The Compulsive Contrarian

Think about some of the most classic entertainment themes, troubled love (so many flavors!), cheating hearts, jealousy, manipulation, and back to the top. These silly tropes entertain people of all varieties, languages, religions, modern and ancient. These are universal feels. So why do they annoy me so much?
Why is it that whenever I am faced with an old mom or a truly goofy sweet bro, I find myself desiring to puncture the cloying bubble of sugar? I want to stomp the life out of the puffball of joyous familial celebration. I want to scream “No!” at the top of my giant terrible-two inspired lungs. What is that unreasonable immature reaction I can barely contain? Am I incapable of enjoying other people’s pleasure? Am I a psychopath only interested in the misery of others?
I feel certain that the most natural thing in the world is to immediately think of contrary positions to any proposition. And the examples are endless, especially if you have any overly or at least overtly sweet people in your social media. Mothers are love, is something that can force our minds to immediately recall famous terrible mothers drowning their offspring or beating them with coat-hangers. Friends should always be honest, brings to mind the countless times lies have saved the day from awful, embarrassing and unnecessary drama. Sometimes it is clear that people want to romanticize their childhoods, or brag about their rich and budding romances. They compete with baby care photos, pet cuteness, or inspirational quotes that may or may not have been said by the cited authority, if there’s a citation at all. Many people are simply suckers for over-the-top saccharine nonsense, and if it’s not that, it’s Bollywood movie level emotional silliness that would make Morrissey cringe. People seem to enjoy over-reacting and being indignant about almost anything perceived as an opportunity to become emotional. Highs or lows don’t really seem to matter all that much the point seems to be exercise. Any child knows how to go from skronking and miserable to elation before the tears have even dried on their cheeks. Are adults much different?
The adult part of this unremarkable, indeed childish, reaction to emotional expression is possibly the keeping it to myself bit. I should think, amuse myself, and drop the desire to express the meaningless and self-involved argument that seems to well up inside.
Many acquaintances of mine, and they are all male, hate liberals. But it turns out it’s generally not liberal politics or liberal positions they are against. Most of these acquaintances are very much on-board with everyone having a good life and access to the best health-care and job opportunities etc. What they are mostly against is a kind of NPR liberal media story-telling that creates a world of (albeit largely justified) complaining. What my friends despise (though, it’s not like they don’t whine endlessly themselves) is what they’d call people being “little bitches” and bitching endlessly instead of “doing something” about their situation. This last bit is of course entirely ludicrous and a wholly ironic perception. After all their grousing is of exactly the same sort of noise but with less good reason and so they aren’t on NPR (which also probably acts to upset them further). Of course, complaining on national media is actually doing something to shed light on problems in our society so we can see where solutions need to be routed. The problem in the end seems to be that compulsive toddler response, that contrarian argument that instinctively wells up inside us to combat the endless procession of news agency delivered problems, or anything that rankles our sensibilities on social media.
Recently some friends of friends did their best to share their pregnancy and birth of twins to their social media universe. Pregnant belly photos, and milk pumping, and the tiny human larvae on display for as much of the world as they could reach through their tweets and posts. The exuberance with which this new family’s enjoyment was expressed ended up being a point of tremendous mockery for us. How dare these people flood our lives with their disgusting and wholly exaggerated excitement. The pictures of the lady posing with fruits and vegetables about the size of the twins in her tummy, the lady floating on her back in a pool with the mount of her baby belly in full focus, the lady in full display in poses that most of my lady friends found upsetting (in fact, no one is quite sure if she knows she’s been on such display!). Our discussions easily ebbed over to the possibility of the relationship being actually on the rocks, and the poetic expressions of love actually being desperate pleas that were nothing but elevated mediocrity. We snickered and guffawed at our twisting of the seemingly outlandish desire to share every last detail (we’re certain we’ll be getting full diapers soon enough), and of course, we justified our cynicism. Are they really wrong, or are we?
At least we kept it to ourselves. Not everyone did! Some complained to them directly. And at that I found myself reasonably surprised. Couldn’t you just look the other way?
Working on it.

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