.

So yesterday evening Dave was channel-surfing and we ended up watching an episode of Roseanne. It was one of the big end-of-the-series ones where all the relationships have more or less stabilized and everyone's together twisting together loose strands of plot. So people were talking about the big stuff, relationships and love and the future, way more than in your typical sitcom episode.

I have no idea why, but when I was a lonely, ulcerous little kid, the Roseanne show stood for failure in my mind. I'd never watched it, just assumed that it was about people who'd given up striving for Greatness and Fame and a Chance to Earn a Place in History, and chosen to settle for being (ick!) an ordinary, average family. One of those nasty-assumptions-based-on-several-falsehoods that I didn't think about consciously, and wouldn't have recognized as such until I'd taken the trouble to drain out all the tributary falsehoods. That life isn't worth living unless at some point you attain Greatness and Fame. (And presumably Even More Ulcers.) That being part of a large, loving, occasionally squabbling family that still has each other's backs when it counts is somehow a bad thing, or an unimportant one. To name just a couple.

As I sat there and watched the show, saw all the plot threads come together as the fictional family reaffirmed their love and support for one another, I felt the same old gut-twist of envy that I normally expect from watching the VMAs. These fictional characters, for whom I used to feel casual, unexamined contempt, had something I desperately wanted. Not only the acceptance (howsoever grudging sometimes) and the togetherness (howsoever irritating sometimes), but the stability and means to enjoy and focus on those things. It's just a show about an ordinary, average family who has the freedom to sit around and live life and work out their relationships with each other, and the reasonable expectation that they can keep doing so. I want that, more intensely than I want a record deal, even. And at the moment, I'm about equally likely to be able to get either one.

Luckily I have a lot of practice appreciating the irony of moments like this. A way of life for which I once felt ill-thought-through contempt turns out to be one of my highest ambitions. A seemingly unattainable one, too, at least in the immediate term. Pass the salt and carve the crow, it's a typical dinner at my place.

Tomorrow Paula's going to be coming over to pick Dave up. Him staying here is not something I can afford with what I'm making now, and none of his job opportunities in the area panned out. I have no idea what's going to happen next. And this time that doesn't feel like a good thing.


Amber E said...

Hi Sweetie,
Wow, lots of stuff, I wish I could call you but I don't think you have a working phone currently. I'll be up til one a.m. if you notice this and have a phone. Love you dear.
P.S. I totally thought Roseanne was dumb and I would hate it until I watched it and then I really liked it. Darlene's smart mouth is funny. You are right it is the whole messy family togetherness that is awesome.