Monday, March 28, 2005

You Really Get It

Just back from an evening of confessional first-person readings. Sedaris fallout. The long tail misconstrued. Whatever it is, it's everywhere. Sit n Spin. Word-a-Rama. Melt in Your Mouth. Online,, the L.A. touchstone for so many of these writers. On-air, This American Life, the fountainhead for such stuff nationwide.

A lot of what I heard tonight was funny, touching, well-paced, shockingly honest, and delivered with supreme aplomb even as hysterics erupted just feet away. L.A. is full of smart folks who lack adequate outlets, and the ones who make it through these home-grown filtration processes deserve to be on stage. For the most part.

But what I'm struggling with is the relentless confessing. It's true that the surest way to touch someone is to expose yourself in some way. (Flashers explained.) And now that the first-person memoir is all the rage, everyone has an embarrassing or heartbreaking episode to share with a roomful of strangers. These are This American Life's farm teams.

Who am I to complain? Who's complaining? I'm just unnerved by all the opening up and bleeding. Does a tireless skirter of the real have standing to toss pebbles at brave souls willing to share?

* * *

You just don't get it. He just doesn't get it. Dare I say, dare I hope that phrase reached its apogee a few months ago? Or maybe I just don't get it. Or get out enough.

How do I hate "get it"? Let me count the ways.

>It is imprecise and lazy.
>It is snotty and self-important.
>And smug.
>It means to suggest a shared understanding between the speaker and the listener, a tight bond invented to exclude whichever poor clueless unfortunate is the object of scorn and dismissal.

Its sloppiness reminds me of the similarly vague and outdated "hip," which only the most unhip abusers of slang still use. People who persist in saying "hip" will tell you it's as timeless as "cool," but I don't think so. Putting aside "cool"'s own dubious immortality, that's like saying a Kangol cap looks as sharp, fresh, phat, and bad/good on a 47-year-old endodontist as it does on a 17-year-old anything.

Or maybe Kangol is just as over. And some 47-year-old endodontists probably are cooler than some 17-year-olds. Heck, what do I know? Everyone knows I just don't get it.

* * *

And now, ladies and germs, chers auditeurs, brothers and sisters, and all the rest of you, welcome to my point. Journey back with me to yesteryear if you will, to a momentous night in 1986 when all Hollywood crowded into one great big auditorium and the rest of America crowded into millions of little living rooms, raptly squinting at our Good Life proxies as they milled and preened for us. And on that night, amid the de rigueur glitz and glamour, we all chalked one up for Quisp. "We" won. "We" was one of us, more or less, an unassuming star we'd all grown up not quite adoring but certainly liking for her realness. And what did this paragon of the genuine say when she won?

"You like me! You really like me!" *

With these raw, genuine words, Sally Field sealed her place in the cultural firmament as America's sweetheart, a gosh-darn real person who'd won an Oscar for the rest of us back home. (Oh, excuse me. An Oscar®.)

But if we could hold a 2004-speak decoder ring up to the TV speaker (because that "get it" phrase is "so last year" (which phrase is itself so last year)), what would we hear?

"You get me! You really get me!" And that's all most of us want, to know that someone other than our blood relations really "gets" us. And that's why the frustrated, the tricked in love, and the ill-groomed are so willing to stand up in front of strangers and spill their well-crafted tales of personal trauma, leavening the pain with laughter the way Morrissey makes sad songs sound so pretty.

Every day really is like Sunday when you just don't get it. But don't worry. I like you. I really like you. It's me I can't stand sometimes. Like when I get all stentorian and self-righteous as I just have. I guess these are the outbursts that make people call me opinionated.

* It turns out that Sally Field didn't actually say the famous quote above upon receiving her award. Here's what she really said upon winning her second Oscar in 1985:
"I haven't had an orthodox career, and I've wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn't feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can't deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!"

In case you think this topic much overdone and poor Ms. Field raked more than necessary over the coals for her effusiveness, note that she starred in a commercial in which she mocked herself. Says,
"We loved her great commercial for Charles Schwab, shown at the Oscars in March 2000: She's in the Schwab office going, 'You like me, you really like me, you really really like me!'"

1 comment:

Sara said...

I liked your comment. It made me laugh.