When I was six or seven, my parents put a jar on the kitchen counter and informed me that I had to put a dime in it every time I said the phrase “no fair.” At this point, I had been verbal for about five or six years, and while my first words were probably something innocuous like “Mommy” or “Can someone put some vodka in this milk bottle?”, it wasn’t long before most of what came out of my mouth was a complaint. (Understand that I was not only the younger child, but I was the sister of a girl who now, as I understand it, defends white-collar criminals. I had reason to complain.)
I still love complaining. It’s one of my favorite hobbies. You may notice that this blog is one big complaint. I’m friendless! Other people in the world own dogs and sometimes I can smell them! The possibility exists that someone might want to marry me one day and that makes me nervous! My team at work holds a semiannual session to discuss our greatest “pain points.” The last session devolved into me waving my arms and hollering “PAAAAIN!” in my best imitation of Samuel L. Jackson. It’s my favorite hour of the year because I get to participate in sixty solid minutes of unmitigated whining (although I think my manager is about one Samuel L. Jackson imitation away from getting me another no-whining jar).
Mostly, it’s because my life is actually really great. I’m stupidly privileged, more so even than most white girls my age are, and when it comes down to it, there’s actually nothing wrong with my life. But there’s nothing interesting about that. I mean, aren’t you bored by people who talk all the time about how spectacular their lives are? Sometimes I binge on blogs that are, for the most part, devotionals to the fabulous lives of the authors. Every day is a blessing. They don’t just eat food—they “enjoy” it. (This may be unique to “health” bloggers. “I enjoyed a Paleo Muffin for breakfast this morning.” Really? Because I got to work after sitting in traffic on 66 for a half hour listening to “Royals” on every channel on by XM presets and then I shoved about five chickens’ worth of eggs down my throat and now I feel like I want to vomit. I guess “I snarfed a bunch of cholesterol this morning” doesn’t have the same ring.)
For this class of writers, every batch of oatmeal, every new couch purchased, every CrossFit workout, every dog-walking adventure is a blessing. Whereas the last time I tried to build a piece of furniture on my own, I ended up basically reenacting the Kama Sutra with my 5-Tier Leaning Bookshelf and woke up the next day with bruises in weird places. Also, I burn my mouth every time I eat oatmeal because I’m 24 years old and I’m too stupid to wait for hot foods to cool down before I eat them. (See “snarfing,” above.)
I suspect that happy lifestyle bloggers are as plagued by these issues as I am, only they take the opposite tack and whitewash the details for a glossy photo finish. I understand where they’re coming from. They, like I, have so little to complain about that it’s downright shameful when we do. So they approach it by sharing the blessings in their life… whereas I approach it by sharing all the hilariously stupid things that happen to me in hopes that I can make somebody laugh.
Consider what happens to me in a given week. I could tell you in great detail about the meals I enjoyed this week and the several sparkling hours I spent in the company of family and friends. I could wax poetic about the exercise classes I attended. I could post pictures of the infinity scarf I bought today from Old Navy. But that’s spectacularly boring. The vagaries of life are dull. What I ate for dinner would be interesting only if I discovered halfway through my plate of pasta that the jar had gone moldy. (This has never happened to me, but it did happen to my 55-year-old father, who ostensibly knows better.)
You know what’s not boring? The fact that on Friday morning, my straightener overheated and fried my bangs and now—four days before I meet my new significant other’s family for the first time, I might add—I have a shock of dead hair that looks like a dish scrubber sticking out of the front of my face. That’s hilarious. Especially for everyone who isn’t me.
Mostly, what complaining helps me do is ignore the sadness in life. There was a typhoon in the Philippines and thousands of people are dead, and someone I love and admire was diagnosed with breast cancer, and there is very little meaningful action I can take about either of those realities besides sending them money and prayers, whatever those are. I feel useless and it seems disingenuous, in the face of all this tragedy, to brag about my perfect life. So instead, I try to distract myself and everyone else by telling fluffy, relatable stories about bad hair days and traffic and the weird sex noises my new neighbors make at bizarre hours.
In truth, I love my life. In my journals, the notebooks that nobody sees but me, I write about all the beautiful things in life. I have pages devoted to the joys of evenings spent with friends and what it felt like to be me on the night that the last person I kissed first kissed me. But who does that benefit but me? Nobody—so I don’t tell you about that. Nobody who visits this blog regularly wants to read about how many episodes of “The Big Bang Theory” I watched last night with my girlfriends or see pictures of the steaks my brother-in-law grilled last weekend. You want to listen to me whine about people who show up five minutes late to meetings (bastards) and my general inability to be a functional human being. It’s cathartic for me, it’s entertaining for you (um, I hope), and best of all, I’m not trying to pass off a series of photos of the salad I bought for dinner as prose.