No One Owns Your Ugly

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No, no one owns your ugly. Just you. We all have the capacity to be ugly people – and I mean ugly on the inside and in how we behave. Yesterday I quite insistently wrote that I hate listening to English people speak (unless they are using the word “dirty”), which is just a broad and ugly generalization. I had one, maybe two, specific people in mind – and my fussiness had nothing to do with their being English. Mostly it was because they whine all the time (or whinge as the English say). I have loads of lovely English friends who span the whole of England, including the varied and fascinating array of regional accents. So, yeah, I am just trying to sweep up that bit of ugly and deliver a half-assed apology. Even if there is no one to apologize to since this is just my platform for aimless rambling.

Friendship
When it comes to friendship or feeling – who is the glue? I have often described myself as the glue that holds friendships and groups of friends together. I discussed this with my brother recently – this strange sense of feeling that he and I have always had that we needed to continue making efforts when it was not really in our best interest; this sense that people do not care – even if they are or have been among your best friends – when you just fall out of their life. They don’t mind that you keep making the effort with them but if you didn’t the friendship would probably just die. And they would not mind that either. I used to be this way too – loyal, attentive and in pursuit (although I know this sounds a bit stalker-like) to a fault. Until I realized I was wasting my time. It is just another exercise in holding on to things from the past – and there is enough stuff, and are enough people, in the present to deal with. Like most things, there is a constant need to remind oneself to be in the present, the present, the present.

Friendship: TV Debate – Broad City v Girls
Considering friendship as it is portrayed on TV, I watched the most recent season of Girls on HBO. I cannot explain why I watch this show because there is absolutely nothing likeable about it. Many critics have written about the characters and how the show is somehow “realistic” even if the characters are not likeable. Creator/writer Lena Dunham gets a lot of press for creating this realistically unpleasant world in which she and her girlfriends live as well as for her penchant for on-screen nudity and willingness to show off a lot of her less-than-perfect physique. She is lovely and gifted with more talent than I can describe; more power to her. I don’t have a problem with any of this.

My problem with Girls, perhaps – and this may only reflect my wish to believe that people are not as selfish as they appear on TV – is that the characters are so painfully self-involved and totally, thoroughly up their own asses in terms of selfishness and disregard for the feelings, accomplishments, achievements, failures, insecurities and problems of others. The only character in this show who seems to have any sense of a compass in terms of how he feels about and treats others is Ray, and he is not particularly likeable either. Not that people need to be likeable (particularly on TV, where, if I face reality, most of the most memorable characters are the biggest dicks in existence from whom no one would take the kind of shit they dish out). Ray, too, is fallible – but then, aren’t we all?

Friendship, in my book, is not friendship when rendered and lived the way the friendships in Girls are. These girls are brutal to each other, they use each other, they say things to each other that no caring people would ever say. They are unsupportive and have really selfish fights. I might expect some of this behavior from adolescent, hormonal girls – but from women in their early 20s? Not so much. If a collective of women has this many problems with each other, are so hopelessly different, cannot put themselves in each other’s shoes, would rarely, if ever, go to bat for one another, delight SO MUCH in taking cracks at these “friends” when the others are not around (and the list goes on), how – oh, how – do we imagine that these girls are friends?

In some ways, yes, it’s a problem – I watch and think it’s horrible, awful and unrealistic. Critics and fans alike set the internet on fire talking about how “unrealistic” it was when Dunham’s character seduced (and rapidly destroyed a casual relationship with) a character played by Patrick Wilson last season. Such a “bedding” might not happen every minute of every day, but it is not unrealistic.

But women who decide to put up with the kind of abuse and backhanding from supposed friends that the women of Girls take episode after episode? That’s unrealistic! Maybe because these women are all insecure and troubled and selfish, they somehow can only survive and attract/maintain friendships with people who are equally shallow and self-absorbed, almost a theatre of “I can give as good as I get” of selfishness and casual cruelty. I started to wonder whether it was a reflection of how young women really are or whether it was a generational thing. Or whether this was all exaggerated because it’s a TV show. Is it possible, I thought, that young women (on TV) cannot reflect some of the genuine selfishness of youth while also still displaying genuine care and loyalty for their friends?

And that’s when I saw Broad City. I had been inundated and annoyed by ads for the Comedy Central show Broad City for weeks (these always appear between segments of The Daily Show when you watch it online). The ads really did not inspire me to watch the show – it looked a bit crass and frankly annoying like a lot of Comedy Central content. Then one Saturday afternoon I decided to give it a try. Apart from finding it quite funny, if vulgar, I found the two main characters, Ilana and Abbi, far more relatable in some ways (albeit exaggerated versions of relatable) than their Girls contemporaries – most of all because their friendship was so strong. It was obvious why these two were friends, why they turned to each other and were there for each other through thick and thin, supportive but not above the occasional poking fun at each other – not because they are spiteful, entitled assholes (as the characters in Girls feel like) but because they just know each other that well and enjoy the good-natured ribbing.

Now I am sad that Broad City’s first season is over, but endlessly relieved to see Hannah and co from Girls done with their third season. Certainly it says more about me and what I think friendship is – or what TV should be – than it does about the quality of either show. (And it does not say much in my defense that I keep watching stuff I really don’t like. I can’t help myself. What would I complain about otherwise? How could I maintain a robust hate list? I don’t have a monopoly on it, but I have to keep myself ugly somehow; I own my ugly, after all.)

I finally found someone uglier than you, A.M.” – Olli

Pretty (Ugly Before)” – Elliot Smith

Likelier to be a Dirty Astronaut: Five Admissions

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It’s the last day of March, and I am not fond of listening to most English accents. I admit it. I have gone from an adolescent anglophile to… well, this person who just does not want to hear it. I like to joke about it and imitate it à la “You don’t know me at all. I don’t need to be drunk to talk dirty.” (Because one of the only words that sounds best in English-English and can really only be taken seriously from the mouth of an English person is “dirty”.) Admission number one.

Admission number two. Watching movies in which a character finds out she is pregnant and then has to tell someone else she is pregnant (especially someone who has a stake in the pregnancy, i.e., the father), sort of freaks me out emotionally. Seeing these reactions – fictional though they may be – the processing that takes place… the characters’ place in life – some wanting a baby, some not at all, some shocked or horrified, not even thinking “baby” is on their life’s radar when it comes into being. Watching these reactions makes me think about how I doubt I will ever have this kind of conversation – and up to this point would not have had this conversation even in the event of pregnancy. It occurs to me right now as sort of sad because I have been determined to go it alone. No illusions, no expectations, no surprises – the hard work would be mine alone.

I think this all hit me the other night when I watched the film Short Term 12. The main character (played by the suddenly-everywhere Brie Larson) discovers she is pregnant and eventually tells her boyfriend. His surprise, initial reaction (which seemed almost as though he was stunned – negatively – gave way to a lot of joy and support), interested me as well. The actor’s face registered such shock and surprise in that moment… the reality dawning on him in just a few seconds – I am not sure I have seen a purer reaction in a film before. (Incidentally, I had never really seen the actor – John Gallagher Jr before except in the often-grating and thankfully almost-over The Newsroom, in which he portrays one of the only likeable characters.) I am, and I say this with a tinge of regret and wistfulness, more likely to become an astronaut than a mother at this point in my life.

Admission number three. I am always – always – too curious about things and particularly about people, which almost never ends well. When someone seems really out there and bizarre, I find that I want to get to the heart of their pathology – or at least their deep-seated irregularities. Several years ago, I briefly talked to/had a few conversations with someone who was, for lack for a better or less repetitive term, way out there and completely fucked-up. His proclivities and perverse predilections (insofar as I knew the extent of them, which, as it turns out, I didn’t. What I knew was only the tip of the iceberg – and not illegal) were so bizarre that it was like watching a building collapse in slow motion. He slowly revealed things about himself that were disturbing and sad – but did not even begin to reflect what would come later, long after I no longer knew him. It was a brief acquaintance that ended almost as soon as it began. But my too-curious mind Googled him after a couple of years and found that he had apparently been arrested for something very serious, tried to commit suicide, was put on house arrest and then disappeared before his court date (or something resembling this chain of events). He thus ended up on his state’s most-wanted list of fugitives. The whole thing was rather shocking but satisfied (or even overly satisfied) my curiosity. Then, the other day, after a couple more years had passed, I looked up his name again to see if he had been captured or if anything new had come to light about the situation… only to learn that he is dead. Apparently he died on the opposite side of the country from where he was a wanted man, using an assumed identity – and died of pneumonia!? From the little I knew of him, he was someone who wanted to die and therefore took all the risks a person can take. I am not surprised to learn that he is dead, but it still rests uneasily in my mind – like what a horrible end. What a horrible life, really.

Admission number four. I have often laughed at Swenglish – the fluent but strange Swedish-English concoction that escapes Swedes’ mouths when they quite ably speak English. One of the things that gets me, much more than the “yoy” rather than “joy” and the “shat” for “chat”, is the tendency to form a “dju” sound at the beginning of words that start with a “u” sound when combined with some other preceding sound. You will thus hear something like, “When we worked in the UK” as “When we worked in the Ju-Kay”. Recently I heard someone say, “The views that we works with” but it sounded like “The Jews that we work with”.

Admission number five. “I love everything about you.