Heather Havrilesky, writing on Salon today, has spoken to my soul. Unlike Heather, I can profess no real reality TV obsession, unless you're going to talk about Dirty Jobs, which isn't even so much an obsession with Dirty Jobs as it is unrequited love for Mike Rowe, so I'll admit that I'll likely never watch Denise Richards: It's Complicated and I'm certainly not going to pay for premium cable to watch Secret Diary of a Call Girl, both of which she liked well enough for fluff. This, however, isn't really about that. It's about how Heather, not even knowing me, has realized the deep extent of my intellectual whoredom, and has told me that I am not alone.
Thus spake Heather:
America loves a whore. We're a nation of whores, after all — just try holding down a job in this great land of ours without compromising your values and shortchanging your best ideas. We grow up hearing "Be yourself!" and "Follow your dreams!" but the marketplace tramples all over such fanciful rainbows-and-unicorns notions of identity and self-respect with its big, dirty, hobnailed boots. Thus are plucky, original human beings transformed into polite, agreeable team players, anxious to waste a lifetime kowtowing to the lowest common denominator.
Once you sell a big part of your soul for a hot slice of the American dream (something about grassy lawns, enormous mortgages and life insurance policies you can't afford), you've set the stage for a lifetime of doing stupid, demeaning shit just to make your nut. When you recognize that your "success" in life has cemented you on a path of unending compromise, getting paid to get screwed up the ass by a stranger really doesn't seem like that much of a stretch.
Goddammit, I swear, I've never met the woman. But, I did head off to college in an overstuff minivan of stuff, eager to study German and English lit, which eventually turned into a German lit major, a Sociology major and a History minor and no clue what to do with my life to make actual money but, see, I liked what I was learning. And then suddenly it was senior year and my work-study job as an assistance systems administrator wasn't going to pay the bills or fulfill me intellectually or make me too much money in the real world, so I decided to go to grad school! For, um, international policy! I was going to do something in National Security!
Only, really, it was totally as vague as all that, and I turned down a good program at the University of Chicago because the weather was sunny in D.C.on the day I visited and I thought I'd get distracted on my path to a Very Serious Job by their sparkly intellectual classes in social policy and without realizing it, I'd already sold out. I went to Georgetown, instead, lured by reputation and trapped by the fact that no grad school will let you transfer your credits. I traded in a Foreign Policy concentration for a self-designed one in International Business and Public Policy after getting turned down for an increasingly large number of internships in national security and I always ended up taking ones for lobbying firms because they paid and I needed the money and I wasn't willing to sacrifice my creature comforts (fresh mozzarella and tomato salads) for Ramen noodles and I sold out that much more. I convinced myself that learning to be a people person was its own intellectual pursuit and honed my skills at parties and in meetings, learning to strike the right postures even if I always sucked at stroking the right egos. My twenties passed in a blur of unserious jobs and Serious Relationships and bills and bad roommate and eventually the mortgage and the 401Ks and assigning my sister as the beneficiary on my company life insurance policies because she needed the money as she pursued her actual dreams and I grew to hate my life. I was whoring my brain to the highest bidder — to pay for the things I thought I ought to have and ought to want and be the grown-up I'd always so desperately wanted to be — and my brain, well, she was getting loose and sloppy and uncaring.
So I quit. And now I sit at home in my pajamas and write crap on the Internet all day, so I guess I'm still whoring out my brain but at least I can do it in bare feet. Maybe I should get Showtime after all — maybe Diary could teach me to fake being happier about being a whore.
I Like To Watch [Salon]