Deep-Seated, Immutable Character Flaw of the Week

Nº 1 – Hogging the remote

Issue: I grab the DVD remote without permission and cycle through various subtitle and dubbing settings, again without permission. This, I am told, is presumptuous. Evidently even bilingual Latinate viewers seethe with quasi-American contempt at the prospect of hearing and reading more than one channel of language at a time

Response: If you don’t want me playing with remote controls, don’t leave me alone in a room with one. Men can no more resist the lure of a remote than they can pornography. And anyway, I go back 20 years in access; in a battle between you and any form of captioning, subtitling, dubbing, or audio description, you... will... lose. It’s known as a calling, honey, and some of us gots one

Nº 2 – Wearing the burqa

Issue: I enjoy sitting wrapped in a blanket. Sometimes I wrap the blanket over my head. Other times I’ll do a full-on hijab or burqa look. Given that I also allegedly mumble, I look infantile and cannot be understood when I speak

Response: I’m very cold-blooded in that particular way. I wear actual L.L. Bean pyjamas to bed. Your place, quite frankly, is freezing. It’s cozy in a Linus-security-blanket way to type at the computer while enshrouded. Turning a blanket into a burqa is the closest I’ll get to doing drag. Count your blessings. And do I mumble? I dunno – clean the shit out of your ears and then we’ll be able to do a proper test

Nº 3 – Saying no to drugs

Issue: I gripe when expected to sit there and witness drugs being done

Response: I’m pro-choice on drug use. Deep down, I believe people should not, in fact, do drugs, but that would be contrary to human nature; I may be straightedge, but even I drink tea and espresso. You can do what you want, up to the point of self-injury, and I’ll let you do it. But pro-choice means pro-every-choice; my choice must be respected, and my choice is not to be in the same room with any drug stronger than alcohol. Doing drugs right in front of me is profoundly disrespectful. If I’m in your house, you nonetheless lack carte blanche; you may also use the bathroom with the door open when I’m not around, but I’d wager you wouldn’t do the same thing with me there. I am, after all, a guest. For us to do our respective things requires either self-restraint on your part or a kind of apartheid (you leave and do it, or I leave while you do it, and probably right after). You don’t get to rub my nose in it

Nº 4 – Complain, complain, complain

Issue: Every time he comes over, all I do is complain for 20 minutes

Response: Not since I signed the book contract and have had something resembling stability I haven’t, no. ¶ But we’ll grant the premise for the moment. It’s possible for entire weeks to pass in which the only people I actually talk to are cashiers and espressoslingers – in essence, people with whom one’s entire conversation can be summed up as “Thank you.” With no social network, there is no chance to vent frustration in tiny increments.

This of course impinges on the issue of the curmudgeonly nature, in which one may kvetch viciously for half a minute and return to “normal” an instant later. The kvetch has no global significance. When something bugs us, we complain on the spot. Look on the bright side: We get it over with. Normals bottle it all up for years at a time and eventually GO POSTAL.

If you’re the only human being with whom I have any kind of intercourse, even merely social, then what you’re dealing with is pent-up frustration. GOING PONY EXPRESS, you could call it.

It never seems to be noticed that the griping stops and I return to my delightful, charming, hirsute, massively endowed, ferociously dominant self. You want the latter, put up with the former, honey. That’s the deal

Nº 5 – Me and my principles

Issue: My principles get in the way. I won’t pick up cigarettes on the way over. I won’t sign contracts without “quibbling” over rights. I won’t tell little white lies

Response: You got it, Pontiac. You can’t ask a straightedger to buy fags – or booze, or blow, for that matter. Quibbling? Quibbling? Listen, sister, the same laws that protect your right to sign contracts that meet your licensing requirements allow me to sign contracts that meet mine. (Your requirements: “Pay me and use what you want.” My requirements: “Pay me for what you use.”) I could certainly lie to prevent actual harm, but not under any other circumstances, and I do mean any.

Don’t hold my principles against me. A lack of principles merely makes you common. What I’ve got is called integrity. At any rate, while you try to mould me to your own ways, I never proselytize. Could you even live like me for a single day?

Nº 6 – “You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch”

Issue: Quite apart from complaining, I’m grouchy

Response: You know times are tough among the complainers when all the ammo they’ve got is a variation on previous gripes. I seem to recall being accused of grouchiness during a visit following one in which we spent ten minutes giggling over memorable Simpsons references (memorable for me, anyway [“I voted for Kodos”], because my culture doesn’t begin and end with Streisand).

More substantively, normals do not understand the curmudgeonly verbal patterns. (Do I sound like Satan plaintively reading a self-help book to Saddam?) Such patterns were well-explained previously: We vent for half a minute and zip back to normal. It’s a spike in a graph, though the trend line is unaffected.

And anyway, WHEN I HEAR THE WORD GROUCHY, I TAKE OUT MY REVOLVER, figuratively speaking. Here’s what’s really happening: You just can’t keep up with me. I was grouchy two minutes and three topics ago and it’s only now hitting you. It’s like a satellite delay or something. Do I have to say “over” at the end of every sentence? You’re so slow on the uptake that you miss what I’m saying in the present time as you finally realize what I had said a minute before. Maybe if your mind worked at twentieth-century speeds, let alone twenty-first, you’d quit with the bum rap

Nº 7 – Dress him up, take him out

Issue: Why can’t we go out to dinner like normal people?

Response: Start with the facts that (a) we already have (one distinctly recalls the patio at Slack Alice; wasn’t that Kooky Tewky who dropped by?) and (b) I’m never invited. Vegetarianism is advanced as a canard here, but there’s always something I can eat, even at the Hooters.

What’s the real issue? I’m not good enough to be seen in public with. In fact, my very existence was kept a secret from nearly all the Gang, as though I were some kind of Other Woman. By comparison with three separate fellows, of course, I actually was. The secrecy allegedly made things kinkier. (For whom, exactly?) I heard about the Gang’s every failed graphic-design experiment, grueling window display, underexposed photograph, and editorial meltdown (not to mention peccadilloes when in situ at a remote cottage), but I remained in someone else’s closet.

I was good for only one thing. Good at, certainly. But being good for is not good enough

2002.03.09  ¶  Back to