How Can You Be So Ugly?

One of the things that always amazed me about the Baby Boomers is what they did to marijuana.

They smoked it, almost all of them, during those crazy hippy days.  They knew it didn’t drive you frothing mad, or strangle your soul; it just made you hungry, and maybe a little unmotivated.  So when I was young, I figured that by the time I was twenty, pot would be just this other thing like alcohol and cigarettes.

And the Baby Boomers treated marijuana like it was the Antichrist.  They were terrified of anyone touching it, ever.  And the jail sentences went up, and the laws clanged down, and by the time I was twenty you could get your whole house confiscated for selling a dime bag.

I never got that.  I thought that people who’d been through that would understand.  But as it turns out, there’s this sort of violent reaction that people have to stupid things they did in their youth, where they get to the Age Of Lawmaking And Morality and thunder, “Well, we did that, but nobody else should ever!” and act as though anyone who would do such a thing is the scum of the earth.

And I think of this Facebook generation, where you see teenagers posting the dumbest goddamned statuses everywhere, embarrassing photos and insulting jokes and ill-thought-out political statuses.  And I’d like to think that by the time these kids are all fifty and pretty much every Congressman has a picture of themselves doing a beer bong hit, society would say, “All right, we all sent a naughty picture to a lover, we all have a photo of ourselves embarrassingly drunk, we all held opinions in our twenties that we regret now” and accept that a) saying and doing stupid things when you’re young is a fact of life – I mean, when else are you going to be at your most stupid except when you’re least experienced? and b) a person’s politics at age eighteen are often as transient as her love of Justin Bieber, and we should acknowledge that as human beings, we evolve.

Yet what I see happening is like the marijuana situation, where people assume that one stupid post is the whole of who someone is.  The moment someone says something dumb, society freezes to a halt and that’s who they are – that dumbass who said that thing.  They said that five years ago!  What scum!

Can people ever learn?

And I see this increasing hostility towards people even having to defend their positions on the Internet.  “Hey, I’m on the side of righteousness and good!” they seem to cry.  “And can you believe this jerk is asking me questions?”  And yeah, I get that it’s exhausting to be the teachable moment all the time, and I’m not saying that anyone should be forced to serve as a continual FAQ – but god damn, people, the teachable moment is how we take people who don’t understand why this is a big deal and show them.  It’s the moment of potential enlightenment.  It’s the moment where you were ignorant, but you got it.

Yet I feel a constant pressure of “Man, what a kneebiter, he didn’t agree with me the instant I showed him the true path!”  And that, I feel, is part of this sociopathic Internet sense that you either get it or you don’t, and if you sinned once – or even had to be convinced of the correctness of someone’s argument – then you’re not really worthy.

I’ve sinned a lot of times, man.

You can still read them all.

I had someone ask me a question, upon reading one of my older essays, that was, essentially, “Your classic essays are so horrible, full of casual misogyny and ugly humor and fratboy antics?  When did you have your moment of conversion?”

And I’ve thought about that comment for almost a year now, and the answer is simple: there wasn’t one.

I had no sizzling flare of comprehension, no singular moment.  I merely evolved, one interaction at a time, over the course of two decades.  The guy who had all of these disastrous love affairs and tried a hooker and hid in a bathroom closet to stop a pervert has a lot in common with today-Ferrett, but god damn if I don’t look back and wince at what a clumsy, hurtful oaf I was.  I just had a thousand interactions where I recognized my own insufficiency, usually by hurting someone, and said, I can be better.

And so, slowly, I became better.

And it would be a lot better for me, in many ways, if I quietly deleted those essays, as they don’t reflect who I am.  People who read them risk thinking, “Well, that’s who Ferrett is, what a kneebiter,” and walking on.

Yet I keep them up.  Because yes, there are people who are going to freeze me (or anyone else) in amber. But I leave all of my ugly bits out in the open as a form of protest – yes, I was stupid when I was 22 years old.  Weren’t you?

And I refuse to bow to the folks who seem to think that “who you are now” has an exact correlation to “who you were then.”  We learn from doing stupid things.  Often, we learn because we did stupid things.  And it’s not right that we say hurtful or thoughtless things, but the people who confront us are doing us a great service by revealing their pain, and risking being callously written off because it might change how we act in the future.

All you people who I slighted, erased, or slandered: I leave my stupidity up as proof of how much work you did.  I am not monolithic.  I am evolving, continually striving to make myself better, and I am here to battle the concept of innate perfection.  I am here to battle the idea that one bad day can swallow every other achievement in your life.  I am here to battle the idea that one thoughtless moment means you can have all of your self-worth stripped away by people who want to feel superior.

You’re going to make mistakes.  That’s okay.

Just make up for them.

1 Comment

  1. Tom
    Dec 17, 2013

    I’m sure you’re tired of hyperbolic kiss-assery, but you are a magnificent writer and I really admire your perspective. I just blew in off the Ol’ Google Highway. Can’t seem to find a subscribe button, so I guess I’ll just bookmark and check in from time to time.

    Re: the topic, I’m in full agreement about the follies of youth and the lessons we learn from the mistakes we make. Our stupid twenty-something antics are often catalyst for life lessons. If we don’t fuck up, we don’t grow! (Though I concede that you made this point far more eloquently.)

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