Oh frothy wonderland of civilized delights!
Tiforal (1947) by Remedios Varo
Last night I met a friend for dinner. Over some very good food and drinks at bartaco, a national franchise run by an app and its alarmingly life-like robot minions, my friend told me that she is a two on the Enneagram Personality Test.
My ears perked up. “I love the number two!” I said, with feeling. I was drinking something called a pineapple express. “Our pineapple express is meant to plant you on the beach in tropical South America,” reads the bartaco website. This made me imagine myself in Rio, buried up to my neck in sand.
“Dip the pineapple chip in this beachy margarita’s froth for a burst of pineapple flavor.” I love to dip a chip in froth! I thought, with feeling.
A man across the dining area was checking me out, because I have good hair and a tall personality. You can see my tall personality from across a crowded room, and it either attracts you or repels you from a great distance. I can’t offer you my precise attraction/ repulsion stats but I can tell you that in a small Southern town where people are polite and keep their personalities trimmed nice and short most of the time, both my attraction and repulsion figures are higher than they would be in your larger coastal metropolises.
Now let’s be honest, I like to be checked out these days. But I didn’t care about or even enjoy being checked out between the ages of 19 and 48. At age thirteen, it was a raw thrill to be checked out for the first time. I figured I must be incredibly beautiful, based on the reactions I got wearing a tank top on the streets of Montreal that summer. But it turns out that people are just pervs everywhere you go, and they’ll yank it to literally any round piece of meat that moves like it’s sentient and moderately hydrated.
Then at age 48 my hormones went insane. I know it’s my tall personality and not my beauty that makes people check me out now, but I don’t care. In fact, I’d rather be checked out because someone suspects that I am the sharpest knife in the drawer. I am the sharpest knife, bitch. Dip your chip into this beachy margarita’s froth for a burst of raw fear.
But it doesn’t pay to discuss hormonally-induced existential rapaciousness with anyone under the age of 48, because they’ll just think you’re a perv that will yank it to a lamb shank with a pretty face carved into its side. People don’t understand true greed or despair or gluttony until they’re over 45 at least.
That’s okay. It's fine to be misunderstood a lot of the time. The only thing I want you to understand about what I’m experiencing is this : It’s fun.
Anyway, the man turned out to be wearing light pink Hammer pants. Why do men in Hammer pants like me so much? I thought, remembering my one ex who wore Hammer pants around the house all day with no underwear in there to shield his family treasures from my swift kicks to the groin. These were imaginary kicks, but you’d imagine them, too, if your boyfriend occasionally left the house in his Hammer pants and free-balled around town in them.
Because I was drinking tequila with some cheery yellow chartreuse in it, I briefly tried to explain to my friend (age 44) how it feels to be creepy and old and ravenous. She listened politely and she seemed to want to help me in some way (Personality Number Two is “The Helper”). But it was obvious that she couldn’t relate at all.
Whichever personality I am, it’s the one that can tell when another person can’t relate at all, I thought, with feeling.
Then I dipped my pineapple chip into some froth, with feeling.
I do everything with feeling, I thought, and then experienced a void of feelings that almost gave me vertigo.
But I didn’t look in the direction of the pink pants man because once someone checks me out, I never look at them again. It just seems tacky to look again, doesn’t it? It makes me nervous. I would hate to give a man in light pink Hammer pants the wrong impression of my intentions. I just want to grab a quick jolt of reassurance that my tall personality is showing and gtfo.
This makes getting checked out completely fruitless, of course, which is exactly how I like it to be. Actually, I prefer fruitless pursuits in general. Whichever personality type I am, it should definitely center on fruitlessness as a way of life.
When I woke up this morning, I didn’t intend on taking the Enneagram Personality Test. I had a lot of other shit to do. But then my friend texted me a link to the test, and it seemed like such a fruitless waste of time to follow the link that I just couldn’t resist.
The test asked me to agree or disagree with a series of generic statements like “I conserve my time, money, and energy for things that are truly important” (obviously not) and “I find most things vaguely disappointing” (obviously so).
There were lots of other hopelessly generic questions, so generic that they conjured more specific questions that weren’t on the test like “By ‘truly important’ do you mean ‘necessary for survival’ or ‘of passionate interest to me personally’?” and “When you say ‘energy’ are you talking sexual energy, intellectual energy, or the energy that springs out of nowhere and attaches itself to absolutely frivolous pursuits?” But none of the questions were specific — which I guess is the point, since it offers each participant the freedom to essentially steer the big dumb ship of the test toward whichever Island of Stupid they’d prefer to land on.
If only I knew how the Islands of Stupid were numbered in advance! Because I like the number seven a lot.
What I really don’t like is deciding whether to agree or disagree with the statement “I like to help other people.” I mean, it depends. I like to help interesting, enthusiastic, open-hearted people. But I don’t like to help boring idiots. Also, what am I helping them with? I like to help people with recognizing that their flaws are pretty normal and common and nothing to feel ashamed about, for example, but I don’t like helping people murder their great aunts who are actually pretty nice.
One of the statements on the test was something like “Personality tests mean nothing and are idiotic” (I disagreed, but not strongly). This made me hope that the next question might be: “This personality test in particular seems to have been created by someone who finds big broad ideas and sweeping generalizations absolutely irresistible. They just can’t stop dipping their (probably not all that imaginative) chip of a brain into the (narrow and not all that interesting) foam of personality testing!”
This wasn’t the next question, so soon, the test started to bore me. Even so, I persevered and finished all of the bad questions, mostly because I like to complete tasks until they’re really, fully, actually completed and not just halfway finished in a half-assed way (a question on the test that my husband would answer very differently).
Besides, I wanted to know my number. Two is the best number but I didn’t want to be The Helper just like my friend, so I definitely tailored my answers to avoid getting a two. That said, it’s a real crime that two is The Helper, because two should be what I am, a person who experiences things in a very emotional way and then writes them down to see if they’re interesting or not, but who recognizes that most things aren’t that interesting at all. A two is never stupid enough to believe that just because a handful of people read her newsletter, that means they all want to read every single boring thing that happens to her.
Some people can write about perfectly ordinary things and make them really funny and interesting. My friend Sarah Miller is one of them, and I’d throw in David Foster Wallace and John Updike and Hunter Harris and Scaachi Koul, too. Let’s call these people sevens. They deserve a number that good! But most other people need a little bird on their shoulders that reads their words and says
Fuck this. It’s not interesting enough.
Which is exactly what I thought when I got the results of my test: I am number four, The Artist. (Time to rethink my whole life, I guess.)
Adding insult to injury, I had to pay $34 just to get my results. But the PDF you download about your personality type was the most disappointing part of the whole experience. The illustrations looked like clip art from the early ‘90s, and the language was very flat and conventional and of course, sexist. (Self-Absorbed is one of The Artist’s main traits, illustrated by a blonde woman with red lipstick.)
I took issue with this section in particular:
“In the Healthy spectrum of development, this individual (The Artist) fulfills their drive to compete by choosing an equal and fair competition, challenging them in a civilized way with their intents made clear, and compete against them justly. They have the capacity to accept defeat and congratulate their competition, or to accept victory with humility.”
So in order to be “healthy” you have to believe that there are equal and fair competitions to be enjoyed out there in the year of our lord 2022. You also have to view doing things “in a civilized way” as somehow useful or honorable. This made me wonder if the author of the test was even glancingly familiar with what passes for “civilization” in our world.
But obviously the life-like robot minion who invented the Enneagram Test was simply programmed to pair bad clip art with strings of words like “equal” and “justly,” and also to text me passionate entreaties to buy more of its products, which sound about as rewarding as asking a monkey to rearrange your refrigerator magnet poetry in a new order, just to see what it says.
Actually, that sounds more fun, because it might not include the clarion call of mediocre, fearful conformity and fascistic moralism, which is everywhere these days. The apparent ideal is to sand down all of your sharp edges and become a lot more like someone who loves big broad ideas and sweeping generalizations, someone who can’t stop dipping their unimaginative chip of a brain into the narrow and not all that interesting foam of this creepily unseeing culture. The apparent ideal is to become a friendly bot run by a rapacious, parasitic app, in other words.
I have decided to create a personality test. Here are my questions:
1. Is cooperation valuable if you’re cooperating with idiots? Answer yes or no.
2. Can a grown adult man in pink Hammer pants recognize The Artist from far away, or does he have a little bird on his shoulder who tells him which lamb flanks are well hydrated?
3. Does wearing red lipstick mean you’re self-absorbed if… you’re a monkey?
4. Is it selfish and uncivilized to express yourself in a manner that 80% of the population finds irritating?
The results of my personality test will be delivered by the same asshole bird that sits on your shoulder telling you that your writing and everything else you do generally sucks.
“You’re The Bloviator,” the bird will whisper in your ear, gently slicing your ear lobe into bloody ribbons. “That means you talk too much but you have nothing worthwhile to say.”
“That sounds fruitless in a way that turns me on,” you’ll tell the bird, sounding a tiny bit dehydrated.
“Dip it in some froth, then!” the bird will answer, and you’ll realize that the bird is just an alarmingly life-like bot controlled by an app. “The Bloviator loves dipping stuff in froth more than anything else in the world. But it’s only Healthy if you dip it in the most civilized and humble manner possible. To learn how, click this link!”
“I don’t think I can dip with humility,” you’ll tell the bird robot, suddenly doubting yourself.
“Then will you use manipulation, dishonesty, or blackmail just to achieve your ego’s desires?” the bird bot will ask you. “If so, click this link instead!”
“Is this like some kind of pledge of allegiance?” you’ll say.
“You have to be somebody before you can be nobody, said a famous psychologist,” the bird will answer.
In other words, we’re already buried up to our necks in sand. So don’t trim that tall personality. Assume that these roving eyeballs mean you’re beautiful. Don’t explain yourself or apologize. Don’t conserve your time, money, or energy for things that are truly important. Pursue fruitlessness. Dip it in some froth. It’s fun.
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