Despite life being arguably better now than at any other point in history, most of us are downright miserable.
Unhappy with our shitty job, shitty spouse, shitty kids and our shitty brand of hemorrhoid cream.
The other day, the wife looks at me and says, “You’re depressed, right?” all matter-of-factly like that’s just a known quantity.
I mean, yeah, sure, I’m depressed in the general sense. I’m dealing with the ennui of middle-age. I’m older and fatter, and not getting any more pleasant. But I’m not hopelessly paralyzed by some high-level clinical shit. OK, that’s a lie.
Hell, I can’t imagine there are too many people who don’t lug a bushel basket of regrets around with them.
We’re all desperately seeking happiness.
And we’re not too quiet about it. Lives of loud desperation—that seems to be what a lot of us are enduring these days.
Back when Henry David Thoreau coined the phrase “quiet desperation,” people had much more to be desperate about.
Between starvation and slavery, dropping dead of consumption, and using corncobs to wipe their b-holes—yeah, that was a thing—it was tough times to be a human.
For god’s sake, Thoreau died of a lung ailment at age 45. And he built a log cabin with his bare hands.
I get winded opening a jar of pickle relish.
Granted, quiet desperation really is the best kind of desperation.
I mean, you don’t have to deal with all the whining and complaining about the American dream and “what’s it all mean?” and “why god, why?”
I’m sure the wife would be a lot happier if I could get into the whole quiet desperation groove.
It can’t be easy to watch me check my pulse every five minutes, or hold my hands up in the air to see if I’m having a stroke. (One arm drooping uncontrollably is a sign.)
The latter of which makes me look like a lunatic on an invisible and mysteriously stalled roller coaster.
Besides, self-delusion is lots easier without a bunch of piss-asses harshing your buzz.
Nevertheless, quiet desperation died out with the advent of the credit card, and even more so with the invention of the Twittersphere.
Nowadays, you can vomit your angst-ridden boohoo bile onto Facebook, YouTube and a dozen other “social networks.”
Just gotta gripe or brag? Tweet and post, web log and video log … on and on, there are endless ways for people to express their innermost malignant monologues.
Ironically, this so-called “social media” that exists primarily for interaction allows the billions of us the ability to exorcise the angst and loneliness which stems from the desperate emptiness of our pointless and temporary existence.
Oh, sure, some of us do actually use The Social just to keep in touch with loved ones.
However, for many of us, these networks are just portals into our own narcissism and insecurity.
And, frankly, there’s really nothing social about merely awaiting your turn to talk.
That’s not engagement. But, that’s what we do. We scream “look at me!” as if it mattered.
Look at what I’m eating for dinner!
Look at my new car!
Look at my new clothes!
Look how great my family is!
Look at the flowers my husband bought me (after I fell down those stairs) because our marriage is so great (and not at all a dysfunctional sham on the verge of meltdown.)
Since the origin of our species, we’ve screamed into the face of the abyss … but it was so vast we couldn’t even hear an echo.
For all we know, we could be shouting into the abyss’s ass and we’d never know it.
Speaking of, I wonder what an abyss fart smells like.
But, more importantly, what kind of echo would we hear?
See how happy I am! … how happy I am … how happy am I … how am I happy?” … pwoooot! (abyss fart)
The contemporary caveman needs only move a finger ever-so-slightly to engage in a grunting match with his fellow shaved ape on the other side of the globe—or the rectangle, depending on your brand of scienz.
Look me rock!
Look me wheel!
Look me make fire!
Look me afford Versace loincloth!
A lot of it is just asinine. As if Grog’s wife could afford a Versace handkerchief on a hunter-gatherer’s salary.
Still, most of us go on The Social to show everybody how well we’re doing, how cool we are, how we’re not as depressed as that Ben guy.
Finally land a man who doesn’t beat you?
Post it on Facebook.
Got promoted to head chicken-plucker?
Tweet that shit!
Kid made first chair in the school band on the fuck-a-phone?
Show us some video of little junior pee-pants blowing that brass.
Whatever you do, make sure every-goddamn-body knows about it.
But know this: the more we scream about happiness, the more we try to convince ourselves of the tangibility of these digital delusions by proxy, the more forced it seems.
Upon closer inspection, that silkscreen has skid marks and an elastic waistband.
Don’t feel too bad.
Nobody is as happy as we pretend to be.
After all, if it was so goddamn great—if your life really was a non-stop festival of karmic fellatio with just the right amount of pinky in the stinky—then why in good-fuck would you pause the high times to report about it to a bunch of people who’ve never even been to your house for tea and strumpets? (Thank-you, Lloyd Christmas)
If the unicorn of happiness were shitting rainbow sherbet into my rice bowl on the reg’ … I sure as shit (the unicorn kind) wouldn’t tell anybody about it—let alone the zombie death squad of sad-sacks, racists, martyrs, homophobes, religious nuts, misogynists, domestic terrorists, perverts and general butt-munches lurking on the periphery of every online interaction. (Note to self: name next D&D character “General Butt-Munches.)
I recently had to sit myself down and have a “come to Beavis” meeting with my inner over-poster.
You see—or maybe you don’t—I am just as guilty of the aforementioned pathetic behaviors.
Of course, my digitally amplified despair has not been about trying to portray some rosy personal image.
Instead, my desperation concerns a yearning for legitimacy as an author.
As shameful as it is, this hammering of the heads of friends and family and absolute strangers, the pixelated panhandling for readers and reviewers, is now industry standard for anyone looking to break the yoke of hobby blogger or self-published simp.
Luckily for both of us, these motivations of “marketing” oneself in such a manner is socially acceptable.
But, the truth is, I’d rather be writing (or swimming in a large bin of cash and clad in a lion-skin thong courtesy of my envious book sales figures) just as I’m sure the “happy” housewife would probably rather spend her time being truly happy rather than pretending to be happy for our benefit.
But, we go on selling this image of ourselves in hopes of making some meaningful connection with admirers or customers or even envious malcontents.
While loud desperation is relatively new, it does predate the internet.
Of course, in the olden days—way back before Perez Hilton and Dramatic Groundhog and Grumpy Cat and a thousand other things nobody will remember in 50 years—we lived lives of loud desperation through conspicuous consumption.
That’s right, good old gluttonous consumerism.
After all, it doesn’t require much of an accomplishment to buy stuff.
And, what better way to avoid the sucking maw of internal emptiness while simultaneously turning your neighbors green than by accruing titanic piles of shiny shit?
Sure, you must earn the money to make those purchases, but this is America.
Even our poor have cable TV and air-conditioning and cars and computers and big fat stomachs.
Anyways, back then, the best way to pretend you had your shit together while drawing attention to yourself was simply to go shopping.
• “Did you hear the Joneses have a new refrigerator with a built-in ice-maker? They must be one happy family!”
• “Oh yeah, well I heard Bill Baxter just bought a new Mercedes. You know what that means: fully … functional … penis.”
• “But what about Marge across the road with her in-ground swimming pool—there’s no way she’s a raging alcoholic … or a godless whore.”
And the list of crap to accumulate is nearly as inexhaustible as the unnatural improvements one can make to their body: tanning and boob jobs, bleached hair and teeth … and bungholes, calf implants and pedicures, neck tucks and face-lifts, liposuction and lip augmentation—paging Dr. Frankenstein!
Is there any hope for the human race?
What the hell are you asking me for?
I’m just a giant baby with a fancy job title and a 30-year mortgage.
I guess we could all take steps to make our lives better and just reduce the level of desperation in the first place.
We know that shit ain’t happening any time soon.
Does the irony escape me that this piece is just an extension of my own life of loud desperation?
No. No, it does not.
The only thing I can say—and, really, none of you should be taking any advice from my dumb ass—is, if you’re gonna go for the lie, make it good.
Don’t just tell us about your new Ford Focus. Go down to the BMW dealership and get some pics of you leaning against a red Sport 3.
Don’t just tweet about how smart your daughter is, share a photo of the Harvard acceptance letter you forged.
Don’t just brag about your husband, hide that black eye with a bunch of makeup and give us a sexy selfie of the two of you at some romantic hotspot!
Like the edge of a cliff or subway tunnel. Don’t stand too close to the edge, there, sweety!!!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to share this essay on Facebook and pretend the wife isn’t going to be furious with me for embarrassing her once again, which she won’t be … because our marriage is perfect.
Now, where’d I put that bottle of concealer?
Sorry. Abyss fart.