Friday, January 23, 2009

You're So Money

Why can't we see ourselves through the eyes of others? I wonder what life would be like if we could. So often, it seems, the "me" that we see isn't the same as the "you" that is the view of the outside world.

Take, for instance, my Brit Lit Professor. I can almost guarantee that her self-image and the image she projects are not even close to parallel. Why am I so sure? Because the image she projects is that of a vaguely sinister, highly condescending research librarian who splits her time between stacks of antiquated literary tomes, her basement dungeon where she dons skin-tight leather, fishnet stockings, and thigh-high stiletto boots while wielding a cat-o-nine-tails as she forces unassuming men to submit to her will and call her "Mistress Kitty", and her blog where she coordinates the Dick Cheney Fan Club because, after the things she's made men BEG her to do to them, waterboarding could HARDLY be considered torture!

All too often, our self-image has a tendency of holding us back from the things in life that we want, and the things which we are capable of achieving. I've mentioned before how I used to see myself as basically helpless to the things which inevitably would happen to me in life. It was a sort of learned helplessness which came from years of being told, as a child by a mother who never won any awards for parenting, that men were only good for sex, and even then weren't that great half the time. I saw relationships as an economic transaction -- I had to spend something in order to get something that I wanted in return. Most of the time, I never thought I had anything of any value to spend. For some situations, I'd spend what money I had, for others I'd spend what sexual ability I had to trade, and for still others I'd trade my natural skills as a counselor. In situations where I didn't have enough money, sex wasn't a tradeable commodity, and counseling wasn't required, I had absolutely nothing to offer. Or, at least that's what I would tell myself, repeating things I'd been taught as a boy.

Of course, the world is filled with examples of people who see themselves in ways different from the objective reality. There are people who stay in abusive relationships because they don't see themselves as capable of existing independent of the other person. There are people who think that their attempts at humor are well-received when, instead, they make everyone around them uncomfortable. There are the young men and women who, after looking at fashion magazines and television and movie stars, feel as though they don't measure up to some imaginary "ideal" of appearance and must starve themselves in order to be accepted even though they were perfectly attractive to begin with, and their attempt to satisfy their self-imposed body image is what actually becomes the horror show. I wish I could tell everyone the truth of how they are REALLY seen by the people around them in a way that would actually make a difference.

I've referenced the movie Swingers before. In the movie, Trent, played by Vince Vaughn, is fond of telling Mike, played by Jon Favreau, "You're so money and you don't even know it!" By this, Trent means that Mike, a down-on-his-luck wannabe actor in LA who just broke up with his fiancee in order to pursue a career which doesn't seem to be going anywhere, has so much to offer the world if only he would wake up and see it for himself. In many ways, despite the cool veneer that Trent projects, Mike is the real deal, a guy with all the qualities that Trent can only pretend to have.

We all have something to offer the world. We all have an inherent value. I know that sometimes it is hard to believe it for ourselves, but it is true. And we don't need to go looking hard to find it, either. We just need to look at the people who really care about us: our family, our friends, our acquaintances. Would we miss any of them if they were gone? What do they offer us that we would lose if they disappeared? Isn't it feasible to believe that WE give those same things BACK to the people we care about? And if, for some reason, we don't, is there some way we can start? Because the value of our lives doesn't have to be measured in dollars, or favors, or sacrifices of ourselves that we make to hold people tight against us like glue. The value of our lives can be measured in how happy the people we care about make us, and how readily we exchange that joy.

Have fun, and keep living life... and remember that you're money, baby!

2 comments:

IM Able said...

It's interesting that you mention viewing relationships as economic transactions. I remember thinking, when reading one of your recent posts about dating women from your class, that you were describing each possible encounter (or recent encounter) in terms of an investment analysis. How much the date was compare to what might be received (attention, affection, etc) in return. I remember thinking, wow, that's so not how it works.

It isn't. The great relationships that I have had were devoid of that type of exchange. They were mutual in the sense that we instinctively gave and expected nothing in return, and never analyzed who was investing more or less. First dates seen through the lens of cost of dinner and drinks will always be a failure. Trust me on this. A first date that is simple, relaxed, and allows both people to feel comfortable is where the success is found.

Ashe said...

I certainly see what you're saying about comparing the outcome of the date to the monetary input in order to determine cost/benefit analysis. I agree that in those situations where I have had a really good time with someone it didn't matter to me how much or how little time, energy, or money was invested. I think, at least for men, it is easy to fall into the trap of comparing the date's outcome to a monetary value when the date DOESN'T go as optimally as initially hoped. If the date goes well, we figure that whatever we invested was well spent and we don't give it a second thought, but, if the date failed in some way, the gears of thought start to grind out the idea that, "Well, that was a waste of money, time, etc.!"

It would be interesting to see if women would see dating from a similar perspective if it were the social norm for women to pick up the tab more often than men. But, I definitely agree with your point that when I have had the most enjoyable times with women I have been least concerned with the economics of the situation, whether they be monetary or social economics.

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