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Sunday, September 14, 2014

3 Reluctant Resignations

One of my favorite, all time, quotes is “Discretion is the better part of valor.”  It elegantly holds that time-honored warrior wisdom that sometimes the best decision to make in a fight is not to fight at all.  Ideally, this is a decision you make before fighting at all, but there are times when you don’t realize impossible odds until you’ve already punched your knuckles bloody.  And so it goes for your intrepid columnist, taking on the good fight against all things absurd, ignorant or downright ridiculous, but on a few rare occasions ending up on the proverbial “wrong side of history” – coming to realize that sometimes you must resign yourself to the reality that, thought you’ve fought the good fight, it’s time to recognize that rather than die a hero, you’ve lived long enough to see yourself become the villain.  So as penance for my unwitting villainy, here are 3 fights I’m ready to declare that I’ve lost:

1.  Getting the Skinny.  On dozens of occasions over the past few years, I have ranted and raved against what I then considered to be the most absurd abuse of denim since the “jeans jacket”, the skinny jean.  Much like the A-line dress, not only had I never seen these ill-fitting leggings look good on anyone, I couldn’t even imagine that they could.  But… I was wrong.  It turns out that I, like the song laments, was looking to love these tightest of pants in all the wrong places.  Because, I wasn’t completely wrong.  It is still completely unacceptable for anyone with a Y-chromosome (who hasn’t been in the X Games) to wear them.  It is also, like all other skintight clothing, unacceptable for anyone with a BMI north of 25 to even attempt them (unless you’re going to videotape it and put it on YouTube).  And finally, and this is the one that confused me, skinny jeans don’t look good on skinny girls.  I know, I know… the irony isn’t lost on me, either, but it turns out that the only people they look good on are the ones who look even better with nothing on, at all.  That’s right – it turns out skinny jeans are made for fit girls.  That’s right, the ones with thighs you can crack walnuts with, calves that still look good in flats and the kind of butt that makes you forget your better judgment.  After recently seeing my very first flattering pair, I began to see them everywhere – once I knew where to look.  I stand, skinnily, corrected.

2.  Simply the Text.  I have often lamented the decline of communication skills and the part that technology has played in it.  We have lost the essay, the letter and the note to the text, the Tweet and the Instagram.  In this, I opined, we were losing the soul of our messages – but I was wrong.  SMS messaging (commonly referred to as “text messaging”) has become as ubiquitous as talking, itself.  It crosses nearly all demographic boundaries and is the common language of our post-modern selves.  It is nearly as fast as simply conversing, but with the precision of written correspondence.  It is more available than phone calls, and more accommodating than most considered forms.  It can be long, short, careful or clumsy – but it is who we are, and it is capable of as much soul as the lengthy personal letters of days gone by.  Also, my dad does it.  Like any new form of communication, it’s taken us some time to master it – but it is the perfect modality for our modern selves to share ideas.  We needn’t alter our hyper-efficient lives to participate; these conversations wait for us.  They flow with our day, not in spite of it.  They demand our efficiency and a brevity of wit.  They come complete with photos, emotional talismans and a built-in blooper reel device (the eponymous “autocorrect”) which makes sure we never take it too seriously.  It’s time to admit that texting isn’t just something we do, it’s something we are. 

3. And To the Republican.  I’ve been registered to vote for twenty-two years now, and for all of that time I have been a registered member of the Grand Ol’ Party.  I grew up in a time when Ronald Reagan was a political hero – beyond reproach, and the living embodiment of who we believed ourselves to be as a nation.   In those “feel good” times, it was hard to imagine why the Democrats were always decrying social injustices and persistent, institutional inequalities.   After all, everything was so good.  But in the intervening twenty or so years, something has happened.  Either I’ve changed, or the party has changed – or perhaps a bit of both.  I was more Alex P. Keaton than Duck Dynasty; more Edward R. Murrow than Reverend Pat Robertson.  I joined the party as a path to financial independence, not as a measure of love for a romanticized past.  There’s no doubt that I’ve become infinitely more tolerant as I’ve grown, become educated and matured – but I’m not sure even the 18-year-old me would have joined today’s GOP.  Celebrations of ignorance, violent intolerance and a culture of paranoia mark the part today.  Lower taxes, deregulation of industry and small government are ancillary elements of a platform dominated by anachronistic views.  But perhaps the most important reason I’m abandoning my party affiliation is that while the party’s symbol has always been a cross, ours looked like this: +.

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When I first started to write for public consumption, I wanted everyone to agree, at some level, with what I had written.  After all, I was trying to logically build arguments, even if it was attempted in the most humorous ways.  Public criticisms were privately excruciating and I would often lash out petulantly in comment forums.  But I got an important piece of advice from another writer which changed everything: “The purpose of writing is not to convince people you’re right, but only to get them to think.”  Even more important than the ability to persuade people was the ability to get them to use their minds.  This was the power I suddenly held, and it freed me to write in exactly the way I wanted.  Because that way, I could be wrong.  I could change my mind, do a complete 180, and still be every bit as legitimate as when I had started.  Because writing is immortality – a way of capturing your humanity, and all of its faults, brilliance and other terrible bits to share with others, those you know and those you don’t, now and infinitely into the future.  Yes, sometimes I’m wrong, but I’ll always write.           


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