Thursday, June 23, 2016

Another Trainwreck

Here it is. Another episode about the lives and loves of those who read the Ask Polly column. It’s another sad story from someone who reads Polly religiously, takes her writings seriously and even has a dumbass therapist adding to her misery.

One would say that it feels like the blind leading the blind but that would be insulting to the visually challenged. It reads more like a whine-a-thon, where Polly and the woman who calls herself Trainwreck are competing to see who can whine the best and the most.

(Before proceeding, I will mention that the movie called “Trainwreck,” written and starred in by one Amy Schumer is far better than I had expected. It’s a well-constructed romantic comedy and follows the rules of the genre fairly closely. Whatever you think of Schumer’s jejune political opinions, she has put together a good story. And that is a very difficult thing to do. She deserves considerable credit.)

In the meantime, Ask Polly’s letter writer—Trainwreck—is a needy, whiny hookup artist. She hooks up with men who tell her that they do not want  relationships and then convinces herself that she is in love.. Worse yet, she convinces herself that he really loves her. She opens her heart and soul, sharing her deepest secrets, only to be rejected because she is too much for a man. Her whining is obviously oppressive, but she cannot see it.

Apparently, Trainwreck believes that if Amy Schumer can transform hooking up into true love in a movie that other people should be able to do it in real life. Someone ought to explain to her the difference between movies and real life.

On this point, Polly is on the mark. After whining on about her own life and her own foibles—because we have not heard enough about that—Polly gets to the point:

So stop asking for water and then pretending it’s wine. Ask for wine. And if your wine tastes like water, send that shit back! Don’t pretend that you didn’t want wine in the first place. DON’T FUCK THE DUDE WITH THE WATER AND THEN TELL HIM ALL YOUR SECRETS. 

Yes, I recognize that the expression is infelicitous. The trope does not work. But, when reading Ask Polly you take the precious few nuggets of wisdom when and where you can find them.

Of course, Polly wants Trainwreck to give herself a pep talk, to be a cheerleader… because she deserves love. No one really knows what that means, but Trainwreck is acting like she does not deserve much of anything.

One feels constrained to note that in the Amy Schumer opus, the heroine becomes a cheerleader at the end, but a cheerleader for the man she loves, not for herself.

Points for Amy. Demerits for Polly.

Outside of the world of romantic comedy, hookups with men who tell you they do not want relationships rarely turn out well. Trainwreck laments her own condition:

Our semi-relationship started from the ashes of the last one, six months ago. I was looking for a quick hookup in a city I was visiting to numb the pain of being rejected, and what started as a casual flirtation quickly evolved into a long-distance “romantic friendship” (?).

I told him all my secrets, things I had never told anyone, and he kept asking questions. He seemed more interested in me, like, as a person, than anyone ever has before.

We shared a lot of intimate things and a lot of silly things, jokes and opinions and stories and ideas. He told me from the start he could never have a real relationship, with me or with anyone. I thought that was okay because he was far away and I am moving even farther in a few months, and so really in the long run I never thought about us “ending up together.” I guess I thought that I was doing okay at not taking things too seriously. Still, in the short term, we ended up very close.

To which her idiot therapist tells her that she tends to fall in love with unavailable men. The problem is that she fucks men she does not know and then, when she feels the inevitable oxytocin rush, decides that she is in love—as though that is the ultimate arbiter of her relationship. She is being led around by heart and loins. All of those Ask Polly columns have put her mind to sleep.

By opening herself to him, and failing to notice that he is not reciprocating, Trainwreck goes off the rails. He probably sees her as a good lay, one who has the added virtue of living in another city. She, like a normal woman, does not want to be reduced to a courtesan. She seems to prefer becoming something like a wife. To be fair, neither Trainwreck, her therapist nor Polly have any awareness about this point.

Whatever flicker might have been ignited by their hookups, Trainwreck does not understand that coming across as needy and desperate does not attract men. It is a price exacted for the hookup and after a time the price appears too high. Whatever they are discussing she keeps bringing it around to his feelings. She harasses him, hectors him and interrogates him:

Today we were meant to have a short talk to make plans. It started that way. But he had been so fickle that I wanted to make sure it was a good idea for both of us. So I asked questions. I asked if he was sure, and if he thought it was really a good idea, and if he cared about me. He said he was sure and that he cared about me. Then he said he never wanted to talk about if he cared about me again.

What kind of a fool does not know that whining about feelings is a major turnoff? Apparently, Trainwreck is on that list. So are her therapist and Polly. While Polly is right about what this woman should not be doing, she encourages the woman’s bad habit of opening her mind and heart to her latest hookup.

From the depths of her anguish, Trainwreck asks this question:

I guess my real question is this: Am I really that bad? What am I supposed to do? I feel like maybe I could have hidden my doubts and worries and kept it light and fun and I could have finally gotten what I wanted. But part of me doesn’t want to do that. I wanted something real. And we had always talked about things like that before and he had been very empathetic toward me, seeming like he was self-aware and very attuned to the kind of person I was … but now he’s just tired of me.

No, she is not bad. But she is very badly advised. She is a victim of the therapy culture.

The paragraph fascinates. Trainwreck refuses to play a little coy, keep her head on her shoulders and not let herself be led around by her emotions… because she believes that exercising some intelligence, making a plan, sticking to the plan, developing a strategy that is slightly more thought out than dropping her pants for the next cute guy, all of that would be unreal.

Wherever did she learn that getting what she wants would be unreal? Probably from a therapy culture that mindlessly insists that people be open, honest and shameless. I have been inveighing against this bad advice for many years now. Trainwreck should have paid attention.

In truth, and in experience, women who set their minds to the task are enormously competent in matters of love and romance. They have a home field advantage. If they are intelligent about it, they can usually maneuver a situation in order to get what they want. In the case of Trainwreck what is called liberation has liberated women from their minds and made them into bundles of inchoate emotions.

Note the way Trainwreck describes her lost love: he was empathetic and self-aware. This is girl talk. She does not see him as a man, but as a chick with a dick. She has nothing to say about what he does in this world. She does not say whether he is successful or unsuccessful. She does not even mention his age. In short, she has nothing relevant to say about him as a man and she does not understand why he feels suffocated by her. We applaud him for escaping.

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