Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Are We Having Fun Yet?

When I was married I was miserable because I thought I wasn’t having any fun. After my divorced I was shocked to learn no one else was having any fun either. I re-entered the dating scene with all the enthusiasm of a high school graduate but it quickly evaporated as I discovered that all those people I thought were having fun really had no idea what they were doing. Once again, I'd been had.

I place part of the blame on “Sex and the City” syndrome. One of the few girls I actually liked when I was dating once broke out He’s Just Not That Into You, the best selling book by two writers of the ubiquitous HBO show, which, as it turned out, was sort of her field guide for dating. I was humiliated when she referenced the book to criticize me. Imagine that! Someone taking real life cues from two people whose credentials were forged in a fictional universe. To her it was simply a matter of acting like a successful woman on TV, and consulting the book if there were any questions. Welcome to the single life.

All you really want when dating is for the other person to be real. You just want to know: do you like me or not? Not, would this make a good episode on TV? You want to know: is this working or not? Please don’t consult the manual. Our society works in vapid the way China dabbles with led paint. Everyone just seems to be doing their best impression of someone who is having fun, or in-charge, or successful, no one really knows what they're doing and most people are having no fun. They wake up Saturday mornings hungover, dust themselves off, and return to their dreams of being a lawyer, or crime scene analyst, just like on TV.

I just read an essay outlining 25 steps to boost your self-confidence. Here, again, is another symptom. How can we be the same species that mastered fire, and ventured from caves to kill mastodons with crude weapons made from sticks and stones, and be so plagued with self-confidence issues? When did we fall into this ridiculous cycle of simply doing what we see everyone else doing on TV or consulting someone else’s ideas on how we should run our lives? Ten thousand years ago we just had to do it, or parish. There was no room for people who couldn't discover their motivation. Today people think self-confidence can be conjured up by consulting a few web pages.

You see: no one is having any fun, really. "Fun" was trademarked, homogenized, and is now re-heated to the consumer. On TV people who drink beer look like they're always having fun, right? So, in real life it's a blast to get hammered every weekend, right? I know a lot of married people who look longingly at the single life because it seems so interesting and sexy. Well, sometimes it is, but most of the time it’s just a bunch of bullshit. Trust me. For every one person you meet that really lights your fire, there are hundreds who look like they’ve wandered onto the set of “Sex and the City” and are just killing time.

Clubbing, drinking, drugs, and large sunglasses, these are the signs of someone who is really having no fun but is trying desperately to hide it. But who knows, maybe if all the props are in place everything will come together. It’s one big competition out there to see who can outdo everyone else. It’s really a lot like high school. And maybe that’s why, when they’re not pretending to have fun, so many people are confused, powerless, miserable and broken and empty. Which drives them to pretend even more.

I was stunned to learn how much effort it is to keep up appearances like that. And the appearances on top of appearances. The money invested in designer clothes, and hair products. It's an entire fake lifestyle on top of a lifestyle. No wonder corporations continue to report record profits. They reach both the conformists and the non-conformists. Everyone is trying desperately to be like the next guy, who is having no fun, or to not be like the next guy, who is having no fun. When does it end?

I’m 31, and it may be time to check-out. I have a decent job and I'm a responsible adult and that actually makes me happy. I'm the guy that owns a house in the suburbs, which my friends see as an example of my pitiful existence. They seem stunned that I have no interest in hanging out at a club, or living upstairs from a martini bar, or going to film school. I've essentially vanished. If you did happen to notice me on the street you might laugh. I'm the guy who no longer matches his belt with his shoes. Being free is the most fun I've ever had.

No comments: