Sunday, February 11, 2007

pretty good

So the laundry process prompted a whole spin-off train of thought that I can't help sharing.

When I was a kid I either read in the newspaper or had handed out to me (or, it's possible, heard Garrison Keilor read on public radio) a story about a pretty good guy. The pretty good guy was born in a pretty good town where he went to a pretty good school where he did pretty well among all the other pretty good students. On the list of pretty good colleges he was able to get into one that was pretty high and he worked pretty hard and god pretty good grades so that when he graduated he got a pretty good salary for a pretty good job at a pretty good company blah blah blah. The point is when you figure out that a pretty good salary for a pretty good job at a pretty good company is actually nice-talk for "shitty mediocrity" your heart leaps into your throat and you vow that that will never be you.

I vowed; yes I did. I was horrified by the prospect of being pretty good. I was sick to my stomach with the idea that I might be an average somebody with no distinguishing characteristics. Being anything less than a star would effectively be failure.

The competitor in me (unvanquishable, even in times of philosophizing; figures, don't it) snorts and walks away from the monologue at this point, since, after all, this defeatist thinking is what we'll let everyone else use to keep themselves down. But for fuck's sake here. When did the average child become a disappointment? I wasn't any less brainwashed than a little girl conditioned to find a husband was; I just learned to revel in a different kind of unhappiness.

But seriously--would it matter if I just worked a regular old 9 to 5? What if I didn't drive myself into the ground with convictions that my job wasn't good enough, that I didn't make enough money, that my boss wasn't looking out for my interests, that blah blah pretty good blah? What if I just paid my bills and sometimes took some bus trips or went out drinking or, ever so occasionally, maybe to a karaoke bar? What if I dated a blue-collar guy who would come over in the evenings so we could watch tv together and fall asleep with some Chinese take-out? We wouldn't worry about doing cultural things because we wouldn't even really be into that (now that we're not pretending for those pretentious better-than-pretty-good people). But we'd make each other happy and we'd have friends who loved us and who invited us to their weddings when they got married and their baby showers when they got pregnant and we'd buy them and their children gifts and take them out for ice cream and it wouldn't really matter in the end that we only made enough money in a year to rent. Because we'd be happy--or--never even mind that. Because most of the rest of the United States lives just like that. My ancestors lived like that--the lucky ones. So why do I have to make myself unhappy convincing myself that I'm unhappy with what I have?

All this exposition prompted by a friend's recent kvetching that "I can't go to my high school reunion this way." I'm so sorry that she's been brainwashed to think the same thing I've been brainwashed to think. It's the tritest thing in the world to say that fiscal/corporate success isn't what makes a person happy but sadly we've been conditioned to think that we're not even worth ourselves if we don't have the stock portfolios and bank accounts to show for our corporately charmed lives. The saddest thing is that she has--and hopefully I have--so many other things to be proud of.

Fuck it--you know what they didn't talk about in the pretty good cautionary tale? The pretty good guy's pretty good wife (or maybe his pretty good gay lover, who was almost certainly a pretty good cook). Maybe they had some pretty cute kids or a pretty productive vegetable garden. Maybe on weekends they have a pretty good time playing D&D in their neighbor's pretty awesome basement (he's got some pretty groovy blue Christmas lights). Best yet, he's a pretty fun guy to hang out with, and a pretty loyal friend with a pretty good music collection. So who gives a crap about anything else at all?

1 comment:

Bluenana said...

Sigh. For shame. Despite all that was real and true in your post, I still can't help wanting to go back to my alma mater at the five year reunion and not be an ass. With hugguhbear up there and me down here, I have nothing else but hard work and time on my hands.

It's hard not to fight against the pretty goodness of the world and to rise up and be excellent. Let's face it, it's lonely at the top.

At any rate, I need to stop caring so much because I have a more important reunion to look forward to this year, and that won't be pretty good at all. In fact, it'll be pretty fucking amazing.