Sometimes, one has to go to the real weirdos to get an accurate idea of the state of impolite opinion. Some positions are disturbingly popular despite having been banished from polite society by the adults in the room. It can be nigh impossible to understand what widespread currency these hideous views enjoy in society at large if one associates exclusively with the polite part, but not to worry: with a bit of luck (probably of the kind conjured up by Chinese cursemongers), one can hear the evil articulated by a semiliterate raging twerp with absolutely no social skills whatsoever, or perhaps by an overly glib, cult-slumming Jekyll-and-Hyde satyr whose empathy flickers on and off like the Baghdad power supply.
Our first purveyor of bigotry is a drooling, involuntarily celibate white knight cockhound with a case of Asperger’s like whoa. It’s easy enough to understand why he isn’t swimming in pussy when one notices that he’s a fat, out-of-shape, funny-looking guy whose Facebook profile picture is a blurry selfie taken in a department store in the course of his trying on a chintzy red dress suit, and that despite this he spends much of his time online inelegantly complimenting much prettier and less developmentally disabled women, many of them, as best as I can tell, duplicitous nightclub sluts. When I say “compliment,” I mean endless variations of this gem: “in words of psy sexy ladies whoop whoop whoop whoop…compliment.” In the run-up to December’s Mayan non-apocalypse, he proposed a classically Aspie contribution to the #YOLO lifestyle, suggesting that the guy who has had his eye on a cutie but lacked the nerve to make a move seize the rapidly waning day and tell her that she has “a phenomenal body complement.” In another instance, he provoked the adults in his feed to the point of publicly intervening when he solicited comments on a witty new aphorism he had just devised to describe the one-night stand: “f*ck ’em and chuck ’em.” Truth be told, what I found most offensive about his proposal wasn’t its pathetically derivative misogyny, but the manner in which the former Anglo-Saxonism was censored, lest it scar tender ears. To quote a disheveled psychotic guy I once encountered at the Five Points MARTA station at dawn during a bus layover in Atlanta, “Fucky fucky fucky.”
This guy is a fucking moron around women. Plenty of guys lust after the same honeys in their hearts, but most have the common sense not to thoughtlessly blurt out their feelings all the time. I must say, few things are as effective as witnessing a case of Asperger’s in excelsis unfold on the internet in reassuring me that I really don’t have any kind of social deficits interfering with my ability to maintain functional relationships with women I find alluring. Fred Rogers never gave me that kind of self-esteem boost.
I’ve argued elsewhere that this twerp needs to start hiring hookers, and specifically black hookers. That’s his other hobbyhorse: shiftless Negroes. In his defense, he’s from the northern suburbs of Philadelphia, and Philadelphians have a fairly strong affinity to crude racial invective. Even so, he really lets it all hang out, albeit usually disingenuously, by way of saying that really I’m not a racist, but I notice that a lot of the black food stamp recipients at the Cheltenham Avenue Shop-Rite have custom spinner rims on their Escalades. That was one of his arguments in defense of a fellow racist by the name of GinaMarie Zimmerman after she referred to food stamps as “nigger insurance.” He wanted other people to give her the benefit of the doubt as a possible deficit hawk concerned about welfare fraud.
Let’s do a weasel flush. Concern about welfare fraud that is not motivated by racism is so rare that it should be cherished above rubies. This guy fretted that the Philadelphia School District is broke, but then complained about spinner dubs and fur coats at the Shop-Rite by way of covering for an asshat who uses inflammatory slurs for shits and giggles. Dude is a racist.
Now let’s look at our case study from the other extreme. He’s also from the northern suburbs, albeit geographically and culturally more towards CB-East than our Aspie friend. By the time I first met him, he had lost count of the number of girls he had messed around with, and he has since lost count several more times. His dating life is a punctuated equilibrium of long-term monogamous relationships, love triangles (including three separate love triangles involving the same loyal young woman whom he and his parents accused of being an ungrateful slut because she slept around for a stretch after they had bought her a laptop), and staccato-frequency rebound slutfests to tide him over between serious lovers, during which he’s likely to tell me that the date I inquired about from the previous week was “two girls ago.” He knows that I’ve occasionally put out feelers with his girlfriends and recent exes for sloppy second potential, but he’d probably be livid if he knew the extent to which I’ve done that. I’m too cynical about his own attitudes towards women to give a damn. As a mutual friend very aptly described him, he’s a “possessive schmuck who sells life insurance.”
If I had a girlfriend, would I be worried that he might return the favor and seduce her? Eh. As twisted as this may sound, I’ve given some real thought to the likely dynamics of a swap, both deliberate and ad hoc, and determined that it probably wouldn’t be calamitous as long as the insurance schmuck doesn’t totally flip his shit. The kind of girls who dig me don’t particularly dig him. Raw lust might carry them through for an occasional tryst, but anything resembling a real relationship would force them to pay attention to his bizarre chauvinism, airs of superiority, and general crassness, likely sending them back to my arms, maybe for some sloppy seconds. (Everybody gets sloppy in a situation like this. It verges on promiscuity unto the standards of John Mayer.) Similarly, the insurance schmuck’s girlfriends tend to be really hot and personable, but also unstable and high-maintenance. The whole hot mess would provide for equal opportunity at common law to invoke the ancient right of the Anglo-Saxon slut: fuck ’em and chuck ’em.
But, as Rick Springfield reminds us, the point is probably moot. As I described above, this dude pulled off his own one-sided swinging lifestyle, then denigrated the girl who stuck by him as a slut when she eventually did more or less the same thing, but with more discretion than he showed her. If anyone so much as puts out feelers about such an arrangement, much shit will be flipped. This won’t be as a matter of any sort of legitimate principle, but rather one of grievous offense at the usurpation of an aristocratic prerogative by an undersexed mere commoner, a mere commoner who does stoop labor fit for Mexicans.
It should come as no surprise that this guy’s girlfriends tend to be unstable and immature. Actually, they’re surprisingly well-mannered and decent for women who date possessive chauvinists, but a number of them have decidedly not exuded self-confidence, an inclination to independence and equality, or a fine sense of judgment. This probably explains why they haven’t dumped him after two weeks, the way a young registered nurse once did during a post-coital cuddling session on a Sunday afternoon. His relationship with his ex-fiancee was typified by a habitual stream of put-downs that he directed against her for being less professionally successful than he (she is five years his junior and was an undergraduate at that time), freakouts over her involving her parents in what he believed should have been private romantic spats (this, from a guy who asked her father’s permission to propose to her, has no discernible qualms about entangling everyone in everyone else’s family relationships or leveraging family ties for professional advancement, and let his mother pick out his undergraduate courses for him), and attending an inferior university (Temple) than his (and my) increasingly snooty liberal arts college (Dickinson).
It’s worth mentioning that Dickinson College has served me quite poorly and earned my lasting disgust. I’m not referring to any of its academic departments or to the true friends I made there, but to the school at an institutional level, particularly as personified by recently retired President Bill Durden. Durden is just your man if you’d like to hear tendentious, patently misleading hagiographies of Dickinson College founder and noteworthy mercury laxative enthusiast Benjamin Rush; rabid, Khrushchev-at-the-General-Assembly-grade denunciations of the student body (and Student Senate) for wearing and tolerating the “Go Hard Big Dick” T-shirts that so scandalized older alumni (read: caused felony butthurt to an imperious cohort of current and prospective charitable donors); or a subsequent Common Hour reading from a fourth-rate novel in which, as best I could tell, a Reggie Jackson press conference had been repurposed as dialogue between two of the Eastern Seaboard’s many dissipated rich, since Bill Durden is the kind of arrogant twit who assumes that he’ll be everybody’s chum if only he atones for his prior censoriousness by sight-reading a stream of perseverative obscenities nominally uttered by a young alcoholic couple in the course of arguing about their yacht. Durden has also had the gall to pen a navelgazing editorial in Dickinson Magazine in which he expressed his great empathy for jobless, underemployed, and professionally adrift Dickinson alumni because he, too, was facing an uncertain career transition as he prepared to leave the presidency, and to use his commencement speeches as an opportunity to quote himself on the pretext of reading a letter from a recent alumnus. This speech was an amazing sleight-of-hand, one that I’m afraid fooled a great portion of the assembled graduates, but that prompted one of my friends to breathlessly tell our group, “Did you hear that? Jesus Christ! That cat’s quoting himself!” The device he used was to read verbatim the full text of a letter he had recently received from a young alumnus, that letter consisting of nothing but a couple of introductory paragraphs of abject sycophancy and humblebragging, followed by an extended excerpt of a recent Bill Durden essay, and concluded with another paragraph of humblebragging and craven flattery. For those of you who haven’t beheld this strange bird’s plumage or heard his pompous crowing, I should explain that Durden is an arriviste Mr. Chips knockoff from Albany who does all of this preening in his trademark attire of Harry Potter glasses and a bow tie.
Over the course of my undergraduate career and early graduate life, I came to realize that Bill Durden is absolutely ridiculous. If you run his name through a search engine along with the names of Joe Fazio, Paul Darlington, Richard Sexton, Ricardo Surita, you’ll get an idea of why I also consider him morally unfit to run a college. The short story is that Bill Durden fired and publicly smeared a good cop, fired a bad police chief without explanation (for serious allegations of false imprisonment under color of authority, I was told), harbored another bad chief until he could quietly fire him shortly after graduation, and then replaced him in the early dead of summer with the allegedly disgraced former Lt. Fazio. I simply cannot trust or respect a college president who showed such unadulterated moral cowardice in a situation in which he faced no risk of incarceration or impoverishment for doing the right thing. I did not submit to the intrusions of the San Diego Police Department’s recruiting unit or respect its judgment in rejecting me for sworn employment so that good cops might be smeared and bad cops harbored in command positions by a cowardly pseudoacademic charlatan.
As stands to reason, my schmucky frenemy the life insurance salesman loves Durden. When I told him about the Darlington/Sexton/Fazio clusterfuck, he found it disturbing but basically excusable. (No. Excusable is trashing one’s house in the face of foreclosure in a fit of pique, because that has no direct bearing on the job. Dye on the carpet and cypresses in the swimming pool do not equate to official oppression and subversion of the command structure. Darlington and Sexton, not my SDPD recruiter Robert Acosta, should be the ones with felony records.) Durden offers two things that this social climber can’t resist: the appearance of academic prestige and a personality cult. He loves him some cults. When we visited Penn State, an institution with which he has never had any affiliation, he had a minor snit because I wouldn’t join him in the idiotic cheer, “WE ARE–PENN STATE!” (Dickinson’s Alma Mater hymn is a self-satisfied plagiarism of “O Tanenbaum,” but at least it can be enjoyed ironically, like a Kid Rock ballad of summer love.) He and a number of his friends spent years trying to turn me into the center of another personality cult, punctuating these efforts with an intermittent campaign of emotional hazing (he eventually volunteered, unbidden, that they had been hazing me for five years). We’ve already examined his esteem for the self-determination of his girlfriends, and found it, if I may say so, consistent with cultism.
It figures, then, that he is somewhat embarrassed by my decision to work as a farm worker. I see nothing embarrassing about it, but I have to put up with his vicarious embarrassment, and it’s a fucking pain in the ass.
At least I seem to have deterred him this time from censoriously lashing out at me in the hope of manipulating me into deleting Facebook criticism in which I describe his sins but do not name the sinner. But even so, his asshattery is bad enough. To put it into context, I should reiterate that I relocated nearly a thousand miles from Anaheim to Salem to take this job. I’m pretty sure he has some awareness that I kind of moved for work; he definitely knew that I had fled Southern Oregon for Orange County a couple of months earlier. I have no friends in Salem; the closest are in Federal Way, and they haven’t returned my call from a week or two ago. The stoop labor I did transplanting cherry starts (my status with the company is up in the air again, and I’m again seriously planning to resign) left me half-disabled, and much of it was around colleagues who were either openly hostile and felonious or too shady to trust.
In other words, as much as I enjoyed the actual work that I did when I was transferred to a vineyard crew, I was trying to hold down a shit job in a region that was mostly strange to me. So what did I hear from the other end of the line on the Jersey Shore? Open laughter from my frenemy and a mutual friend when I told them, at the mutual friend’s asking, that I was making $9.10 an hour.
I nearly interrupted and asked deadpan, “Are you laughing?” I should have. Instead, I think I mentioned that it was slightly above minimum wage. Then, the insurance schmuck did a 180 and went concern-trolling, his voice suddenly changing from cruel to overbearingly solemn: “If I’m doing the calculation right, that’s less than two thousand a month.”
No shit, Sherlock. On a standard forty-hour full-time basis with two weeks’ unpaid vacation, $2,000 a month would yield an annual income of $24,000, or an hourly wage of $12 even. This is some of the easiest math in all of economics. By that same math, my wage would yield a rough $18k on a full-time basis; in point of fact, when we talked I had been averaging about half time employment with this company. In other words, he doubled his estimate of my income by erroneously assuming that I was working full time, exaggerated it by nearly another third, and presented the twice-wildly-inflated sum as a pathetic poverty wage.
It’s no wonder he’s had tension with his girlfriends because he condescends to them for being poories. It doesn’t matter if these girls come from families in the top quintile or even top half decile of median household income nationally; he had determined (along with a friend whose parents are an RN and an attorney) that the middle class is defined by a median household income of between $120k and $270k, so QED: his cuties were just more of the poors. His fiancee, on the other hand, was raised in an opulent Central Bucks McMansion, and his prospective father-in-law very much enjoys the aristocratic sport of golf, so that makes them a good match because: 1) she isn’t a poor, and 2) he and her old man can bond over that very important pastime of the posh Scotch wanker.
Did I mention that this fool has a BA in economics?
There’s probably no fixing him. Worse, I’m pretty sure that he merely crudely gives voice to what countless socially climbing shits in this country feel in their hearts but are too bashful to express. A lot of good left-liberals (I mean “progressives”) secretly harbor discomfort with or even disdain for the poors. We’re icky for not having enough money to properly express our superior tastes and interests. (I’m something of a leftist as well as a recent poor, so I can have all the forcibly split identities I want, or don’t want, and I can have them in the Twilight Zone.) We’re really discomfiting if we actively seek out menial jobs because, oh, maybe we’re ambivalent about going to law school because our lawyer friends are jaded, and maybe we don’t want to return to environmental consulting because we already burned out doing that once and noticed hella midlife crises among the lifer dogs. Alas, this puts us in the equally embarrassing and degrading position of spending our free time on the Fourth of July in a housekeeping motel in an ugly part of Northeast Salem, fretting about whether we should try to work things out with untrustworthy colleagues and a disingenuous, blameshifting crew boss or just throw in the towel and go back to doing the same kind of thing for free but with people who all speak English, instead of spending the entire day ogling cover band groupies in Sea Isle City. The real embarrassment and degradation, of course, is for our frenemies, who must admit to associating with such losers, or, God forbid, not make such a big deal of it.
I almost forgot: after laughing at me for being underpaid and then concern-trolling me for not earning a living wage, this same asshat fake-solicitously asked whether I was thinking about going for a master’s in geology. Gee, if your friend had complained about burning out as a bachelor’s-level unlicensed geology flunky and subsequently expressed much more satisfaction with his work (not the pay, the work) as a farm hand, would you badger him to take on additional academic training in a notoriously cyclical field so that he might join the pool of grunt sedimentologists being yelled at by rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-riches Texas wildcat drilling financiers? By the way, the preceding sentence conveys more salient information about the industry than my loving concern troll buddy has ever fit into his head at one time. He has no fucking clue. In terms of professional realities, he can’t tell the difference between a third-rate MBA, a Breadloaf graduate writing fellowship, a UC Davis MS in viticulture (Da-a-a-a-a-a-vis!), and a JD. As far as he’s concerned, they’re all prestige-conferring graduate degrees that make his friends stop being embarrassingly undereducated and employed beneath their proper station in life. That said, the more exalted a degree is, the more prestige-wood it causes him to sport.
Salvation from this status-whoring mess must come from without. As it happens, I’ve stayed in touch with a woman I met on the train a couple of weeks ago (when I was on my way to get a copy of my birth certificate), who has told me, among other things, that I’m “amazingly resilient.” That-there has the potential to be a Mr. Rogers-style self-esteem boost on steroids. Also, this chick is pretty cute and has her head on straight, so #WINNING! Anyway, I’ve been cautious about taking this commentary to heart, since I clearly do not have my professional or interpersonal shit together, but it’s also clear that I’m trying to practice Zen around some real dipshits, and not exactly failing at it. The cumulative trouble I’ve had with my asshats is probably an order of magnitude worse than I’ve so far described in these pages. (See? I used a big word, just like the college-educated earth scientist that I am!) If I seem unstable and unsure of myself, maybe it’s because I’ve been doing tenuous, ill-paid grunt work with shady Mexicans and unreformed parolees (and for not even two thousand a month!) after several years of being ground down by downwardly mobile hippie relatives in denial who made up faux-idealistic excuses for not paying me and upwardly mobile concern trolls who so dashingly sport the high hat.
I think one of my colleagues called our occupation “nigger work” for a reason.