C’mon Get Happy…Or Else

In the Seventies, musical sitcoms were a thing. Singing, dancing, canned laughter, and tissue-thin plot lines, as corny as it sounds to us, it was a total hit. It seemed that at any given point, there were a handful of shows featuring singing families on TV. I can only take one musical episode a season at best. I don’t know how people in the 70s dealt with it.

There was one such musical sitcom that featured the story of a family who becomes a band and traveled around the country spreading music, bell bottoms, shitty haircuts and happiness. It was called The Partridge Family. (Get it, because partridges are birds and birds sing? *cue the canned laughter*)

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I personally never watched this show. My childhood was about 20 years too late to be into that mess. But the theme song for that show would become one of those sickly sweet diddies that refuse to die in obscurity. It’s been used in a commercial sense since the damn series ended. You’ve heard, you know it, now everybody sing along!

 

“Hello world, here’s a song that we’re singin’

Come on, get happy

A whole lotta lovin’ is what we’ll be bringin’

We’ll make you happy”

 

Doesn’t that feel a little insistent? Like “Hey, your life might be shit and all but C’MON BE HAPPY!! WE ARE GOING TO MAKE YOU HAPPY!” The goal is happiness and The Partridge Family doesn’t care if you don’t want it or how much it hurts to get there. They’re going to make you happy, goddamnit.

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Photo by Levi Guzman on Unsplash

 

And that’s where we are in society currently. “Happiness’ is the ultimate goal. Optimism is the only vehicle to get us there. Why did I put quotes around happiness? Because our quest is not one for true happiness. The thing we long for, lust for, and wear ourselves to the bone for is for the illusion of happiness. We want others to think we are happy. We want them to think we’ve made it, that we have all our shit in together. These illusions of perfection and enjoyment have replaced our internal need for positivity. The validation from likes and shares has replaced the feeling we get when we generally enjoy something.

Our lives have become little more than pay per minute striptease for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Why would it matter if we are crumbling apart on a spiritual level if our selfies look fly? If those friend request from people we wouldn’t speak to in passing don’t keep rolling in, are we even valuable? If you can’t describe it with a hashtagged word, did it even happen?

Somewhere along the way, we’ve stopped chronicling our adventures in life for our own memories and started curating them based on others.

 

No thumbs up on the pictures of you and grandpa before he died? DELETE!

No one liked the poem you shared that you ripped out from your soul? DELETE!

That tagged picture that showed your real smile, double chin and all? DELETE!

 

Before long we’re augmenting not only our memories but the presentation of ourselves. Our ultimate internet form ends up being one of enduring optimism, polished success, and eternal happiness. And it’s as fake as it is beautiful.

That fakeness is what we are expected to obtain. The real part of us, the part that we are still stitching together, is not welcome. No one wants to see that struggle. There is no celebration of our going through hardships. We are not rewarded for the unflattering things that make us individuals. The gritty nasty parts of us remind others too much of the gritty nasty parts of them. Adding our lives to the collective consciousness of online profiles, special groups, and social coteries often means we enter this unspoken popularity contest. Before we can mentally put together what we’ve gotten ourselves into, it’s too late. Like the frog who doesn’t realize the water is getting warmer until it starts to boil, we waste away until we become one with the system. And then we yell the same rally cry as the people around us, but we do it louder and prouder because we are happier than them, after all:

“C’mon get happy!!”

Happiness and optimism are not feelings you can strongarm someone into experiencing. Forcing them to pretend that life is the emotional equivalent of a teen idol number one song isn’t only foolish, it’s dangerous. It betrays the concept of valid feelings and cheapens the power of the true experience. We need strife, we need struggle, we need unhappiness and pessimism to complete the cycle of life. So while the rest of the world might taking advice from a singing 70s sitcom family, I prefer to take guidance from a 90s-00s band out of L.A. who never wore bell bottoms or tried to spread happiness :

 

“Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!

Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!

Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!”

 

 

featured image:Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

Resting Rose Face

If you’ve been around for a quick minute, you are well aware of RBF or resting bitch face. It’s the unintentional facial expression that makes a person look like they are annoyed, angry, standoffish,  or just bitchy as shit. You know that face both Grumpy Cat and Kanye West make? That’s Resting Bitch Face.

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For some people, RBF has become a badge of honor. A visual representation of their lack of fucks to give. A private celebration of the fact that they do not have to play the part of ‘happy to see you’ to anyone.

For others, RBF is survival tactic to counter unwanted attention, solicitations, and catcalls. We live in a society with individuals who missed the call up to evolve from Neanderthals. Armour is not as stylish as a look that perpetuates the belief that you know how to maim someone with their own appendages.

And for some, like Grumpy Cat, it’s just the way their face looks. It’s a natural thing. Would Aubrey Plaza be as completely amazing as she is if her face was all sunshine and rainbows? No, probably not.

Some critics believe RBF is something that can be cured with a splashing of  tonic made of equal parts “You’d be prettier with a smile.” and “Smile, baby girl.” My stance on them is easy to understand. They’re full of it. Smiles and happiness are not things that are owed to society. Being and appearing pleasant is not something a person is required to do to take up space. We do not have to be nice to be here.

On the other side of Resting Bitch Face is my struggle. I have Resting Rose Face.

What’s Resting Rose Face, you ask?

Well, let me introduce you to Rose Nylund from one of the greatest shows of the 80s,  The Golden Girls.

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The Golden Girls is a situational comedy about four older single ladies sharing a house in Florida. Blanche, the stylish, attractive, man-eater Southern Belle, is the owner of the house. She is joined by Dorothy, a smart, sarcastic, often intimidating divorcee, Dorothy’s mother brash, brazen Sicilian mother Sophia, and my personal favorite, Rose.

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Rose Nylund is the character that just might have cemented Betty White’s fame. Rose was the adorably upbeat, naive, and often trampled upon sweetheart lady from St. Olaf, Minnesota. She was quirky and kind, and often the butt of serious burns from the other ladies. She was the sweet to Dorothy’s salt. And in that, I relate so hard it hurts.


If I had a dime for every time I’ve been called “sweet” I could afford the swanky place in which the Golden Girls lived in a modern day market. Maybe its the shape of my face, maybe it’s my obligation to listen to people who speak to me, maybe its the fact that I smile when I’m nervous. Whatever it is, I have always been tagged as the nice one. I offer Jehovah Witnesses drinks on hot days.. I’ve actually stood around and listened to the people at the kiosk in the mall trying to sell me face cream. I’ve had complete strangers tell me their life stories in public. Weirder still, I stood there and listened!

I have the sort of face that makes people believe I care. Because generally, I do. In my early 20s, I thought being a strong woman meant you had to be an asshole to everyone. I confused independence with selfishness. I thought the only way to be successful and “right” was to be a bitch. It was my mid to late 20s that I learned how fucking wrong that was. Maybe I am a natural pushover. Maybe I’m a natural people pleaser. Maybe I spend too much time with my head in the clouds and take a little too much enjoyment out of the simple things. That’s all okay! I am who I am.

What’s not okay is when this is taken for granted. And it happens, a lot.When people see me or register that I am there, it’s like I’m the human equivalent of a nice cup of tea. They relax and their troubles spill forth. It also leads me to get passed over a lot. While looking kind and friendly is not a bad way to spend your life (and really helps with traffic tickets), it usually makes you seem like the least interesting person of a group. So while the proud extroverts are the ones taking part in all the fun, I’m the type holding purses and talking to old people about their grandkids.

The struggle is real for those of us who have Resting Rose Face. The struggle is also real for those who have Resting Bitch Face. Life is hard. Having expressive faces is hard. The only thing we can do is to just be who we are. And try to thrive, no matter what face we have on.

Why Platitudes Are Bullshit

Can I share something with you, dear readers?

I am not a positive person.
I have roughly the optimism of an ice cube in Hell. When faced with the believing a positive or negative outcome will occur, I always chose the negative one. I’m not sure if its a lifestyle or a choice. Maybe since most of my young life was spent being told my best wasn’t acceptable I was primed to believe that the worst is always what’s going to happen.

Negativity is a constant companion of mine. And since before I can remember I’ve always had people try to “help” me with advice. Some of them have had the best of intentions. Most of them have not. Most of the advice I’ve gotten has been little more than contrite platitudes.

If you’ve been online for more than four minutes, you’ll know that platitudes in shareable form litter the social networking landscape like confetti after a parade. Remember how important a listening ear and seasoned mentor used to be? Well, that’s all been replaced by 800×600 images of fancy fonts overlaid on various types of backgrounds.

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They are the lines that a coach in a feel-good juvenile baseball movie would spout out.

“There is no I in Team!”
“Winners never quit!”
“What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger!”
“God has a plan!!”

And my personal most loathed:

“Everything happens for a reason!”

I know you’ve heard these. They are empty, inconsequential, asinine comments thrown out by people who want to infantize your struggle. Instead of looking at you and agreeing “Yeah, dude, this is shit.”, they patronize you with soft words that mean nothing. Their uncommitted motivation makes them feel brave and wise. It’s a loophole that allows them to be altruistic without actually giving a shit. A simple mumble, a share or tag on Facebook and all of a sudden they are heroes.

Even the phrases themselves, when ruminated on for more than half a second, are trite and faulty.

Yes, there’s no I in the word team. We generally understand spelling. But if it were not for the individuality of all the members of said team, would there even be a team? The reason we work well in groups is that we each bring our own special abilities and magic. Without that, what would a group accomplish? Five people with the same abilities are nothing more than worker bees doing the same thing in mass.

“What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”? Oh really, it’s that simple? If you don’t die, you get more power?! Yes, I understand on a philosophical level that the struggles you go through can lead to the development of better coping techniques. But telling someone who feels like they are drowning that the pain they are crippled by is just a tool to whet their soul is callous. While they may emerge on the other side with more abilities and keener knowledge, that doesn’t do anything for the emotional trauma they are sustaining now.

And, since I’m on a soapbox about this let’s finish this on a high note:

“Everything happens for a reason.” is the most useless, insensitive, emotionally parsimonious thing you could ever say to a person. These five words are worse than any obscenity you could hurl. It’s basically telling someone that their feelings are inconsequential. The pain, the strife, the undoing they are experiencing doesn’t even matter because of some other entity’s grand plan. Someone, or something, decided without the effected’s consent that they should endure the bullshit they are currently shovelling. When you say this to someone who has done nothing more than being a casualty of random horrors, it makes the person begin to wonder if God or the Universe or what have you, is punishing them for some slight error. And take it from me, that added pain is not something that helps.

And that’s the problem with these half-assed cliches. They don’t help. They don’t inspire. No one has ever attributed their accomplishments in the professional or emotional field to a picture of a kitten dangling on a tree branch with the words “Hang In There!” in a retro font.

Empty words do not heal. Support does. Friendship does. Acknowledging someone’s emotions and letting them feel them does. Trying to be in a new age guru with a bunch of pretty words you stole off the internet is bullshit. When someone is struggling, it’s not about getting yourself over, it’s about helping them achieve the desired plateau.

So keep your platitudes. If you’re only going to say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

Sour Milk

For the past week or so, I’ve been dying to write. There have been a few ideas that have past the floating around phase. They’ve stuck to the sides of my brain and are now starting to take form.
But it seems that right now, they’ve stagnated in the soil, caught somewhere between being seeded and breaking ground.

It’s frustrating.

Ideas are like a gallon of milk. They come with this sell by date printed on them. Which is great as it lets you know exactly how long it has. If you’re feeling froggy and take good care of it, you can squeak out an existence that lasts a little bit longer than suggested. But then the clock starts ticking down and you have to use this whole gallon of milk you never really asked for. So you take it out and open the lid, pour a little into your coffee. You feel good that you used enough to justify having it. Then real life calls and you walk away in your overexaggerated glory and leave it on the counter.

The problem comes because if you leave it out and unattended, it’s going to ruin. It’s going to turn rancid and congeal and you won’t be able to use it for anything. And it’s going to happen quickly. Room temperature is the perfect atmosphere for mold and decay, not development and creation. So when you do finally get back to it, it is too late.

Because of the speed, these things happen, sometimes it catches you unaware. You raise the cup to your lips and your mouth waits for the familiar feeling of what it knows it right. You take that taste for granted because it’s always been there right? Why would it change now?

But it has and it’s horrible.

At that moment you feel poisoned and ruined. In a voice not quite your own, your brain and body scream out about your stupidity.

“How could you let this happen? It was a full gallon of milk! Fresh and wholesome, full of function and opportunity. And you wasted it. You wasted it! It was there in front of you and you let it go bad. You let it go bad because you’re not responsible enough for this. You thought you were. How hard could it be? Millions of people do this every day. You had it and it was right there and you let it go to waste. Why are you so wasteful? You’ll never get this right.”

So you stand there, stomach and soul aching from the foulness you’ve just endured. You want to blame someone. You want to blame the fifty million things you have to do in a day. If those damn responsibilities would just let up, just take a break, you wouldn’t have had milk to worry about putting away. You would have used it to make something wonderful.

You want to blame the people that kept pulling you away. Didn’t they know your attention span is short? Why aren’t they the same safety net for you as you are for them? You want to blame the very person that told you about milk in the first place. Why would they ever introduce you, of all people, to something so fleeting? Didn’t they know much talent you lack and how unqualified you are?

Finally, like a child after too many spins on the merry go round, you retch. You heave. You purify the pain from your stomach and mind. Yes, you hold some blame. But really, life is life. Fleeting things have a timeline that doesn’t regard human plans. The milk doesn’t care you didn’t use it. The emotion you assigned to it and its subsequent loss was all from you. It wasn’t all yours, but it all came from somewhere inside of you.

The thing we don’t remember until the worst of the event is past is that at any time, free of charge and blame, we are allowed to pour out what’s not good for us and flush it away. There’s no need to hold on to things that have reached their sanctioned time limit. Especially if the limit was set by you.

Take care of your ideas, dear readers. But remember, don’t let their loss define you. Crying over spilled milk is fruitless. Crying over soured milk is too.

featured image credit: Photo by Noemí Jiménez on Unsplash