“So if you’re unable to land a wounded-gorilla role, you might seek employment as a writer.”
— Introduction, Disquiet, Please! More Humor Writing from The New Yorker (edited by David Remnick & Henry Finder)
So, dig: Last year I was working as a writer-slash-editor for this Web site that had a relationship with this other Web site and provided content for said Web site using the talents of its own grateful corral. It was a sweet deal, nice money, great exposure. Writing was no biggie; it was fun. Where I got sideswiped was — get this — a photograph.
At some point they wanted pictures of us contributors for some grandiose graphic element. No problem, right? I mean, as an unrepentant narcissist I’ve got plenty of shots on my hard drive. So, feeling generous, I sent them a parcel of dynamite options from my pre-existing stash because, hey, I’m all about freedom of choice, especially when it comes to online depictions of this killer puss. They were all declared unworkable. “We need something tighter,” they advised, “like to your shoulders.” Easily remedied: I blew the dust off my Wal-Mart digital Kodak, snapped myself against various backgrounds (all hilarious, natch), and sent those. Answer came back: “Better, but you’re not getting enough light. Plus, we want ATTITUDE.” A well-meaning pointer from a friend, but, ugh — the word makes my bones curdle. So much artifice. What it really conveys is a uniform look recognized and accepted by the general populace as “attitude” — you know, like Chester Cheetah or something. Knowing the code, I grumbled en route to the nearest sunglasses emporium, dropped a couple twenties, and had myself instant American-approved attitude. I donned a black tee emblazoned with the Too Fast for Love-era Motley Crue logo and journeyed with a friend into the sun-dappled woods for a photo session. Got back home, dumped my fresh digital cargo onto my desktop, and sent it off.
Of course, these pics did the trick. Somehow, plonking a pair of sunglasses on your nose is all that separates mediocrity from pizazz. So strangely, the photo selected was of me, but not of me. Like, it was attitude, but not mine. I’m a fairly easygoing chump who certainly doesn’t fancy himself a cucumber-cool rake, and who also considers shades a bullshit honk-ornament affectation seldom worn for practical purposes. I looked like a dick.
Luckily, none of the photos were ever used, and the sunglasses still sit atop the counter where I abandoned them last summer.
It’s sad. I know I was a teenager once (and not so long ago), ’cause there’s photographic evidence and verifiable memories and echoes of old hangups with vivid roots, but Jesus Christ, it’s such a knee-jerk adult impulse to pass an adolescent passel on the street and entertain fantasies of plucking a chucklehead from the youth bouquet, grabbing him by the scruff of his Bullet for My Valentine tee, and snarling, “What the fffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCK is wrong with you!” It’s a rhetorical question, mind, one whose answer lies in the power of its bark. I mean, goddamn, right? The girly faux-Hollywood sunglasses, the horse-pill earrings in both ears, the ambiguous apparel — man, it’s enough to inspire further investment in time-travel just so you can dump these nimrods among your own younger peers, who would hopefully dismember them for lunch. Or maybe you’d secretly enjoy their flailings in the past. Their rising terror at nonexistent cell reception. The dead-cold WiFi hot spots. Oh, how we’d gut-bust over their IM withdrawals, bask in their lamentations at the dearth of emo, sup on their confusion at the sight of a genuine cup of foo-foo-free joe. It’s the ’80s, you fey little bitches — and not the ’80s you adore on VH1, not the retro-camp aspects you’ve appropriated like a thrift-store hipster tractor beam, but the genuine decade in all of its yawning, oppressive ho-hum.
Then one says, “Cool shirt, man,” complimenting my ancient Sub Pop LOSER armor, nice as nice can be. I realize kids are diverse and smart and complex and that I’m just a weathered crankypuss. Adults, I reason, likely regarded me with a similar contempt when I was a young chortle-butt. The clouds part and I peck the nearest baby upon its pillowy cheek. Even the ones in Avenged Sevenfold onesies.
But Heelys? Don’t fuckin’ get me started.