You can be cynical, opinionated and generally contrary to most things and still be a funny person. Standing up for what you believe in or challenging the status quo doesn’t mean you’re a chronic malcontent or a socialist. (It doesn’t even mean you resent the rich). And going to bed generally disturbed at the state of the world sometimes doesn’t mean you’re not ENJOYING the RIDE.
I just celebrated my 24th anniversary with the person I love and it occurred to me more than once during that day that I am a lucky person. I mean, few of us get to have a long-lasting relationship (FYI, I did kiss more than a few toads in my day), much less a decent one (no, they are not necessarily the same thing). I get to make money at things I love doing (teaching, writing). I have fantastic friends, a great family and a very cool dog. (and blog!)
However, this does not mean that I walk around 24/7 with a hanger in my mouth stretching my lips into a contorted Joker-like smile or don’t often get exasperated when I turn on the TV, go to the movies or encounter the too many idiots who travel the world with me despite my preference that they just go away. (no, they don’t have to die, just disappear). I mean, just yesterday I found myself infuriated as I left the 3:30 pm show of something called “Martha Marcy Mae Marlene” (annoying enough, title?). I was the crazy person you saw in Hollywood at 5:13pm outside the Arclight Theatres audibly muttering to no one in particular “Are they kidding? “ And then to myself in my car – “I can’t believe Sundance still gives awards to such indulgent crap!”
But does this mean I’m not enjoying my life?
9-9-9 Nein, Nein, nein!!! And it certainly doesn’t mean I’m not happy. It means I am human. As my Facebook motto says, “You can have fun and get angry. They’re not mutually exclusive.”
Also, I hate to quote movies, but as the psychiatrist earnestly tells the troubled teen in “Ordinary People”: “Unless you feel pain, you’re not going to feel happy either.” (Yeah, I know you might think the dialogue is dated but so is Melanie’s music to some people and she still happens to be a goddess.
There is an odd mindset in this country that I can trace back to the more than jovial Ronald Reagan – who presided over the seemingly jovial but actually quite tragic and awful decade of the 1980s. (which was, incidentally, not all bad for me because I did meet and fall in love with my partner of 24 years). It goes something like this – people who protest, are insurgent or sometimes choose to scowl or occasionally express real anger at their fellow man (and/or the status quo) are:
c) trouble-makers and
d) generally unhappy, disagreeable people bordering on (or crossing the line to) anti-American.
In fact, the total opposite is true. Just as stuff makes you thrilled to be alive, things can and do mammothly piss you off! In my mind, part of the task of any artist, or any generation for that matter, is to externalize the anger and frustration in some way that affects people, influences them, moves them, and then ultimately becomes a cog in the wheel of change. To something better? Hopefully. But not always. But life often evolves on the basis of trial and error. That being the case, our real progresses can be charted by an up and down graph, not by one that is a straight line to what might likely be a trip to nowheresville. The messy, back and forth exchange of viewpoints and ideas, some of which might offend, infuriate (Marcy, Missy what’s her name) is precisely the stuff that we need in order to actually be what people in the eighties thought they were aspiring to – a better world. And take it from someone who has been in a 24-year relationship – it’s not always Zipppity-Doo-Dah, I can’t wait to get out of bed every morning because that would get as nauseating as eating my beloved pizza for every breakfast, lunch and dinner or as tiring as having to watch this clip over and over (or perhaps even once?)
As for ENJOYING THE RIDE, you can look at certain people in the news and arts and somehow know that their exterior jovial or scowling demeanor does not necessarily equate to the fact that they are truly ENJOYING THE RIDE. To whit, some totally biased observations:
- Herman Cain – Thoroughly disagree with him politically and find him a bit of an offensive buffoon but yes – ENJOYING THE RIDE
- Tom Cruise – The biggest, richest, and perhaps most publicly enthusiastic movie star in the world, but in my humble opinion – NOT ENJOYING THE RIDE.
- Gloria Steinem – Brilliant writer, feminist extraordinaire, life contrarian to American patriarchy but still ENJOYING THE RIDE
- Bill Maher – Love his show, agree with him more than I care to admit, thrilled that he has the nerve to offend, but something tells me – NOT ENJOYING THE RIDE.
- Barack Obama – president during one of the worst times in American history – and yes, ENJOYING THE RIDE (How is this possible?)
- Gabrielle Giffords – Arizona Congresswoman shot through the head and still recovering from brain trauma, before and after clearly ENJOYING THE RIDE
- Katherine Heigl – Gigantic film star whose movies worldwide have grossed $1 Billion (yes, that’s a “B”), seems as if she’s the most fortunate actress in her age range at the very least yet ultimately NOT ENJOYING THE RIDE.
These observations are unscientific and totally my own yet I’m willing to stand up for them. Which doesn’t make me right or wrong, or judgmental, just enthusiastically opinionated. But as you ponder on just how judgmental I really am, consider the observations of current MSNBC female political commentator, business owner and former Congressional candidate with the unfortunate (or fortunate) name of Krystal Ball. Yes – that IS her real name. It came from her father, a physicist who did his PhD on crystals (look it up, I’m not lying) and her mother, who is an educator. Aside from being a businesswoman and CPA, Ms. Ball ran for Congress in 2010 in Virginia and lost but, actually ultimately won. This might be partially due to how Ms. Ball was able to lead not with her political views but by example of how she lived her life.
In October 2010, one month before the elections, a photo surfaced on a right wing blog of her at a holiday party some years prior dressed as a “naughty Santa” while sucking a red dildo attached to her then-husband’s nose. (UH, no, we’re not going to reprint it here. You can google). Confirming her likeness several weeks before the election and admitting the photos were “embarrassing,” she also saw fit to call the photos sexist and wrote in the Huffington Post “Society has to accept that women of my generation have sexual lives that are gong to leak into the public sphere.” Yet, she posed the broader and more powerful issue of how society treats females, making “women into whores” and questioning “this whole idea that female sexuality and serious work are incompatible.”
Ms. Ball, who realizes her very name is both a blessing and a bit of a curse, was subsequently put on Forbes’ List of the “Top 25 Most Powerful Women of the Midterm Elections,” is remarried, has a young daughter and is now a regularly outspoken national voice on the issues of the day, owning the many facets of who she is and what has happened to her in the eye of the hurricane. Her name is Krystal Ball and yet she seems alternately tough, traditionally feminine, angry, smart, argumentative, thoughtful and sweet. Enjoying the ride? You bet. Most definitely. So am I. On most days, at least. Are you?