There’s something you should know about me: I’m pretty disgusting. My current apartment is barely salvaged from fermenting by my brother/roommate, who seems to have surgically attached a Windex bottle to his hand. But before I moved in with him my place was a fetid Carcosa, so my mom/enabler would be on me every day about getting a cleaning lady. Every conversation had about 25 percent cleaning lady talk. When would I get one, where could I find one, and a fair amount of begging. It got to the point where I knew I was eventually going to get one (I couldn’t find one that would work for ‘Rowdy Gentleman’ t-shirts) but I just didn’t want to keep talking about it. So I made one up. I gave her a name (Marianella) and a schedule (every other Wednesday) and a cost ($50). This freed up our phone calls for actual conversation. Anytime it came up, I would just say that Marianella had come the previous Wednesday. It was great. It’s not that I was opposed to getting a cleaning lady; it’s just that it wasn’t that important to me at the time. Ironically, since I saw getting a cleaning lady as an inevitability in my life, it meant the least to me. Like a letter, stamped and addressed, needing only to be dropped in a mailbox, it sat patiently in the back of my mind.
A couple days ago, I tweeted the following:
Remember when you pretended to care about gay marriage?
— Jared Freid (@jtrain56) July 13, 2015
My buddy texted me, “do you really feel that way?” To which I replied, “yes.” So, there we were, texting back and forth, him arguing about the importance of it all. Me arguing that few people REALLY cared. Of course I support the legalization of gay marriage, just as he does. But so do nearly 75 percent of people born after 1980. It’s in this obviousness of direction in which my argument exists. Like a stamped and addressed letter waiting to be mailed, it was only a matter of time.
That doesn’t limit its importance. But allow me to put the rainbow-hued Instagram posts into perspective: If you’re a heterosexual in America under the age of 35, then you stumbled backwards onto a scale already heavily tipped in the favor of gay marriage equality. You are a product of timing, not grace. That war was won years ago by gay Americans who actually risked something. So, yeah, I have a natural aversion to the #lovewins posts by straight young Americans because they carry with them the glib, self-congratulatory, self-promotional tone that’s inherent in social media. While we all may have felt empathy, that’s mighty different than showing actual care. None of us attended the rallies. None of us wrote to Congress. It’s in the cavernous gulf between action and celebration where I hear a single echo over and over: “me…me…me.” I’m happy gay marriage is legal, but I’m happy in the way I might give a little fist pump on my couch, or clink a glass with a gay buddy. To plaster your feed with rainbows is to turn this all into a cartoon. To pretend you were more invested than you were is to cheapen its impact.
I have an actual Marianella now. Her name is Bebe. She comes every other Tuesday. I’ve vowed to keep things a little cleaner. (I’ve also vowed to stop racially stereotyping my fictional maids.) It feels good to have the thing done; to have the maid hired, the mail sent, the conversation with my mother finally honest. I’m glad we are where we are. It’s satisfying, but it’s not surprising
But satisfaction and triumph don’t deserve the same response.
Life can be full of real pain; and there’s a difference between empathy and care. Let’s not confuse them..
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