Tuesday, August 12, 2014

PattiBlows: Cognitive Matrix Bullet Time Edition

I keep feeling a little self-conscious about targeting Patti Stanger like I do. Dealing with a deeply misogynist woman is just different from dealing with a misogynist man. She's got her own experiences being female in this world. She strikes me as a bit of a frustrated and unhappy person. The sort of person you kind of feel bad for picking on. Then I spend like two minutes on Google and I'm much better.

This is Patti's actual dating advice to intelligent single women, which by my count contains three layers of comedic irony. If you have trouble seeing them, they're right beneath the two layers of weapons-grade misogyny, right between the cis-sexism and homophobia deposits.

This is actually a very rare thing we should all stop to appreciate: an opinion from Patti. No, wait, stop laughing, I'm serious. Usually it's all commandments and rules and dictates with this blight, but this is her opinion. Savor this title, suck the salty juices of I-statements and personal belief from its bones, roll it around in your mouth a little, see what that does for you. Because as soon as you get past the title we're back to Patti-brand facts and rules.

Does your brain ever do that thing where it tries to make eleventy billion points at once and just pops like a burnt out light bulb? When someone says something that is so stupid in so many different but equally horrible ways you simply do not have enough sodium channels to process it all? God I hate that. By the time you're done processing all eleventy billion thoughts and arguments a full two minutes have passed and you realize you've entered Cognitive Matrix Bullet Time. By which I mean you've just been gaping slack-jawed like a doped up frat bro who confused his steroid tablets with his roofies again.

This whole paragraph made me enter Cognitive Matrix Bullet Time. I have so very many thoughts and no chance in hell of ever explaining all of them.

I guess it starts with my distaste for general advice columns. I don't mean advice columns where people write in and ask specific questions about specific situations, I love those. I mean these horrible things that make up half of "women's" magazines and most of "women's" non-fiction, full of advice that at best might benefit an almost invisible sliver on the pie chart of humanity but is presented as being mandatory behavioral doctrine for vast swaths of the population. Mostly women. But you see it everywhere. What's good, solid and decent advice for one person might be disastrous for another.

It gets so, so much worse with dating/lifestyle advice. Even things that seem so harmless can be a disaster in the wrong hands. Be more confident and assertive? I seriously hope my ex never gets his hands on that bit of advice. He was so confident and assertive he could only parse the existence of other human beings as fuck puppet, cash machine.

Relationships are so personal. No two people are exactly alike and it really just baffles me that the world is full of advice that's supposed to apply to everyone. Or at least everyone of a certain gender, which equals sex, of which there are two, determined by genitals. It's not a complicated thought, that each and every human being has a personal set of life experiences that determines how they engage with other human beings, who have their own unique set of experiences. It really isn't. I don't get the millions upon millions of attempts to convince us that no, it's actually a rigidly codified black-and-white experience where you do either the right thing and get a person-prize or the wrong thing and DYING ALONE!!!

And this idea that women have only two states of being, married and pre-married, it just fries my brain fuse. Of the countless experiences life has to offer, from simple things like baking the perfect cupcake to the amazingly awesome like founding a world-changing charity, from finding a best friend to becoming the first [something] president, why is marriage such an important one? I'm married. It changed nothing. Not anything real. Apart from the fact that I get to apply for a permanent resident visa. Internally though, no, I don't feel it. I'm still the same person, and so is he, we're still best friends and we both look forward to living in a place that has a roof and both our furniture. All this was true before and it's true after. We'd both hit on the idea that we wanted to spend out lives together ages before any talk of rings and shared leases ever even came up. And we're from different countries, so you could make the argument that in our case, marriage actually was a vital step, provided we wanted to share a continent. I don't feel different now that I've got some paperwork because I sort of knew that this person was My Special Person ages and ages ago. The wedding changed not a damn thing.

Actually, no, there's one difference. People have stopped pestering me about my "love life" and asking me when I'm getting married. That seriously got on my tits. So that could be considered a huge, huge bonus, if it wasn't for the fact that they've moved on to the question of babies, which I will definitely have super many of, without missing a beat.

Sigh and damnation.

Christ, I don't even remember what prompted this. Oh yes.

And doesn't that just merit a line-by-line picking-apart? I think it does.

I see both sides on a lot of situations. Chocolate or vanilla. Jacob or Edward. Jeggings or leggings.

Give the woman a cookie for at least realizing that there's more than one side to most things. Not things like sexual satisfaction and relationships and gender identity and whatnot. Just the important stuff.

Fuck, these aren't even goddamn situations. They are things. I know it sounds like I'm nitpicking, but you cannot possibly fathom my frustration at a woman so ungodly bigoted, so reductive in her reasoning and rigid in her thinking claiming that she is not. How the fuck do you write a line like that and think to yourself, yes, this is a good line. I am an excellent person.

Don’t move in with your guy until you have a ring. No ifs, ands, buts, howevers or whatevers about it.

Remember when Patti expressed personal opinions that started with "I think" for like one whole sentence? Wasn't that nice?

You know, I'm actually the kind of person who sees some merit in the institution of marriage itself, although not at all in the way it exists now, and in my own personal life I don't feel very strongly about it either way. But it sticks out to me that the phrase "are married" is replaced here with "have a ring." It's not a cute euphemism. I really, honestly believe that Patti is using that phrase genuinely. Everything marriage entails (that would be everything a relationship entails, plus legal benefits) boils down to this weird symbol. I don't think she realizes it even is a symbol, not the way regular thinking people might. There's a core of materialism and competition and desperation there that honestly, no-joke makes me feel sad for her.

And every time I’m there at the end to say, “I told you so.” 

Well aren't you a fucking delight.

Screw it, I no longer feel sad for Patti. People whose honest knee-jerk response to the grief and misery of others is to not only loop it back to themselves and how right they are but also throw in the charming implication that all their hurt is their own damn fault for not bowing to the wisdom of their betters are just bad people. Like, just bad. Termites in their smile and gunk in their soul type of bad. Their soul has gone off and is starting to stink up the cosmic fridge. There has never been a person who used that phrase genuinely who hasn't been a complete and utter pustule on the ass cheek of existence.

Here’s why I think it’s a massive mistake.

Yeah yeah, I see what you did there. Too fucking late now.

Things that are hard are never worth doing. No joy has ever been derived from succeeding at something difficult. This is why people who throw in the towel at the first sign of discomfort and never compromise are generally much more content and fulfilled than the rest of us. We first learned this important lesson from the Bible, in which Job sat in his lawn chair with a margarita for a while and then God gave him a puppy. It's also why the entire self-improvement section of any book store and library is just a sign that says "Don't Fucking Bother."

If the sight of a discarded sock or an abandoned dirty coffee cup is enough for you to throw up your hands in utter defeat, guess what? It wasn't really going anywhere anyway. If anyone ever tells you that they ended a serious relationship (however they themselves define the word serious) over something ridiculously trivial, keep asking questions. Because they didn't.

What the fuck is the idea here? I get that you're basically telling me that I should scamper at the first sight of discomfort, which is sound advice, but what does that imply? Do you really think the secret to any lasting marriage is the fact that two people never experience any friction at all? Do you think marriage is a Disney movie?

Actually, no, that's sound advice. Only ever move in with someone you never, ever have any sort of conflict or friction with. That is literally how adult relationships work. You'll be super duper happy all the time and never experience bad emotions again. Happy trails and smooth-ass sailing!

For fuck's sake Stanger, you can't use words like "commitment" and "promise" as if they are synonymous with "marriage." You sound like you actually believe some stupid cocktail party with tasteful jewelry and a couple of signatures is interchangeable with real commitment and automatically produces nothing but the finest results. I can't even begin to explain how backwards that is. Sure, if you are in an arranged marriage part of the challenge is taking that promise and working to forge it into true commitment and internal desire to be together, but these aren't the people you're writing for. The people you're writing for live in a culture where things are supposed to go the exact other direction.

But fine, let's roll with it. Living together before marriage is a bad idea because that's how the snaggletooth butt-chomper goblins get you, whatever. No relationship can succeed otherwise because OH SHIT LESBIANS!

It is my sincere hope that one day, Patti will find this post and take a long, hard look at these two people who were together for more decades than Patti's been alive, before they were even allowed to get married, and then it will hit her like a rainbow hammer.

"Oh shit," she'll think. "I'm a horrible fucking person."

That's the dream. In reality it'll probably be like "ew, ugly people." Or possibly just uproarious laughter.

But no, all that aside, don't move in with someone you're not married to because they might annoy you at some point. This will be different after signatures and jewelry and a cocktail party in front of a magistrate, because whoop-dee-doo I guess.


Fucking good. I don't want my life partner to be a goddamn mystery. I want him to be a person with flaws and qualities and opinions and dirty socks and morning breath and pretty eyes and bad habits and wonderful ideas and I don't think of any as his qualities as cards.

You know where phrases like "showing your cards" and "bargaining chips" even come from? A form of competition. My husband is my partner, not my competitor. Why the hell would you use the language of competitive sports in relationship advice? Is it because you're fucking clueless? Is it because you've mined your own ass for these shit nuggets so deeply you can't dislodge your head anymore? Because I think it is.

The way you define "mystery" is the stupidest, most offensively shallow thing this side of White Chicks. I'm pretty sure Mr. Danger, being a fucking genius, sort of intuited that when half my eyebrows were suddenly gone, it wasn't the result of some rogue lawnmower incident. He caught on to the fact that my shit stinks the first time I crop-dusted the room and ran away cackling. It's not love until you know what it smells like two feet inside of someone.

And I'll have you know I rap like a champ. Word and so forth.

Again, I'm just going to go with this for a second. It never takes long, because what passes for ideas in Patti's Cabin falls apart quicker than a man's ego when faced with woman-words. Right, so, I preserve the "mystery..."

... by never appearing fully human. I do your pointless, demeaning, exhausting and painful beauty circus every day, conceal the fact that I shit and never ever cop to having a metabolism, and am content with the fact that by doing this I'm not exceeding his expectations, just meeting them. Somehow I'm okay with this. Somehow I got it into my head that I want to be forever shackled to a dude who actually likes it that way. Fine. We get married, and out come the mom jeans and the Mix-a-Lot!

You know what happens next, Patti? I know exactly what happens next, because I am alive and literate. What happens next is shrews like you bitch at me mercilessly for letting myself go.

Oh, also, don't fucking tell women to basically lie about who they are to their partner until they're satisfied he can't get away. Forget about me for a second, what about his right to know who the fuck he's marrying? 

God forbid we get to experience the real deal. No. Better to remember that when the going gets tough, just give right the fuck up.

To me, living with someone and then moving out is the same thing as breaking off an engagement.

Well that's fine and dandy for you, no skin off my nose, but as it happens, to me, marrying someone and then getting a divorce is the same as breaking off a relationship. Do you see how that works Patti?!!

Look, I take absolutely no joy in pointing this out and I don't mean to do it in a cruel way, but I can sort of tell that Patti isn't married. It's the same as when I said that her decision to have cosmetic surgery is none of my business and doesn't affect my life in the slightest on way or another, but it is part of the reason I don't actively go to her for advice on how to feel good in the body I've got. (The other part is her belittling and insulting women on national TV.) It takes away some credibility. Same here. For my money, I'd rather take advice from someone who's actually been through the ups and downs of a long-lasting traditional relationships, if that's what I want to know about. It still may not apply, but at least you'll be sort of in the right ballpark. What I'm saying is, for someone who has never been married, she sure knows a lot about marriage. It reeks of Monday morning quarterbacking.

Oh shit, I said a sports thing. How uncouth. Better go wash my mouth with Chanel.

I don't want to rant too much about how flawed and bizarre her idea of marriage seems, as if it's the final ending to an endurance race or the final seconds of film reel before the credits roll, because she doesn't actually say or imply that this way of doing things will lead to a lifelong happy partnership. It just really, really feels that way.

And yes, I did go out and try to find advice on how to chastise myself into unhappiness, self-loathing and anxiety Patti-Style after I'm married, but she's got absolutely nothing. Not a damn thing. I guess once that all-important ring is acquired, the curtain drops and everyone hurries out to take a leak and race to the parking lot. A wedding is a lot like the final boss fight in the video game. Sure, stuff might happen after, you get a cutscene or two, but it's basically over. You've done it. Hurray. After that happens, nothing really matters anymore. The event that every single thing you've done has been building up to for ages is over. Nobody cares that you bred a golden Chocobo either, or how much fun you had getting there, not even you. You did it. Victory music. Mission accomplished. Credits.

That's the thing with Patti. I can pick her work apart episode by episode and column by column or even line by line, but the monstrous beast it all adds up to is so much more toxic than the sum of its tentacles. Here I present, for your horror and delight, the persona of a woman who will humiliate and chastise and break herself until she is worthy of the final reward of marriage and literally rages at the thought of other women not doing the same. It's like she's projecting all her internalized misogyny on every woman who dares come near her because she doesn't have the tools to deal with her own damage. It's so fucking sad. I'd give her a great big hug and tell her it's okay if I wasn't absolutely sure she'd hurt me for trying.

Anyway, move in with the guy or don't. Marry him before or after or don't. Fight for your right to marry him or don't. Marry lots of people. Marry none. Move in with loads of people who make your heart and your genitals sing. Fuck, I don't know you. You know yourself best, do whatever you think will make everyone happy. If it doesn't work out, chalk it up to experience and try again. Get some therapy. Be better for it. Then marry the guy. Become a guy worth marrying. Marry the girl. Marry a genderfluid angel who makes your soul swell. Make hir happy and be happy in turn. Marry a jerk, and then get away. Make a mistake. Correct mistake. Grow. Change. Align. Bond. Love. Whatever seems right. You're an adult, you'll figure it out. You are the master of your destiny. Go forth and do what the hell ever.

Just don't do it because someone else told you to. Especially someone as ignorant as Patti Stanger, who doesn't seem to understand that some opinions are unpopular for a very good reason.

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