Jewish World Review Oct. 17, 2001 / 330 Tishrei, 5762

Ian Shoales

Ian Shoales
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Consumer Reports

Pathetic me -- I'VE been a little blue lately. I've been out of work, bills piling up, dunning calls by collectors were coming in, unpleasant yet polite greetings from various minor state and federal officials were dripping into my mailbox, my girlfriend was mad at me because that diamond ring and dream house were going to be delayed for, oh, a lifetime or so, my bank lost a check, and then wouldn't believe me when I reported it, a homeless woman accosted me at my automatic teller machine, accusing me of contributing by my very meager transaction to the low standard of wages paid to bank clerks everywhere, I totally missed out on the dotcom economic miracle-- oh, and my feet hurt.

Now, normally, I'm the jolliest of elves. I have a song in my heart-- usually something by Leonard Cohen, but hummable, you know. I tap dance through the day with a smile for everybody I meet, even though I avoid people as a rule. But I have been, I admit, sort of whiny the past two months or so.

I used to be highly critical of whiners. It's not the whining so much, as who's doing the whining. Rock stars, for instance, are very good at whining-- they have to do the kind of records record companies want them to do. You'd think that selling a zillion records would be some kind of compensation for that, but no, these guys, Adam Duritz from Counting Crows, the late Kurt Cobain, sit in their limos brooding that their lives are no longer in their control. And movie stars whining about the burdens of celebrity. I used to think, "Give me a break. Put on some sunglasses and shut up."

But I've had a change of heart. Think about it. When was the last time anybody felt sorry for you-- when your dog died, maybe, when you skun your knee on the merry go round? Sympathy is not an adult emotion, by and large. By and large, when I share my troubles with my friends and relatives, they'll say (a) well, what did you expect. (b) it's your own damn fault. (c) you think YOU'VE got troubles, let me tell you what happened to, well, me (d) I'm sorry I wasn't paying attention. (e) yeah, that's tough. Hey! Want to see a movie? (f) what am I, your mother? (g) Ian, I'm your mother, listen to me-- time to grow up.

So the lesson I've learned is that if any pity is going to be thrown in your direction, it's going to have to come from your direction. Nobody's going to feel sorry for you but you. So go ahead, indulge yourself. If not now when, if not you, who? Just leave me out of it, okay? I got my own troubles.

JWR contributor Ian Shoales is the author of, among others, Not Wet Yet: An Anthology of Commentary. Comment by clicking here.


10/08/01: War time lite
10/01/01: Confessions of a sarcastic scribe
09/11/01: The end of Mom
09/07/01: Boy Loses Girl, Boy Bites Girl, Boy Gets Girl
09/05/01: Virtual elegance?
08/28/01: Buzz!
08/23/01: Radio workout
08/20/01: I robot, you Jane
08/15/01: A wild and crazy world!
08/10/01: When the future was "as real as a dime"
08/08/01: Garage Dearth!
08/06/01: That Big Clock
08/02/01: Stop the pop!
07/31/01: Catchphrase history of the world
07/26/01: The Bride of Science
07/23/01: That java jive
07/17/01: Homogenized hegemony
07/13/01: Applying Newton's First Law of Physics to textbooks
07/10/01: The dumb and the dead

© 2001, Ian Shoales