[matchup #61 in Tournament of Bookshit]
If this were the S.A.T., I’d go with my gut and say, alcoholism. Sure, everyone has a story, but most of those stories are as boring as policy debates on CSPAN. In service of our egos, we subconsciously construct our identities so that everything we say, wear, eat and do reinforces the illusion that we know everything, and totally have our shit together. “Let me tell you about the time I was right—again—because I know important people at the Wall Street Journal.” Snoresville.
Give me epic tales of humiliation, shame and ignorance. For example: “My fat camp counselor discovered my cache of hidden candy bars and let everyone in the cabin give me titty twisters for a week, and now I can’t come unless candy bars are hidden under my mattress and I’m on the top bunk.” William Burroughs said, “Pity the young lawyer who’s never lost a case, the doctor who’s never killed a patient. He doesn’t know the score. I trust him little in the commerce of the soul.” Ditto.
Indulging, then renouncing, deviant, compulsive, senseless behavior beats the pants off stories about making a correct, untested choice: “This time, I’m not going to cut the swollen taste bud off my tongue with toenail clippers because last time, I couldn’t eat nothing but Shamrock Shakes for a week.”
Alcoholics have deviant, compulsive, senseless behavior on lock. But alcoholics don’t just tell stories about shitting their pants. They shit their pants. And not just at parties, where you can hose them down in the back yard while everyone’s dancing to new-wave music under colored lights. Alcoholics shit their pants at the pharmacy, when you’re waiting in line to pick up your UTI medicine, and you’re almost to the cashier. Alcoholics drop a glass on the deck of the nice hotel pool while you’re on vacation with your family. Alcoholics start fights with your favorite bartender who kicks you both out, and then you get to listen those alcoholic stories all night, just the two of you, at your place, as the stories degrade into threatening rants and crying as stinky black stuff burbles out of the alcoholic’s mouth. You wake up to a Slip ‘n Slide of magenta vomit all over the rug and the dishes in the sink. Now that’s a good story—one which the alcoholic will not remember, nor will he clean up the vomit.
So reluctantly, I’ll take ‘everybody has a story,’ knowing we all have doozies, but some people are too controlled/timid/terrified to let go. So I’ll wait for it, like a hunter in a duck blind—just keep filling and refilling their glass, offering my own failures in trade, smiling and waiting for the real story to begin.
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WINNER: ‘everybody has a story’