Thursday, October 20, 2005

A Pardox, A Paradox, A Most Ingenious Paradox

You might be surprised at the number of conversations I have which fit the formula of "But how can you X if you Y?" For example:

  • But how can you like The Office if you don't like Meet the Parents?
  • But how can you eat peanuts if you don't like nuts in brownies?
  • But how can you say you're shy if you don't mind singing the Popular song in the middle of a crowded restaurant?
I don't mind these inquiries if they're presented in a genuine, information-seeking manner, as an attempt to better understand the complexities of my character. However, seldom is that the case. It's usually more of an accusatory tone, as if they've caught me in some horrible act of hypocrisy which would call into question everything I've ever said or done. "Aha!" they might shout, "You refused to eat my brownies because they had nuts in them, but I just saw you eat a Peanut M&M! I've got you now, you lying sack of dross! No one expects the Spanish Inquisition! Bring out . . . the comfy chair!" Yes, that's exactly how they sound. Scout's honor.

I then find myself operating on the defensive, desperately trying to make my views clear while under the laser-like accusatory stare; the end result for me in these cases is generally an unsatisfactory one, with me giving up in frustration, and the questioner withdrawing in smug satisfaction in having caught me out in some contradictory action or statement.

Back in the college days, one of the most consistent questioners of my apparently contradictory behavior was Dr. G’ovich. The Doc was generally one of the small percentage whose questions seemed borne out of outright curiosity, rather than accusation. At the time, I was thankful there was someone making the effort to try to understand where I was coming from; now, I can’t escape the sneaking suspicion that it was all part of his “messing-with-Todd’s-mind” research. Well, either that, or he was trying to map out the minefield that was my emotional landscape to avoid becoming a casualty of war; being able to trip the mines at will was probably just a byproduct.

Let’s take an example from when I was still living in Parker: one night someone had organized a party which included a karaoke machine. The exact magnitude of my attention-seeking behavior that evening is lost to me now, although I do distinctly remember performing "Ice, Ice Baby" along with St. Flunky, a performance commemorated by the Vanilla Ice tapes Pooh-Bear later purchased for each of us from the $1 bin at Hastings. Later Dr. G'ovich, who by this point was all too familiar with my self-conscious nature, expressed his surprise that I would be willing to get up and make a fool of myself like that so easily. I tried to explain that there was a big difference between making a fool of myself on purpose and making a fool of myself on accident; if I get up in front of a group of people with the intent of acting like a spaz, then there's generally no problem; it’s when I’m trying not to look like a spaz that the self-consciousness rears its ugly, ugly, ugs-in-the-ugly head. Think that might have been one of the rare times when my explanation actually made sense to someone; or, possibly, he was just tired of hearing my gums flap and had already gathered enough ammunition for “Operation: Embarrass Todd.”

Even when the questioning of my thought processes is at its most confrontational (and, honestly, you would not believe how up in arms some people get about the whole CAP’NS thing), it serves a valuable service; 99 times out of 100, before being questioned, I’ve never really considered why I feel the way I do. The first few times I’d get one of these questions, I’d just reply with a basic “Because I do” type of answer. But, after a certain point, I began to seriously ponder the whys and wherefores of my behavior; why was it that Ricky Gervais as Michael on The Office made me squirm, but Steve Carrell in the same role makes me laugh? Why do I love watching people making fools of themselves on the audition eps of American Idol but can never, ever watch the ep of Buffy where Dawn makes a fool of herself trying out for cheerleader ever again? You know, all the important questions. I might not be aware of every blip in my thought processes that the general populace regards as odd, but once one is called to my attention, I’m now much more likely to respond “I’m not sure, I’ll have to think about that.” And, rest assured, if I can puzzle out the basis of my logic, I’ll share it with you. Consider yourself warned.

Still, even if my reasoning seems crystal clear to me, I know that I’m always going to run into people who still can’t grasp exactly what I’m trying to say. To them, there is no distinction between Meet the Parents and The Office, no difference between looking foolish on purpose and looking foolish by accident. And it’s these people who will always be the most determined to correct my thinking, to prove to me that the logical categorizations I’ve constructed in my mind are full of fallacies and contradictions, that a nut is a nut is a nut, no matter what it’s put in.

Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes of monkeys.


Zinger said...

I feel your pain. Can't tell you how many times I've had this conversation with Pooh:

Pooh: You like pineapple, right?
Me: Yes.
P: And coconut?
M: Yes.
P: So why don't you like pina colada?
M: Because it is the secretion of the Devil.

OK, so I don't usually add that last part, but hey, am I right or am I right?

Flunky lover said...

I love nuts. I can eat peanuts by the handful but I hate peanut butter. Why? It's too peanutty.

Anonymous said...

What the hell does The Office have in common with Meet the Parents? I am mystified. I love the former (both versions) but thought the latter was shticky crapola.

Cap'n Neurotic said...

It all has to do with people doing stupid stuff; for some, the distinction between Michael making and ass out of himself and Greg Focker making an ass out of himself is non-existent, so if Meet the Parents made me uncomfortable, than to their thinking, so should The Office.

Andrea said...

How can you have the comfy chair without the fluffy pillows??

Cap'n Cluck said...

When watching Buffy you have invested years of emotional attachment to the characters, making you cringe at the thought of Dawn being embarassed at cheerleading tryouts. However, you have no emotional attachment to the AI contestants. Therefore, you could careless whether or not the look like fools. They knew they would be on national tv. It is just pure entertainment at that point.

Cap'n Neurotic said...

I should have known one of the CAP'NS would be able to suss it out! Interestingly enough, Rebel Monkey is the exact opposite; she loved the Dawn cheerleading tryout, but could not stand to watch the American Idol tryouts.