Baring my soul… because baring the good stuff would get me thrown in jail.
Have you ever stopped to think about some of the ridiculous shit that we do, without batting an eyelash, just because other people do it?
And I’m not talking about the really stupid, ‘go along with the herd’ mindless shit here, like buying a Ford Taurus (didn’t do it), or learning to like tofu (not going to do it), or watching that Chicago movie.
(Damn. Did it.)
I’m talking about more basic, general, everyday things. Conventions that we follow because we don’t know how not to, or because we’d feel stupid if we didn’t, or simply because we’re too lazy to stop following. These are things that don’t seem odd to us, because we and everyone around us has been doing them for so long. But when you take a long, deep breath and sit in a comfy chair to think about them for a bit — I mean, think really hard — many of them turn out to be a lot of foolish nonsense. ‘Horsefeathers!’, as my grandpa would say.
(Of course, we’re not really sure what he means when he says this, as it’s usually exclaimed at rather inappropriate times, and seemingly randomly. Otherwise, he’s relatively normal, but he’s got this Rain Man thing going on with ‘horsefeathers’. He’ll say it at dinner, while watching TV, when he’s carrying on a conversation… I think it’s his version of ‘shit’, to be honest. One of those all-purpose words that can be used to mean just about anything, if it’s inflected just the right way.
Except that he’s not bothering to inflect any more, so none of us know what the fuck he’s trying to get across when we run into yet another ‘horsefeathers’ in our dealings with him. Just imagine someone walking around, saying ‘shit’ to reflect all of the appropriate sentiments. For instance:
‘Aw, shit.‘ really means: ‘I’m disappointed.‘
‘Well, shit.‘ really means: ‘I really thought that was going to work. Back to the drawing board.‘
‘Oh, shit.‘ really means: ‘I just dropped something of high value or extreme breakability, or both.‘
‘Oh, shit!‘ really means: ‘I suddenly remembered something that’s going to make me look like a moron!‘
‘Oh, shit!!‘ really means: ‘That monster/tsunami/angry mob/bear/Celine Dion impersonator is heading right for us!!‘
‘Shii-iiit, man.‘ really means: ‘Wow, this is good! We should eat/drink/watch/smoke/steal more of this in future.‘
‘Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit!‘ really means: ‘The table! On my foot! It really hurts! Get it off! Please!‘
‘Shit, fool!‘ really means: ‘You must be joking! (And I must be watching A-Team reruns again.)‘
Now, imagine someone in all of these situations, and more, just deadpanning:
That’s my grandfather’s ‘Horsefeathers.‘ So we really have no frigging clue what he’s trying to tell us. Maybe it never means ‘hogwash’, as I indicated above. Who the hell knows? I just felt like telling you this story, so I found a way to sneak it in. Don’t you feel used now?)
All right, where was I going with all of this, anyway? Ah, the foolishness of our conventions. Okay, stick with me here.
So, an example. I’ve been interviewing for jobs lately, right?
Anyway, I’ve been visiting prospective employers over the past couple of weeks. And I’ve decided, as most people in my situation do, to dress up for these little trips. I wear nice khaki pants, and a button-down shirt, and my nice, not-yet-broken-in loafers. And a tie, which is the ridiculous part that I want to
aimlessly bitch about discuss.
Now, I know ties have been around since before I was born, and they’re a standard, well-accepted component of the business dress code. But hear me out, all right? Just think about ties for a moment. Take a fresh look at ties, as though you’d never seen one before. As a matter of fact, let’s do this. Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that you’re from another planet. Your species is a bunch of spacefaring big ugly green Jell-o-mold-looking lumpy naked blobs. Let’s just say that.
(And no, I’m not trying to say that you’re really ugly, lumpy, or blobby. You’re almost certainly not green, and there’s a fair chance that you’re also not from outer space. So don’t take any of this personally. I just need you to be non-human and non-clothes-wearing for a few minutes, okay? I suppose you could have been a hyperintelligent bird, or some sentient cat or dog type of species, but I went with the Jell-o thing. Maybe it’s because I’m hungry; I don’t really know. Just work with me here — you can go back to your non-naked humanness soon.
On the other hand, if you really are a green gelatinous monster from outer space, then this next bit will make perfect sense to you. Funny coincidence that you should tune in just as I’m using you as an example. Nice timing, dude.
Oh, and as long as I’m at it — if you’re neither a walking, talking, spaceship-flying Jell-o mold nor a clothes-wearing human, then you’re probably not going to get much out of this. Either you’re some other species that wears clothes — quite possibly including ties — and so your view will be skewed, or you’re a non-clothes-wearing human. In which case, that’s kind of gross. You’re sitting there all naked, reading my blog. I’m a little disgusted, I have to admit. And yet — strangely excited. Is that wrong?)
All right. Let’s just say you’re the Jell-o thingamabob. And you wiggle and jiggle your way down to earth in your Puddingmobile or whatever the hell you fly around in, and you run into a bunch of people. And they’re wearing these things all over themselves, and it just makes no sense to you. So, being an inquisitive blobby bunch of green goo, you ask. What, pray tell, could be the purpose for these things called ‘clothes’?
And so, the people tell you. (Unless you had the misfortune to land in Manhattan, in which case, they’d probably just punch you and steal your space watch. So let’s assume that’s not where you landed.) They tell you that in a lot of cases, we wear clothes to keep ourselves warm, and to protect ourselves from the elements and cuts and scrapes and things like that. So, long pants and parkas and gloves and woolly socks start to make some sense to you. Fine.
The nice folks go on to tell you that there’s also a question of sanitation, and that we humans don’t have the option of gathering up all our waste products and budding them off in a big green quivering pile of poo. Plus, some of our more interesting (and unsanitary, as it turns out) bits need support, to make us more comfortable and keep us injury-free. And so boxers and panties and bras and jock straps and most of the other undergarments begin to have some meaning for you. You’re probably still scratching your Jell-o head over the whole notion of crotchless edible underwear, but eventually, someone will probably explain that to you, as well. That’s a whole ‘nother story.
But eventually, you get taken through pretty much the whole gamut of apparel and accessories. Shoes protect our feet. Hats keep us warm, or they protect us from sun or rain or wind. Pants give us pockets to carry things in, and thick flannel shirts allow us to easily identify the Canadians. Every garment has a purpose.
Except for one, of course. The tie. You ask about the tie, and people say that businesspeople wear ties when they meet each other, and when they do business with one another, and when they get together at fancy restaurants that the rest of us can’t get into. (Don’t wanna go there, anyway. Stupid poopy restaurants. Humph.) And so, you ask why they wear them. Do they exchange ties while doing business? Well, no, not normally. Are they used to display their company’s logos or information, like a flag or advertisement? Um, they can be, but that’s usually not the point.
Well, then, what the hell are they for, you ask. They seem to be uncomfortable, all squeezed up around your delicate necks like that. They’re a nuisance to put on, generally not very attractive, and they tend to flap around and attract bits of food or dirt that has to be washed off. Or they simply dip themselves into soups and drinks and plates of spaghetti, none of which seem to be desirable. So really, the green gooey ‘you’ would posit, what the hell is the point?
And that’s my question, as well. How the deuce did this little sham get started, and what the fuck was the guy thinking who got it off the ground? And frankly, how did it ever rise in popularity? Let’s play pretend again, just for a second.
(Don’t worry; I promise you’re done being green and sloppy. For the purposes of this blog, anyway. If you’re green and sloppy in real life, then I’m afraid there’s not a lot I can do for you. You may need professional help. Just try and keep that shit off the keyboard, okay?)
So this time, let’s pretend that you’re you, right now in the present day, but that ties have only just been invented. So you’ve been wearing whatever it is you wear up to this point, but no ties. They simply didn’t exist until right now. And the guy — oh, it must have been a guy that invented them; they’re just too fucking sinister for a woman to have dreamed up — who invented the tie is hanging out with you, telling you all about his new idea. Now, I don’t know about you, but if it were me, the conversation would probably go something like this:
Crackpot inventor: Hey, you wanna hear about my new idea? It’s gonna be huge.
Crackpot inventor: Okay, here’s the deal. You know how businesspeople — bankers and lawyers and all that — always dress up, right?
Crackpot inventor: They put on nice shirts, and slacks, and nice shoes, right?
Me: Yep, that sounds about right.
Crackpot inventor: And we regular people do the same thing, when we’re going to a wedding or funeral, or even a big meeting or something, right?
Me: Yeah, that’s right.
Crackpot inventor: Okay, so here’s my idea. How about, when we dress up for these special occasions, we tie a big cloth loop around our necks?
Me: Um, like a noose?
Crackpot inventor: No, no, not a noose. It’s called a ‘tie‘.
Me: A tie?
Crackpot inventor: Yep.
Me: That you ‘tie’ around your neck?
Crackpot inventor: That’s right.
Me: So, a big hunk of fabric tied in a knot around your neck, when you want to look nice.
Crackpot inventor: That’s it.
Me: But it’s not a noose.
Crackpot inventor: Right.
Me: And it’s not a scarf.
Crackpot inventor: Right.
Me: It’s a ‘tie‘.
Crackpot inventor: You got it!
Me: Um… and what’s the reason for wearing this ‘tie’ thingy?
Crackpot inventor: Well, it’ll make you look better.
Me: I see. And will it be comfortable?
Crackpot inventor: Oh, no. It’ll fit tight around your neck, like a big choker chain. It’ll take some getting used to, definitely.
Me: Mmm-hmmm. And will it be easy to tie?
Crackpot inventor: Well… no. It’ll require a rather complicated knot. Something that fathers will have to teach their children over the course of a few years.
Me: Ah. But there’ll be just one way to tie the things, right?
Crackpot inventor: One? Oh, heavens, no. There will be dozens of ways to tie these ties. That’s part of the fun!
Me: The fun?
Crackpot inventor: Yep. Fun.
Me: So, let me make sure I’ve got this right. You’ve invented these things called ‘ties’.
Crackpot inventor: Yep.
Me: That we’re supposed to tie around our necks, whenever we want to look good.
Crackpot inventor: You got it.
Me: And we’ll feel like we’re being choked by the thing for as long as we have it on.
Crackpot inventor: Yeppers.
Me: And we’ll have to learn how to tie the thing, and then quite possibly re-learn some new way later on, or even know five or six ways of tying the things, just to be safe.
Crackpot inventor: That’s it.
Me: And everybody‘s going to do this?
Crackpot inventor: Sure. Everybody who’s anybody.
Me: For no practical reason whatsoever.
Crackpot inventor: That’s right.
Me: And people will buy these things at thirty, fifty, even a hundred dollars?
Crackpot inventor: Oh, yes. Some people will pay whatever it takes for a good tie.
Me: I see. And we regular Joes will end up wearing these things, too?
Crackpot inventor: Sure. Some people are gonna have them on every day.
Me: Every day.
Crackpot inventor: Yep.
Me: That’s the plan, is it?
Crackpot inventor: Sure is.
It’s at this point that I’d find something close by to use to bludgeon him to death. Seriously, no jury would convict me, if only they knew of his diabolical plan. I mean, it’s crazy, right? Walking around with nooses around our necks all day, and paying out the nose for the privilege to do so. It’s fucking ludicrous. But we put up with it — even accept it — because the idea’s been around forever, and everyone else is already on board. And so, we follow suit. What choice do we have?
Anyway, I just wanted to point out that we do these things all the time. We’re constantly doing things that make no rational sense, and in a lot of cases, there’s really no better option. We’d be shunned, or pointed and laughed at, if we tried to buck the system on some of these issues, including not wearing a tie when a tie is expected. And so, even though I know what I do to be irrational, I put one on myself for interviews, weddings, and the like. I just don’t see another way.
So at least be on the lookout for these quirks of modern-day society. Maybe you can’t change the world and make things right, but at least you can be a little bit smarter than the sheep around you. You can wear your tie ironically, for instance. Wear one with smiley faces, or tied backwards, or only six inches long. Sure, it might stand out a bit, but you’ll be jabbing at the convention while still following it — you can conquer from within the system, and that’s a beautiful thing. And maybe others will see your example, and begin to wonder themselves why we’re following such fucked-up rigid standards, and things will finally start to change.
Unfortunately, there’s not much I can do to help in this particular fight at the moment. When I strap on a tie these days, it’s usually to beg for a job. So I don’t really have a lot of leverage; I sort of have to go with the flow. That doesn’t mean I’m not fighting the good fight, though. I’ve just chosen to wage a different battle on unreasonable convention, that’s all. Thus, I’ve decided to wear my crotchless edible undies all day, every day. Who says they have to be ‘novelty wear’, anyway? They’re not just for breakfast and pornos any more! Sure, after a couple of hours, there’s a little melting that occurs, but I’m willing to put up with a little discomfort to make my stand. Join with me, brothers and sisters.
(But, um, really, mainly sisters, frankly? Sorry, guys.)
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