Sunday, February 20, 2005

The So-Real Life

Let me tell you something about me. I will often go through the effort of stripping my bed, washing and drying my bedsheets, bringing them into my room, setting them on my chair and then sleeping on my bed with just the comforter on it for a week straight. I will pick up the sheets and move them from my chair to my bed when I want to sit in the chair, then move the sheets from my bed back to the chair when I want to sleep.

Why do I do such things? I'm twenty-six years old. I hold down a steady job - a pretty respectable one, too, I think (sometimes). And yet I refuse to act in such a way that is consistent with the kind of person I should be at this age.

I grew up watching television shows like Dream On and Friends and Seinfeld. I thought my heroes in all of these shows were sophisticated, upwardly-mobile, urban-intellectual-types. This is what I so desperately aspired to be as I sat in my rural South Dakota home (or Montana, depending on the time period) and hung on their every word. Now, as I watch these shows today, I realize that I couldn't have been more inaccurate in my summation of these characters. True, the fact that I aspired to be like sitcom characters is worrisome enough, but the fact that I chose to be like whiny, narcissistic, shallow, comically flawed caricatures is downright frightening. The worst part is, I suppose that, to a certain extent, I embody many of the qualities that I would deem comical in those very characters. In a bizarre twist of irony, I have become the characters I wanted to emulate, but only in the worst possible sense. I don't live in a trendy Manhattan loft. I don't have a (very) romantic job. I don't go on countless dates with an endless amount of incredibly attractive women. In fact, I don't really have dates with women at all, attractive or otherwise. Instead, I go through my life allowing quirky little ticks (read: neuroses) dictate how I live and interact with people.

I regularly and willfully engage in self-destructive behavior: drinking. eating horribly unhealthy food, failing to exercise regularly, missing out on social opportunities in favor of staying at home. This is no surprise. But the question at hand is: why? Why do people willfully partipate in behvior that doesn't benefit them and in fact could harm them? I recently read an article in the LA Weekly about a gentleman (yeah, I used the word 'gentleman', so what?) named Jared Diamond who wrote a book called Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Malcolm Gladwell also wrote a story about this dude (available at Now, I haven't read this book, but for my purpose the main point is enough to get my own point across. According to what I've read, in the book Diamond submits that societies often participate in self-destructive behavior, which ultimately leads to the downfall of entire civilizations. I believe that one could apply this principal to the lives most of us are leading: we often routinely engage in activities that may eventually be our own undoing.

Many of us try will amend such behavior as we grow older. I mean, is there really any room in this world for a thirty-five year old male with pierced ears, or for a twenty-six year old with his Denver Broncos hat cocked sideways as he sits at his computer in a post-modern moment condemning that very thing?

Now I'm not saying that immaturity is the defining factor in my life. I've done some very adult things as recently as this afternoon. I sat down and figured out (some) of my taxes. And to reward myself, I bought a Tombston(ed)[ [hee hee] pizza and ate the whole damn thing, thereby cancelling out my adult gesture in one fell teenage-esque swoop.

When I catch myself acting in such immature ways, I often quote to myself the now-infamous line Elaine from Seinfeld uttered after she kidnapped her neighbors dog for barking too much: "I'm not an adult, I'm a child." The great thing is, I can say this with just a little bit of my tongue in my cheek, because I regularly pay my own car insurance bill.

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