So last Sunday night, I appeared on Dr. George Simon’s podcast “Character Matters.” You can listen here. It was great fun. We touched on a number of topics (the fallacy of “sex addiction” might interest a bunch of you out there — Dr. Simon thinks it’s a ridiculous “industry” and the treatment further traumatizes the partners of “sex addicts”) — but one subject we got riffing on was “making character cool.”
Yesterday, I got amazing traffic off the post about “sicko” cheaters. I think the freaks who are wired wrong are one demographic. I think there is another demographic of cheaters who are just simply assholes. They could muster up some empathy. They’re neurologically pretty normal. They’re just colossally immature and entitled. Which is worse? I couldn’t tell you — the person who’s just a snake (what can you expect from snakes really?) or the person who could do better but won’t. They both suck. Get away from these people.
But the point I wanted to make about the assholes is — there is a culture that not only tolerates, but encourages them.
Every day people send me articles on infidelity that make their heads want to explode. How cool it is. How abnormal monogamy is. How edgy and fun it is to be a mistress. How some chump really deserved it for being mental, or sexless, or lacking. How glamorous this or that celebrity cheater is — the glowing profile where he thanks his wife for being chill and letting him have groupies. (Wyclef Jean — I’m talking to you.)
Gah! Are people with one, integrated, grown-up life FREAKS or something? Or are we just boring and not living life to our fullest hedonistic happy quotient?
I do think there is something uncool about character in our society now and something acceptable about narcissism. And I’m not the only one who has noticed. Certainly Dr. Simon has. My favorite description of this zeitgeist comes from the playwright Tony Kushner — he describes it as “psychotic individualism.”
Yeah, I got mine. Fuck you. Whatever I want, I deserve. Did I promise you something? Well you’re just a pansy ass for expecting me to keep my promises. How naive of you.
Unfortunately, to talk about this phenomenon tends to divide on political lines. I would hazard a guess Tony Kushner and Dr. Simon fall on different ends of the political spectrum. We can’t seem to get past deep suspicion the minute someone goes about on moral decay. Look, I myself want to cover my ears and scream when politicians natter on about “family values.”
Oh, you mean the values of denying gays marriage? Or denying me reproductive freedoms? Fuck your “family values” hater!
Look, to talk about this some of us are going to point to Wall St. And some are going to point to unwed mothers. But really, I think we should all point to the assholes and ask “What is wrong with you?”
Seriously, what is WRONG with you abandoning your family that way? What is WRONG with you for thinking you’re entitled to embezzling public funds? What is WRONG with you for creating the sub-prime mortgage crisis? What is WRONG with you for caring more about granite counter tops than school taxes? What is WRONG with you that you want to stay “friends” with the guy that cheated on her?
When did we become a society that cares more about the integrity of our chicken breasts (free-range? Antibiotic free?) than we do our people?
Can’t character be cool again? Hey, we made nerds cool. It took a generation or so, but if bad glasses and IT geekery can be cool — why not character?
But would we have to snark less? (Ooh. That would be hard for me.) Yes. We’d probably have to snark less.
The intro music to Dr. Simon’s show is a patriotic tune he and his wife wrote themselves. Now, for all I know Dr. Simon enjoys Sousa marches and oom-pa bands with guys in lederhosen. Who am I to judge? I inflict my obscure R&B videos and Broadway show tunes on you.
Is there anything more square than patriotic music? It’s sooo easy to snark. But get past your jingoistic knee-jerk reaction. There is something beautiful about caring passionately. Whether that’s about democracy or animal adoption or polka music. I think it’s okay to let your earnest flag fly — and not be too cool for school.
Because isn’t it that shallow affect that got us asshole culture? Your sentiment is laughable. Truth is situational. Values are not black and white. Nothing is worthy of cherishing.
Chumps are often ridiculed in our marriages for caring. For investing. For loving a bit too deeply. You’re useful, but God, so embarrassing. Like a mother who wants to kiss our forehead in the Gap store and call us “Pumpkin.”
Rise up, chumps! Dr. Simon will fire up the patriotic marches and I’ll drop the eff bombs. We’ll make character cool.