What's so wrong with fumbling and mumbling?
The world is very awkward now, thanks to these phones in our pockets which do most of the work for us. No one knows how to go anywhere or speak words out loud anymore, and it’s turning us all into weird mute white worms. This week’s Ask Polly is a true testament to how obscenely evasive and flinchy we’ve all become. I say “we” because I’m in a polite mood at the moment (too much caffeine?) but what I really mean is “you.”
But it’s not like the old days were any cooler. I mean, you could not hide back then. People talked to each other constantly, in real time, face to face, and it was tedious and a drag mostly. Remember that song “Everybody Hurts” by REM? When that song came out in 1992, it was like watching your idiot buddy from college write a sad poem on a napkin while he was coming down from a coke binge. Next thing you know, he’s calling his sad poem “lyrics” and then sing-songing his sad poem over the worst little dipshitty lullaby the world has ever known.
“Everybody Hurts” was the polar opposite of “Alone in a Crowd” (1984) which, despite the annoyingly obvious title, was at least mumbly and drifty and dark. While “Alone in a Crowd” captures how it feels to kick an empty can down the sidewalk past a loud keg party, “Everybody Hurts” is the ding dong college counselor who walks right up to tell you that you might feel super duper DUPERY down, but you know what, gosh, everyone I mean EVERYBODY feels that way sooooometimes. “Alone in a Crowd” is dead leaves blowing around your Doc Martens as you mumblecore your way through life, feeling faintly romantic about it, and “Everybody Hurts” is a little white Dixie cup filled with antibiotics in a neon-lit campus health clinic. You are naked and the lights are bright and nothing is cute.
When Polly went from writing seething TV reviews to hand-holdy advice, it was like watching Michael Stipe fix his bad skin and then learn to stand up straight and enunciate and also dedicate songs to his doomed buddy Kurt Cobain and his other doomed buddy River Phoenix. They were hot, those two guys, smoking fucking hot and depressed, and since that’s 100% my type of man I guess I should forgive Michael Stipe for befriending and obsessing about them both and then writing sad poems about them on a napkin (“Let Me In,” another very subtle title) and then telling the whole goddamn world about what his sad poems meant. But I know I’m not the only one who thinks it’s chafing when famous people meet other famous people and then take photos with them and talk about them and let us know, day after day, that their lives are no longer cobbled together from sullen trips to the pharmacy and desperate attempts to make dinner from a can of beans, just like the rest of us. No, their entire worlds are covered in red carpet, with sad alienated hot people looming around everywhere, tossing back too many shitty cocktails and making dark jokes about how sad they are. We’re just jealous? Sure, we are! And by “we” here I mostly mean “me.” I want to pad around looking hot and drinking way too much!
It’s funny how all of that shit goes hand in hand-holdy hand with talking about hurting, though, right? Like can’t you just have your glamorous special talented doomed famous friends and your crappy cocktails and your flashing lightbulbs without making it all sound way softer and pastier than it is. And why is that? Can’t you let your famous doomed friends shuffle around in the drifty dead leaves and the dark corners where they belong? No, you’ve gotta drag those motherfuckers into the clinic with you, put them under the bright lights, and tell us about them until all we can taste are antibiotic pills turning bitter and chalky on our tongues. Of course we know that being depressed and dark is not that romantic. We get that they’re still heating up cans of beans maybe, sooooooometimes. But what’s so wrong with being a little hard and edgy and mysterious occasionally? What’s so wrong with writing a song about feeling all alone in a crowd, and there’s no fucking safe happy moral at the end?
That’s how it feels with my dipshit sister Polly. Back in college, she was fucked up and pissed off and seriously entertaining. Hell, she was like that a few years ago. But then, out of nowhere, she starts acting like she’s the Dalai Lama. Once she even – I’m not kidding – replied to the Dalai Lama on Twitter! To correct him on something. Like every other tedious cunt who ever did anything that was even mildly popular, she immediately started overestimating her own wisdom. I mean, look at this:
You know what you really want? That thing you’re avoiding. We get it, Polly. We all have to run to the pharmacy and make dinner eventually. But that’s not enough. All roads lead to shame, the Emerald City of Polly’s repetitive weekly journey through the haunted forest. Whenever someone says “I feel angry at myself all the time,” Polly’s response is, “THAT’S YOUR SHAME!” like the word “shame” alone explains everything, like she’s dropping some red-hot knowledge on all of humanity with that one word. It’s like watching an old guy pretend to pull a coin from behind a little kid’s ear, over and over and over again.
Your shame tells you that you did college wrong. Your shame tells you that you’re an imposter in your red-carpeted life. Your shame tells you that your job is pointless. Your shame tells you that the delusions you nurture so carefully, day in and day out, are worthless and pathetic and when you peel away those delusions, you yourself are worthless and pathetic. But sometimes it seems like your shame is actually… you, describing reality to yourself accurately?
I’m not sure because my shame is telling me that I’ve put enough words here. I just want to say that Polly didn’t do college wrong. She was just drunk and out of control like the rest of us. She was proud of what a slut she was, too. She was fucked up and proud. Is that so wrong? Maybe that would’ve saved Kurt Cobain. Maybe that would’ve saved River Phoenix. Maybe that would’ve saved Michael Stipe’s lyrics. Sure “Monster” was fine. It wasn’t so bad. “She’s her own invention, three miles of bad road,” that’s a decent line. I just miss the times when we could invent ourselves, and be a pot-holed, gravelly bullshit stretch of road without explaining it all, apologizing for it, and winding up in some room with a tiny white Dixie cup in our hands.
Everything is all or nothing now. We are living in Everybody Hurts world. We are all naked and the lights are bright and nothing is cute. No, of course I’m not saying we’re all acting like victims or that depressed people shouldn’t get treated, fuck, please be smarter, as a favor to me. I just want my old sloppy sister back. I want to shuffle through dead leaves sometimes instead of fixing everything. Turn down the lights. Let’s be our awkward, slouchy selves. Let’s huff and roll our eyes, for fuck’s sake. Everything looks cuter when it’s a little dark. Kick a can. Pout. Skip the party. Sulk. Don’t write it down anywhere. Strum. Mope.
Maybe we’re not heading anywhere better. Maybe we don’t need to be.
Need to mope about something? Write to askmolly at protonmail.