Screw Your Preconceptions

Life is not Disney. Everything you know from Hollywood is wrong. “Common sense” is bullshit. How much of life’s misery could be averted by keeping these things in mind? Take, for example, relationships. If TV is to be believed, relationships are pretty straightforward: Meet someone. Fall in love. Dating turns into marriage. Kids. Happily ever after.

This is a fantasy, and it’s not the “gosh, that would be ideal” kind of fantasy. It’s the “complete work of fiction” kind.

Healthy relationships don’t just happen. They take work and commitment. Not every day is sunshine and roses. Sometimes you argue—sometimes about big things. And odds are good (like 100%) that this won’t always happen in the ways you anticipate.

Consider the romantic comedy genre (cue groaning). How many unique movies are there within this genre? Basically none. Take a look at that chart over there (→ that way →). X meets Y. X flubs meeting. X and Y get to know each other better. X and Y begin dating. Things go well. Really well. Then not so well. Big problem. The couple either splits up or seems likely to split. Additional hardships come, causing X and Y to rekindle their devotion to one another. X and Y overcome hardships. Marriage. Roll credits. The End. Happily ever after. X and Y are forever satisfied with their love, and there’s no more to the story.

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“Liberal” Honesty?

First, a disclaimer: the “liberal” I use on this page is intended to have absolutely nothing to do with the twisted sense in which it’s used in the US. (In that sense, “liberal” is a kind of stealth-pejorative that gets applied to anyone who isn’t a Republican—put another way, against anyone who disagrees with fundamentalist Christian policy or so-called traditional ideology.) Instead, I use this term to represent a sort of regression toward the mean by stepping back from “radical” honesty, which I have previously referenced.

As a rule (in the piratical sense—a guideline), I believe in being pretty open. I don’t mind expressing my views, even political or religious ones, until the social context makes it inappropriate to do so, but inappropriateness can be a tricky thing to pin down. To avoid getting distracted by the specific boundaries of situational appropriateness, I’ll just summarize it by suggesting “most non-professional situations” (i.e., outside of work-related functions). Let’s agree that this is a horrible oversimplification and move on.

“Radical” honesty fails the asshole test, but its basic premise—that people should be honest with each other—is a deeply valuable insight. If the general idea can be salvaged, why throw it away? (There’s a baby-bathwater reference to be made somewhere.) Being more open about your feelings needn’t intrinsically have a negative effect. The reason radical honesty fails here is because it presumes that the people you deal with are willing to accommodate your bluntness (or that you don’t mind alienating people if they aren’t). If we remove this presupposition, we’re left with something far more socially acceptable.*

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