Through Al Bundy’s Eyes

Often, especially in the stank heat of summer, and the soul killing dead of winter New York can be pretty fucking miserable. It often makes one question their reasons for living here. BUt as soon as you think about leaving that old fucking phrase creeps into your head about how if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. And no one wants to admit they can only make it in Cincinnatti, Ohio, or Bakersfield, CA, or in their mom’s garage-cum-bachelor pad. But for a fleeting moment, let’s deal in reality. The only ones who “make it” i.e. sick job, nice house and the disposable income to enjoy what makes this the greatest city on earth, are lumped into two categories. The main is , of course, the Earnest Strivers. Collard shirted, gym enthusiastic Ivy League alums, the ES works long hours, gets loads of shit from his bosses, does mounds of blow in his few free hours, when he’s not stuffing sweaty singles into a strippers G-string, and generally wastes his youth chasing a partnership/VP ship/ promotion etc, which when he finally achieve will utterly consume whats left of his life sucking his very will to live and leaving him ruing the day he graduated from Duke.

The other kind of person who can “make it”h ere is the Lucky Creative. The Lucky Creative’s lot is similar to the Earnest Striver, but she treads a far less painful path. The Lucky Creative’s skill set is being relevant in the right place at the right time–having a decent record collection,  making clever wisecracks about popular culture, having the knack for marking retarded rain boots look cool, and generally coasting on the fact that your own personal tastes happen to match the fevered breath of the city’s zeitgeist. This is not to say that the Lucky Creative is without talent; the tragedy more often lies in the face that the talent in question actually exists in about 100-1,000 other citizens of the city who must go around with balled fists of frustration when the Chosen One’s name is mentioned.

There is of course, a 3rd category, the trust fund baby. The child who through his parents financial successes has managed to throw their money at a vague outline of what his or her personal goals are, to varying degrees of success, without having to sacrifice his livelihood, pay rent or know actual stress by ever getting a real job. Trust Fund Babies don’t count as real people, so neither will their exploits count as real accomplishments or failures.

Those of us who haven’t attained the level of personal/financial success (yet!) of our first two categories, are destined to sweat it out, (often literally), in our tedious jobs, tiny sweatbox apartments, eating ramen and watching Top chef through binoculars gazing into the apartment across the street whose inhabitants actually could afford to pay their cable bill.

“How did this happen?” I wondered one evening, savoring the last few bites of the $8 burrito that counted as dinner and watching old Jodeci videos on YouTube in my flatscreen-less apartment in Brooklyn. If my sixteen year-old self had walked in at that moment she would slap me in the face with her Kate Spade bag and look disgustedly around while applying some Bonne Bell pink abomination to her lips.

You see, my plan was, by the age of 28 to have a sick magazine editorship, a loft apartment in SoHo (or a comparably chic neighborhood) and some sort of absurdly wealthy suit-wearing boyfriend. THe idea was that I would swan into work in the morning, pushing my expensive sunglasses up unto my hair as I swept past my portly, unfortunately garbed, outer-borough dwelling assistant who would look wistfully up as my Hermes bag passed her field of vision. Ensconced in my all-white office, I would begin a day of phone calls, business lunches, more phone calls and yelling at people to bring me stuff.

That’s not quite the case today. Yes, a huge part of that has to do with changing priorities and values. My adult self is far less enamored of these televisual trappings than the 16 year old suburban-Jew-princess that I used to be was. I’m happy in my life. I wouldnt trade my awesome t shirt and facial hair boyfriend for a million suited assholes and I don’t even really ever want to be in an office again, let alone have my own. But it still never ceases to amaze me, how what I expected adulthood to look like falls so far from what it actually turned into.

The problem? Meg Ryan.

Cute, professional, and with a job that never seemed to interfere with her socializing, Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally was the personification of urban living. A smart woman with a great job as a jounalist, smart friends and beautiful apartments. She wasnt some heiress, or CEO, she was just a regular woman, the movie told me. Dealing with relationships the way I inevitably would. Meg Ryan in virtually all future film incarnations was the same. Different city, different hairstlye, same basic tropes that led me to believe I would somehow find myself at 28 living in an absurdly spacious, Pottery Barn-ed out apartment wearing lots of cashmere and bemoaning my single status on the most comfortable of couches.

Sex and the City is often taking to task for presenting an unrealistic view of the New York single woman, but most romantic comedies since Manhattan have done the very same thing. Even when an “alternative” type enters the scene, rarely does she live in anything less than a sprawling loft albeit in walkup building with someowhat grungy hallway.

The solution: Married, with Children Had my mother allowed me to watch Roseanne, or Married, with Children things might have been different. I would probably have lived a similar life, not really much of an Earnest Striver, and as yet an Unlucky Creative, but my current fate would have instead seemed courageous. A low paying job, a boyfriend AND a walk-up apartment?

In Lanford, Illinois , that’s having it all.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Through Al Bundy’s Eyes

  1. cocobuchanan

    As I’ve mentioned before to you, Stella, in a crazy coincidence, my mom ALSO didn’t allow me to watch Married with Children OR Roseanne growing up. She thought Married with Children was innappropriate because of all the sex jokes and found Roseanne especially vulgar overall, as a person. Though true, I feel like it made me too much of a priss. This reminds me of something my roommate said recently: “Aren’t you glad your parents listened to jazz while you were growing up instead of, like, Bon Jovi? I think it’s made us better people…and by better people, I mean snobs.” Snobs with nothing to be snobby about, that is.

  2. Joe Rice

    Yeah, those shows were verbotten in the Rice household as well. Actually so was Three’s Company . . .you have no idea how many hijinks I could have avoided if I knew how pretending to be gay solved everything.

    There’s something to be said for those of us that grew up in the prosperous (economically, at least) 80s and 90s, raised by folks who rebelled against their parents and thought that every dream was attainable. Here we are, in adulthood, vague dreamers without the work ethic of our grandparents or the economic boom of our parents.

  3. boomer_peterson

    1st note:

    “Meg Ryan, Movie Star? I’ll be the judge of that!”

    2nd:

    In my personal experience of Landford it’s: a low paying job (and generally part-time since living here costs nothing so, you know, give yourself the time to write your novel/paint your dreams/knit your Mario scarf), no boyfriend (your choices cut down pretty much to either: meth-friendly/tooth-impaired or STES [that’s Small Town Earnest Striver]), and a rental with a backyard for barbecues and beer-drinking.

    But otherwise: exactly right.

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