Thursday, May 10, 2007

He's Not the Devil, but He Plays One on My Blog

I mentioned last week that PigPen had made a comment about how I portray him in a negative light on the blog, and how people who don't really know him might get the wrong idea. I kind of laughed it off, thinking he was being paranoid, until the past couple of days, when conversations with a few different blog monkeys revealed that PigPen's paranoia was justified: my tales of him have apparently convinced some long-distance readers that he is a "jerk."

Dang, I hate it when he's right.

You'd think I would have learned my lesson after the early days of the blog, when I was accused of portraying both Flunky and G'ovich, my two best friends in college, as bad guys*. Of course, G'ovich enjoyed playing the role of villain, even cultivating it in his guest blog post many moons ago, and I was more than happy to oblige the Eeeeeeeeevil one by portraying him as my arch-nemesis, but it still bothered me that my tongue-in-cheek joking had been construed as accurate representations of them. I addressed this in a couple of posts back in October of '05**:

CoIM is based on reality, of that there is no doubt. The people are real, the relationships are real, and the situations are real, at least up to a point. And that point is represented by my role as editor. I tend towards hyperbole and superlatives at the best of times in everyday life; when it comes to flexing my creative muscles, you can increase that hyperbolic tendency by at least a factor of a gazillion, easily . . . If you read my ramblings and think they give you a 100% accurate picture of my friends and family, may I first please slap you upside the back of your head for being so dense before directing your attention to my earlier statements about my tendencies towards hyperbole. I fall into patterns when joking around with people in real life, and those patterns get magnified by a magnitude of at least 2 gazillion when I sit down at the keyboard. I ascribe sinister motives to all of G’ovich’s actions not because I think he’s the embodiment of evil, but because it amuses me to do so. Nor do 99% of the jokes at St. Flunky’s expense have any basis in reality beyond my need for a cheap joke. . . I do worry at times that these exaggerated portrayals might alienate their subjects; if there’s one thing that can’t be over-exaggerated, it’s my tendency to worry needlessly and read too much into simple behavior. But I also sometimes have trouble knowing when enough is enough, getting caught up in the moment and not realizing that I’ve crossed that line between all-in-good-fun and ticking-people-off. I would hope that anyone mentioned here would know it was all meant in jest, but of course, even the most innocent-intentioned jests can cut like a knife if they stray too near an open wound of the psychological variety.
Now, here we are, a year and a half later, and I'm still falling into the same trap, carrying my back-and-forth with PigPen in the real world over to the blogging world, totally forgetting that some blog monkeys, having never seen PigPen and me interact, would miss the true intent of my posts. People see me talking about the jabs he takes at me, and don't seem to key in on the jabs I'm taking at him in turn.

The problem is that, for the most part, I write the blog to entertain, and I find those times when PigPen has gotten the better of me much more entertaining to relate than the times he's just been a good guy, patiently putting up with my crap. When I post a story about him mocking me, it's not an actual attempt to play the martyr, saying "Oh, poor pitiful me, being bullied by the mean old PigPen," even if that's how I coach it; no, it's really me saying "Dang, he got me good that time, gotta share that with everyone . . . and maybe I'll just take a couple of pot shots at him while I'm at it." It's admiration for his Doc-like ability to zing me (as well as a desire to zing him back) that drives such posts -- not anger. Plus, as Diva said to me, it's always fun to have an arch-nemesis to write about, and since I rarely see or talk to G'ovich, I needed somebody to fill the slot; who better than the nearest Doc analogue with a penchant for keeping me on my toes?

Now, I will admit to having one highly passive-aggressive post tinged with bitterness which was written during one of the few times PigPen managed to tick me off (as well as its only-slightly-less-bitter-but-you-can-hardly-tell-from-my-writing-but-trust-me-it-is follow-up); I have to think that it's part of what colored some people's perceptions of him, which is too bad, since it was me working out my bad mood by venting about what was really an isolated incident in my typically hyperbolic way. Not too long afterward we talked about it; we explained where each of us was coming from; he declared that his new mission was to help me break free of my negative self-image; we shook hands and called it good. And if my running off at the mouth online instead of addressing the problem head on is what caused some folk to view PigPen negatively . . . well, mea culpa, my friend; mea maxima culpa.

Even when I do mention one of his positive aspects -- such as, for example, his quest to pull me out of my self-defeatist mindset and negative attitude, which is either a fool’s errand or a hero’s journey depending on your perspective -- the positivity of it gets lost in my need to make jokes, lest my posts become sodden with sappy sentimentality. But by defusing the seriousness, I wind up diffusing the positive image in turn.

So, now, here I am, stuck with a huge batch of neurosis-fueled guilt because of the fact that some people who, more than likely, will never meet PigPen face to face in their entire lives, have a less than stellar opinion of him. For most people, this would barely cause a stir; for me, it’s enough to keep me up at night, worrying because I’ve done something bad to a friend.

So, for the record, in order to clear up any confusion and to make sure I can actually get to sleep tonight:
  • PigPen is not the devil, nor is he a total jerk. What he is is a guy who lives by the motto "I wouldn't make fun of you if I didn't like you." Now, while I may be tempted at times to respond to this motto as one of the girls in the other Singles class does -- "Please, like me less, I beg of you, like me less!!!" -- the truth is that that's always been a bit of my philosophy as well, as I think huge heaping portions of CoIM (including my PigPen-centric posts) can attest.

  • PigPen does not bully me. He picks on me, true, but I pick right back; remember, the key word in the phrase "mutual antagonism" is "mutual." And, while he might totally outstrip me in all areas of athletic competition, I go into such competition with full knowledge of the gap between us, meaning I have nobody to blame for my getting my butt whupped but myself.

  • PigPen is highly competitive, which brings out the highly competitive side of myself when we play against each other; it's not always pretty, as I sometimes succumb to my temper when I'm not doing as well as I should, but more often than not PigPen reacts to this not by rubbing it in my face, but by giving me pointers and/or trying to snap me out of my self-destructive spiral. Not that it's always successful, mind you, since once I slip into the zone of negativity it's hard to escape, but the gesture is always appreciated.

  • No matter how much crap we talk about each other, no matter how often we threaten to kill each other, no matter how often we beat the heck out of each other,*** PigPen and I are friends. In fact, I consider him one of the best friends I have right now****, which means he’s one of the go-to guys for when I’m dealing with one of my existential neurotic meltdowns; if that’s not enough to win him your pity and sympathy, I don’t know what is..

So, there you go; my attempt to fight off the “PigPen is no damn good” impression I’ve apparently given so far. Only time will tell if it did any good or not, but I know I feel better.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go get some sleep; I pelted PigPen in the face with a paper projectile – totally unawares, mind you -- before he headed out for the evening, and I’m sure I’ll need all the rest I can get to weather the retribution that’s sure to come at the hand of my dear, dear friend.

*The fact that I've fallen into the same trap with describing PigPen as I did with Flunky and the Doc is interesting to me if for no other reason than I've often said that PigPen is like an amalgamation of my two old friends -- which should tell you a lot right there about why I get along with him.
**Which can be found in their entirety here and here for those of you who want a blast from the blogging past
***Okay, okay, no matter how often
he beats the heck out of me
****Which is not to be confused with being my capital-b capital-f Best Friend, which is an honor and burden bestowed upon few