Sometimes my brain works through social constructs or cultural attitudes that are bothering me and eventually I finalize some sort of lesson or theory for a blog entry. This time, however, my brain is knocking around several ideas together to try to find cohesiveness and I can’t seem to find it but I ALSO CAN NOT SEEM TO SLEEP so I thought maybe I’d just start writing some of the ideas bouncing around in my head and see if the started to cohere into anything.
Let’s start with fashion critiques. One of my favorite YouTubers/Podcasters – Grace Helbig – likes to do these Red Carpet/Fashion analysis videos for comedic effect and it is NEVER EVER EVER mean. NEVER. Like there might be a little bit of shock if an outfit is extreme – but she always does it with an air of admiration and respect no matter how crazy the outfit. I don’t mind her videos on fashion because even if it’s just a crazy insane outfit she’ll be like, “I MEAN! WHY DON’T I HAVE THAT CONFIDENCE?” or something as a commentary.
But recently she said she filmed one and just couldn’t get her heart behind it and so she just decided – in a mature moment of clarity – that she was NOT going to edit it for uploading because she just didn’t LIKE it. And I found myself saying, “You know…I am glad because then I don’t have to watch it.”
Not like anyone is forcing me to watch anything. BUT!
That got me thinking about how over the years I have 100% stopped giving any attention to any sort of fashion critiques. NOT THAT IT WAS EVER 100% MY THING. But, I did love me some Fug Girls from the days of TWoP and there are a few other websites I used to read who used fashion/red carpet type content as an entrance to comedy.
But something happens when you have a daughter that suddenly cares what she looks like, you stop finding humor in ANY sort of critique of ANY sort based on anyone’s appearance. I think I allowed myself to laugh at comedy built around CLOTHES because that didn’t seem personal but then…THEN…my daughter stopped even looking at clothes in the “girls” section of Target because kids at school made fun of girls who still shopped in that section.
THAT IS SOMEONE ALSO BUILDING COMEDY AROUND CLOTHES AND IT IS NO LONGER FUNNY.
So over the last few years those resources for laughs have kind drifted to my periphery and then out of my view entirely. So, seeing Grace suddenly not want to do that video kinda made me glad since hers was the last connection I had to that world of Comedy Via Fashion Critiques.
Then Olivia Munn called out the Fug Girls this week. (I’m not linking to the stuff because there’s all sorts of fighting about this in the comments and I don’t want you to get distracted FROM MY AMAZING STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS BLOG POST HERE). I’ve been reading the Fug Girls in some form for…15 years? Maybe longer? They used to write/contribute at Television Without Pity and so OF COURSE I followed them when they created their fashion/humor blog called Go Fug Yourself. I was very loyal to all of my TWoP contributors. And when Olivia Munn called them out with a type of, “It’s just not nice,” to them and the fashion/comedy industry in general I got REALLY defensive at first.
It’s comedy! They’re just trying to make a living! They’re not usually mean-spirited at all!
But then I remembered some of the sad moments raising a daughter who worries about being picked on for wearing the wrong clothes to school.
So I finally cut my ties to them and unfollowed them on all social media because you can not convince me there’s no connection between how easy it is for us to laugh at stranger’s clothes on the red carpet and how kids today make fun of each other’s clothing choices in the halls at school.
OKAY. THIS IS WHERE I SEEMINGLY START TO TANGENT A BIT. WELCOME TO MY BRAIN. I PROMISE I TRY TO CONNECT IT ALL IN A BIT.
I love Heather Armstrong, obviously. She and I have communicated randomly over the years one-on-one and we’ve met in person at conferences before. I am very fond of her as a person and as a writer. AND I GET VERY SAD WHEN I FIND OUT PEOPLE DO NOT LIKE HER. Over the years this has come up randomly as it does whenever she’s on a popularity surge and it always feels like this weird form of blog tabloid type stuff. Just like you see popular celebrities on the cover of the tabloids when they have movies coming out or something, when she has a new book or a new writing gig or something suddenly you’ll see a surge in people talking about how much they dislike her.
And this got me thinking about gossip in general. I’ve been in social circles in real life where this happens too. People will spontaneously share weird gossip about people…gossip that I DID NOT ASK FOR. I’ve heard stories about open marriages and infidelity and drug addiction – all in weird situations where Person A is being discussed kinda favorably and then Person B shares some sort of weird gossip about Person A and suddenly I’m burdened with this knowledge (or not, I don’t put faith in a lot of gossip) and it is always in the periphery of my brain and I wish it was never there to begin with.
Now, let me say: I AM NOT PERFECT. I have definitely gossiped. As a matter of fact, in my younger years it was kinda my Go To when I was feeling bad about myself. I very much subscribed to the, “Tear other people down so I can build myself up,” school of thought.
But the older I get? The less patience I have for that and I do not think I would ever again just randomly share gossip. It just goes against every fiber of my soul that tries to put more good than evil in the world. AND IT BLOWS MY MIND THAT OTHER PEOPLE ARE NOT THE SAME WAY.
Part of this is aging out of caring what other people think of ME and therefore I no longer seem to care even what other people think of other people. Part of this is raising a daughter and when I’m looking at her generation, I don’t want her to fall in the same shitty footsteps I did. Part of it is a cultural shift where we’re all trying to be more conscious about how we talk about each other in the wake of body positivity movements. Part of it is that when I was coming out of My Really Shitty Years I learned that being on the other side of that gossip HURTS. I mean, I did a lot of shit worth gossiping about, but I didn’t do everything I heard whispered around corners. I still worry that there are people out there who think I’m a pedophile because I messed around once with a guy in college who had the same first name of a high schooler I was tutoring and so the gossip mill got confused and the next thing I knew I was hearing that I was sleeping with a high schooler. GOSSIP IS NO LONGER BENIGN WHEN YOU HEAR SHIT ABOUT YOURSELF LIKE THAT.
All of those factors have turned me into a 40-something with no patience for hurtful gossip. Now, I have my safe places where I vent to my close friends, we all do – but I refuse to spread dirt on people to people I barely know. I AM TOO OLD FOR THIS SHIT.
And I think it’s the same part of me that just decided she has no patience for fashion critique – no matter how benign – either.
And here’s where it all comes together (which I couldn’t do in my head and it only started cohering when I started writing).
Some people are always going to like people or things I don’t like. That does not mean I have to share my negative thoughts or opinions about it.
Maybe someone likes wearing crazy unflattering pantsuits to movie premiers. Why do I want to waste personal energy reading comedic takes from someone who makes fun of them for that?
Maybe someone is friends with someone who once said something really shitty to me. What good does it do me to try to breakup that fondness by sharing a personal story that has nothing to do with the other person?
Maybe I’m in a group where people are already talking about someone who I heard a juicy tidbit about regarding their financial troubles, why do I want to contribute to that negative swirl of energy by throwing my gossip into the storm?
Maybe someone likes someone who once was a jerk to my friend. Why do I feel the need to make sure they stop liking that person by telling them: SHE WAS A JERK TO MY FRIEND.
I just think I’m connecting it all by considering the fact THERE IS TRUE EVIL IN THE WORLD THAT WE HAVE TO COMBAT. Why am I wasting time nurturing gossip? I’m not saying that there’s no room for frivolity and silliness. I AM ADDICTED TO A YOUTUBE GAME SHOW SEGMENT CALLED TRIVIA BIDET. I am definitely a proponent of wasting time on nonsense. I’m just saying that maybe we don’t spend our energy on adding MORE NEGATIVITY to the world.
I just think the older I get, and the more I see personally how that negativity has affected me and how it affects my daughter – the more I just want to POOP ON IT ALL.
I’m not saying every second of every day needs to be putting positivity into the world, I’m just saying when we have a choice of what to communicate or what to support — why choose negativity? In a world where systemic racism and institutionalize bigotry and homophobia and xenophobia and white supremacy all seem to be getting fuel to grow stronger…why do we need to use our energy shitting on relatively benign people?
I will no longer give my brain power to comedy that centers around mocking people – unless those people are white nationalists. MAKE FUN OF THOSE F*CKERS ALL YOU WANT.
(I’m not THAT enlightened yet, obviously.)
And if someone seems to like someone I don’t like? I’m not going to try to set them straight or MAKE SURE THEY KNOW THE THING I KNOW.
Someone told me gossip recently about someone as a justification as to why they don’t like the person and my first thought was: OH, I HAVE DONE WAY WORSE THAN THAT. When I say I had some shitty years back before I met Donnie, I mean – making out with my best friend’s husband kind of shitty years. I MADE SOME MISTAKES, Y’ALL. It was not pretty. So if you’re trying to justify your dislike of someone by telling me their infidelities I’m just sitting here thinking, Welp, I’m going to assume you’d not love the skeletons in my closet either then.
But I don’t think you have to have a closet full of skeletons to understand that people make mistakes. We are all complicated and complex and packaged with real feelings and real emotions that can be hurt by relatively benign negativity. And also? What’s wrong with people dressing in clothes you don’t love? WHO DOES THAT HURT? Maybe we don’t have to spend our limited energy on this planet actively making it better because we’re busy and tired and too busy watching dumb shit on YouTube. But maybe we CAN at least promise not to actively try to add more negativity in the world. Maybe we can choose to watch goofy shit on the internet instead.
There are just so many other ways to pass time and in this cultural moment where we’re trying to combat the rise of xenophobia and white supremacy, maybe we don’t turn our energy into negativity towards harmless red carpet attendees or people in our community’s financial woes or writers and their love lives.
Today, I just to spread joy. And game shows on the internet where they squirt people’s butt’s with water when they miss a trivia question.