Friday, June 09, 2006

The Cliche Cliches

Rita Mae Brown and I don't laugh at each others jokes. We don't sip from the same malts down at the ice cream parlor. We don't even talk to each other on the telephone. In fact, up until five minutes ago I didn't even know who Rita Mae Brown was. But Rita Mae and me? Hell yeah, we tight.

There's a certain kinship between us, despite our glaring differences. Rita Mae is an American writer, a social activist, and Martina Navratilova's former girlfriend. I'm an American reader, a social misfit, and not a lesbian (although I once wore this shirt in college. Long story which I won't get into here, but I'll just say it was fun to watch the ultra-PC crowd - which numbered many at my school - get all confused as they tried to figure out whether or not to be outraged.) So, what gives? Why the Rita Mae love fest?

Well, for the past couple of months Rita Mae, unbeknownst to her, has acted as my spokesperson, in a manner of speaking. She's provided the words which make up my email signature. It started out rather innocently enough. I was reading some web page somewhere and I just happened to stumble across a quote of hers which read:

"The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they're okay, then it's you."

"Fantastic!" I thought, "People take themselves way too seriously, if you ask me. I'm going to use this quote to remind them of it." And, so I did. I slapped that baby up as the signature file for one of my six email accounts and started writing away. Who doesn't like email signatures? They're like super-duper high school yearbook quotes that you can try and force everyone else to read. Remember how long you agonized over your yearbook quote? You wanted to make sure you used the one quote that both captured the very essence of who you were and said something outrageously poignant at the same time. In retrospect, you just ended up looking ridiculous. I'd say half my senior class ended up using the following gem from David Bowie:

"And these children that you spit on, as they try to change their worlds are immune to your consultations. They're quite aware of what they're going through."

Deep, man, and like, TOTALLY original. Like, yeah, huh? Pathetic. But, at the time, we really believed that we'd knock people over with such captured eloquence.

(For the record, I stole a quote from the economist John Maynard Keynes:

"Words should be a little wild, for they are the assault of thought on the unthinking."

I still cringe when I think about it. I mean, I quoted an economist for God's sake. What's next? An email signature that says:

"Interest rates will be raised .25 % Oh, and watch out for inflation. It sucks."
- Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Good Christ.)

But, I digress. After borrowing Rita Mae's comment and allowing her to do my speaking for me, I started paying attention to the other emails I was receiving and seeing what words of wisdom they entailed. The results were all over the place. One friend informed me that "either I decide to stay in the shallow end of the pool, or I go out into the ocean." The deep end of the pool is not mentioned. Must be off limits. Nor is it explained how I'm supposed to get from the pool to the ocean. Do I drive? Walk? I'm sorry to be nitpicky, sir, but these questions demand answers! Another friend told me to "Be the change I wish to see in the world." Fair enough. Noble words. But, I don't want to start shooting people who deserve it. I'd go to jail. One email explained that "steroids are not the way in which we cheat. They are merely the gas we throw into our cheating machines." Umm... O.K. This was followed up by someone else who simply quoth stage direction in Shakespeare's 'The Winter's Tale' and wrote "Exit, pursued by a bear" (probably my favorite.)

My point in all of this is... well, I'm not sure. We all have something to say, but perhaps too often we look to others to say it when our own words would do just as well. That, and we're all too busy listening to the sound of our own horns that we don't bother listening to anyone else's, much less wonder about it's relevance. This is why I've regretfully decided to give Rita Mae the ol' heave-ho. I don't think she'll mind. We don't swing the same way, after all, and after several months it's become clear that while my intentions were good, my opinion... er, I mean, hers... wait.. no, my opinion which she just happens to express better than me and which I didn't form until I heard her say it... is no better than anyone else's. I'm tired of trying to tell other people they might be insane and using my email as a sly way of forcing them to listen. From now on, if you're insane I'll simply tell you... and then run away. Do with the information what you will.

Will I sit here and say I won't attach signatures to all my future emails? Nope. There are some profound pieces of wisdom out there, and I'm probably too self-centered to stay shutup for too long. But for now, I think a blank email signature and an occasional blog entry will do me well. Just make sure I don't start titling my posts with one-liners by Ellen DeGeneres. Then it may be time for an intervention.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


"What we're really talking about is the quantity of damage, not the quality of the transgression. Yes, steroids seem to be hurting much more than, say, spitballs did. And if they're crippling the game, then we need to get rid of them. But it's not like steroids are this alien entity that has descended on our planet to plague our game, and when we eradicate them the game will be pure again. Baseball players cheat. Steroids are merely the gas that we put in the tanks of our cheating cars. There are other kinds of fuel out there as well. The baseball players will always be looking for an advantage over the other players. This is a maintenance, not a moral issue."

5:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, when you start writing books about a quotes end up from the litter Peter
Taylor or Dickens....
Jesse's mom

10:53 PM  
Blogger Jesse Anna Bornemann said...

We're full of good advice in my family!

Agreed - the cat books aren't great. I sort of miss the sig, though. Had Ellen delivered any memorable one-liners at Tulane's commencement, I would have passed them along.

4:42 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

Having not read any of her books, this cat business is news to me, but I will say that I don't like it. Nope, not one bit. Taylor & Dickens it is... after Harry Potter of course.

Andrew - there is no way a quote that long should be at the bottom of an email. That's longer than most of the messages you send. And it still confuses me - although I will admit it does have a certain amount of eloquence...

11:45 PM  

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