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Tuesday, June 29, 2004


PREOCCUPATION HAZARD
Submitted by Richard Banks

Lackadasia Individuals suffering from this anxiety disorder experience unreasonable irritation or anxiety in connection with exposure to social situations involving contact with people they know or who they expect may attempt to make contact with them and because of this avoid such situations whenever possible.

Diagnostic criteria for 86.1-100 Lackadasia (cautionary statement)

A. A marked and persistent annoyance at (or over) one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to familiar people, particularly siblings, neighbors, or significant others. The individual imagines idealized social interactions at a time and place of their own choosing, and becomes irritable and distant when others initiate social contact. This irritability may or may not coincide with ennui and drowsiness. The individual may fail to take routine actions such as answering the telephone or responding to email.

B. Exposure to the dreaded social situation almost invariably provokes anxiety, which may take the form of a situationally bound or situationally predisposed Self-Loathing Attack. Note: In children, the anxiety may be expressed by crying, tantrums, freezing, or shrinking from social situations with teams, dens, troops, classes, or clubs.

C. The person recognizes that the annoyance is excessive or unreasonable, and this awareness may or may not lead to a recursive cycling of the self-loathing ideation. Preoccupation with the perceived condition may mask other self-involved preoccupations and narcissistic behaviors. Note: In children, this feature may be absent.

D. The annoying social or performance situations are avoided or else are endured with intense anxiety or distress. The individual may or may not use people, communication media, and activities to buffer or excuse emotionally distant behavior. Avoidance may take the form of procrastination, lame excuses, feigned illnesses or infrequent blog entries. Completed social interactions may be focused on the avoidant behavior.

E. The avoidance, anxious anticipation, or distress in the annoying social or performance situation(s) interferes significantly with the person's normal routine, occupational (academic) functioning, or social activities or relationships, or there is marked distress about having the phobia. Or not.

F. In individuals under age 18 years, the duration is at least 6 months.

G. The avoidance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition and is not better accounted for by another mental disorder (e.g., Panic Disorder With or Without Agoraphobia, Separation Anxiety Disorder, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, a Pervasive Developmental Disorder, or Schizoid Personality Disorder. However, self medicating to compensate for acute symptomology may be present. And indicated.

H. If a general medical condition or another mental disorder is present, the annoyance in Criterion A may be related to it, e.g., the annoyance may be manifested in sniping, sarcasm, and cursing in Tourette's disease, or exhibiting abnormal eating behavior in Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, or compulsively ordering in pizza. Specify if: Generalized: if the annoyance and ennui include most social situations (also consider the additional diagnosis of Avoidant Personality Disorder).

11:03 AM

Sunday, June 27, 2004


LACKING DAISIES

Why isn't there a term to describe the socially lazy? While we're often mistaken for misanthropes, sociopaths, or antisocial freaks, we really don't have an excessive amount of contempt for humankind. We're not shy. We're not afraid. We're avoidant, yes, but only because we're hassle-averse. We don't want to be bothered. Like Bartleby, we'd prefer not to.

When the phone rings, we're overcome by a drowsy feeling. We can barely lift the phone from the receiver. Even when we discover that it's not a marketer on the line, even when we find that it's an old friend, we feel exhausted nonetheless. We can barely muster the vaguest tone of enthusiasm, even if we love our old friend, even if we would be happy to chat with him/her any other time - a time of our choosing. Perhaps after drinking 32 oz. of strong coffee on a Friday afternoon. Later, though. Some other time. Not now. Now belongs to a deadline, a to-do list, or some vital act of procrastination.

We, the socially lazy, worry a lot. We worry about our intense displeasure at the slightest hassle. We worry about our ability to be good friends, to be good parents. How will we endure the endless interruptions that children will bring to our lives? What the fuck is our problem?

We worry even more once we pair up with a socially energetic, relentlessly optimistic puppy dog of a partner, as we so often do. We're not stupid. We know that we need a shiny, happy person to light up our lives, to bring a bright spark to our dark little hidey holes. To dust off our musty corners. To suggest that we pick up the phone occasionally. To encourage us to see a summer blockbuster or two. To hold forth on the joys of family at great length. To pick up the Thai take-out we just ordered.

My boyfriend answers the phone with a joyful voice, like he just can't wait to discover who's calling. He answers his cell phone with the same happy voice, every time it rings, no matter what we're doing. I don't answer my cell phone at all. I don't even check my cell phone messages.

But my boyfriend doesn't just answer his cell phone. He listens. He asks questions. He chats enthusiastically, aimlessly, cheerfully, until I give him the hand gesture which indicates that he should get the fuck off the phone because the movie's about to start or the entree is about to arrive or I'm about to get very irritated, at which point he takes 5 more minutes to wind things up.

While we're in the car or at a restaurant and my boyfriend's on his cell phone, chatting happily, I like to use that time to hate myself for being socially lazy. I like to listen to the pleasing tone of his voice, the enthusiasm of his questions, and denigrate myself for my comparative lack of affect, for my relatively drippy delivery. While this likable, lovely man offers polite, satisfying conversation to whomever might call, I offer my friends and family, at best, a few weak questions, followed by a bit of self-involved droning. Once I get warmed up, of course, I can talk for hours, but for the first ten minutes, I'm a wet rag.

By the time my boyfriend gets off his cell phone, I'm annoyed in proportion to how long the phone call lasted, not because I think he shouldn't have long conversations, but because, when he talks for twenty minutes, that's twenty minutes I spent flogging myself for being such a negative asshole in comparison to the bright bundle of motherfucking joy sitting next to me.

Not surprisingly, when my friends call, they're thrilled if my boyfriend answers. They'd vastly prefer to talk with him, which they'll admit openly. A few have remarked that it's much more pleasant to call, now that my boyfriend usually answers. It gives them the illusion that their call is welcome, so that, by the time they hear my affectless drone, they're surrounded by a cordial glow that protects them from my poisonous apathy. Once, when a friend needed directions somewhere, she called my boyfriend instead of me, knowing that he'd be glad to help her, that getting directions for him would be an agreeable experience.

The only exception is when my friends are depressed and desperately need to talk to someone who'll understand, in which case Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky's voice alone is enough to make them burst into tears. When the going gets tough, I'm the best choice, ready and willing to drop everything and talk for decades. If your voicemail is teary-sounding, I'll call immediately (Unless you call my cell. I don't check my cell.) If you email me, I'll write back quickly, particularly if you're in a terrible mood and have a voracious appetite for indiscriminate griping. But I'm only the preferred choice when the stakes are high and you're looking for someone to dice apart your troubles like a manic sous chef.

Otherwise, I'm preoccupied. It's this working-at-home bullshit, I think, that's turned me into such a precious hot-house fuckwad. Or maybe it's the lethargy that comes with growing old. Clearly I just need to ENTER THE NOW. If only ENTERING THE NOW didn't so often go hand in hand with missing deadlines.

Anyway, I think that we, the socially lazy, really need to start a movement to get social laziness included under personality disorders listed in the DSM-V. "Lackadaisia" has a nice ring to it...

2:01 PM

Friday, June 25, 2004


A COMEDY TONIGHT

LA residents are in luck! The best show yet by The Ministry of Unknown Science has been extended through this weekend. Want to see an unconventional comedy at an unconventional location? Reserve your seats now for shows tonight and tomorrow night. Show up early and have a beer at Barbara's at the Brewery, which is right next door. Just don't drink so much that you miss the first scene, which features a quartet of opera-singing balls.

3:31 PM

Thursday, June 10, 2004


ACTION, I GOT SO MUCH TO GIVE

I want to give it, I want to get some, too. Ohh I, Ohhh I, Ohhhh I...

I know you. You're sitting there, with your lukewarm morning coffee, and you're thinking about what a mess the world is today. You're thinking about what a flailing, unapologetic, catastrophically arrogant chump our president is. You don't like to get into political discussions at work, because that's awkward, but privately, you feel extremely agitated every time you so much as look at the chump, or hear even the smallest snippet of what he has to say.

Don't you think it's time to come out of the closet? I was just thinking about President Chumpy when a friend sent me this link to action4election.org, a little pocket of nice people trying to give the chump the boot.

I know that, like acid wash jeans and mullets, the chump is too obviously distasteful to even gripe about, but more of us need to gripe, and gripe loudly. Make it a point to mention to an acquaintance that you disapprove of the job chumpy is doing at least once a week. You don't need to argue, just let your opinion be heard.

The chump will go down in history as an utter disaster. I remember the look my dad used to get when I mentioned that he voted for Nixon. Do you want your kids to know that you did nothing to stop the chump?

9:50 AM

Wednesday, June 09, 2004


SIX FEET, FOUR SEASONS

Excited about this Sunday's premiere of "Six Feet Under"? You should be. Here's last year's review. I love this fucking show.

In unrelated news, why do people leave the house wearing a wall of flowery stank so strong it knocks down everyone within ten square feet? We don't want your stank stankin' up the joint, you smelly freak! Go home and shower that stench off your over-primped body, you high-maintenance whore donkey!

10:15 AM

Saturday, June 05, 2004


EVERYBODY LOVES REAGAN

When I was a senior in high school, my grandmother started to lose her memory, so she moved in with me and my mom. She was pretty easy going generally, but whenever Reagan came on TV, she'd say, "Who is that idiot?"

"That's the president," my mom would say.

"Really?"

"Yeah. You two are the exact same age."

"My goodness. I'm that old?"

"Yep."

"He looks like he's lying through his teeth!"

My grandmother couldn't remember much, but she was still pretty sharp. Reagan outlived her by over ten years.

6:50 PM

Thursday, June 03, 2004


FREEDOM'S JUST ANOTHER WORD FOR NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE

To: The Enemies of Freedom

From: Rabbit

Subject: What's your problem anyway?

It has recently come to my attention that some of you out there are against freedom. What the hell is your beef with freedom? Everyone knows freedom is the best. Here in the land of the free (and the brave), there are lots of options available to us. We can choose which brand of fruit roll-up to put in our little rabbits' lunches, for example. We can choose to run our sprinklers all day long, to ensure that our lawns stay green and pretty throughout the summer. We're free! We can feed our little doggies leftover filet mignon from Outback, in honor of Miss Australia winning the Miss Universe contest. We can purchase expensive furniture with our credit cards, because we deserve it. We can surf the internet (the world wide web) every day at work instead of actually working, as long as our bosses aren't within spitting distance. We can spit at our bosses, as long as they don't actually notice. Even if they notice, we can still spit at them, as long as we don't mind getting fired. We're brave! Once we're fired, we can loll around the house doing nothing, just waiting for the unemployment checks to arrive in the mail. We can buy more stuff to make us feel better about losing our jobs. We can blow off all our friends if we don't feel like seeing them. We can stay at home and sink into a funk, if we feel like it. We can blow off all our engagements and appointments, even that appointment with unemployment, which is pesky and pointless anyway, even though it means the checks will stop showing up in our mailboxes. We can ignore our credit card bills. We can drink to excess. We can stop showering. We can call our friends, weeping, then accuse them of not having enough patience or love for us. We can default on our mortgages. We can sit on the front lawn, which is a lovely deep green color now, as officials of some sort auction off our house. We can tie our little doggie to a shopping cart while we sift through the dumpster outside Stony Point Grill. We can drink Wild Turkey and vomit up the hot dog we ate for breakfast. We can die in an unruly heap outside the Mobil station, with our shopping cart filled with odds and ends and our little doggie tied to it, and our little doggie can end up being euthanized at a local animal control facility.

Or, we can choose not to run the sprinklers all day or buy furniture we can't afford or use credit cards or spit on our bosses or drink too much or blow everything off or pity ourselves for no good reason. We're free to live within our means, to save up most of our money to pay the vet, the health insurance, the car insurance, the homeowner's insurance, the property tax bill, the dentist, the doctor, the electrician, the plumber, the phone company, the mortgage, the satellite TV company, the cell phone company, the internet service company, the electrical bill, the water bill, and the rest. We can live a safe, conventional life. We can be reasonable. We can appreciate the good and try not to focus on the bad. We're not very brave, and not really all that free most of the time, but we could be, if we wanted to. We have choices!

Why are you, The Enemies of Freedom, against choices? Don't you want to be free like us? What's your fucking problem, Enemies of Freedom? What's wrong with you? What's your goddamn problem anyway? What's your fucking beef with freedom?

Rabbit

1:27 PM

Tuesday, June 01, 2004


RED LAWN

Dear Rabbit,

My brain is turning to Jello. What should I do about this?

I also think that lawn gnomes are plotting against me. I see them everywhere, and they always seem to be staring at me.

Perhaps I shouldn't have had that last meatball.

Kevin Hughes



Dear Kevin,

It's true, you shouldn't have had that last meatball. It contained a probe designed by the conspiring lawn gnomes, or technically, Lawn Gnomes Against White Urban Professional Males. You see, lawn gnomes have, for years, suffered the oppressive stares of white urban professional males in silence, not wanting to bite the hand that feeds. One day, an elite marionette escaped from an elderly matron's home in Pasadena and organized the lawn gnomes nationwide. Although he was not, technically, one of them, the marionette had spent 20 years in the matron's library, slogging through The Communist Manifesto and other seminal texts, and recognized that the gnomes were inhabitants of primarily lower-middle-class neighborhoods, and could, therefore, safely conspire against upper-middle-class professionals without feeling that they were striking out against their keepers.

And even if they did hurt their own keepers, the marionette told the gnomes, aren't all landowners just a part of the modern urban serfdom, the high capitalist patriarchy we each tolerate without question, kneeling on our little stools, gazing into the middle distance as petunias tickle our elbows? Fuck the man, with his high-nitrogen lawn fertilizers that make our little gnome eyes sting! Fuck him, with his incessant wasteful watering, and his army of poorly paid Mexican immigrants, armed with angry leaf blowers that burn fossil fuels and pollute the environment! Fuck him with his enormous car, big enough to provide shelter for a small community of gnomes! That's right! An entire community of gnomes could flourish in his car! A community of mobile gnomes!

The marionette was a rousing speaker, indeed. And although the gnomes didn't really understand the part about urban serfdoms and high capitalism and patriarchs, they did really like the idea of mobile gnomes. They'd always felt something was missing from their lives, something vague and difficult to put into words. Maybe the real crime of modern life was that gnomes were no longer mobile! Gnomes ought to be mobile, after all! In days of old, gnomes roamed the land freely! No one is sure, but they probably did. Anyway, they didn't merely sit on toadstools for weeks, months, years without so much as a stroll around the neighborhood!

The marionette wasn't pleased with this Mobile Gnome Initiative, and he came to regret mentioning that part about the SUV housing a whole herd of gnomes. The gnomes were to rise up and take down the man first, then they could roam freely! But the gnomes disagreed, so he broke with them and concentrated his energies on his speaking tour, which brought in astronomical fees and freed up more of his time for acting classes. Acting was his true passion, after all - all of this proletariat shit was just a sideline gig.

At any rate, Kevin, I'm guessing you have some variety of SUV in your driveway, which is why the gnomes fed you that meatball with the probe in it. The first reported symptoms of the probe include nausea, dizziness, and a feeling that one's brain is "turning to Jello."

Soon, I'm afraid, the probe will control your brain. Using a small laptop, the gnomes will program you to drive them across the country this summer (their preferred touring season), stopping occasionally at historical landmarks and Dairy Queens. The gnomes enjoy Southern Utah in particular, and are often spotted on some of the lower-impact hikes in Bryce Canyon and at Arches National Park.

If you wake up in a few weeks in a Dairy Queen in Iowa with some chocolate-dipped cones and chili-cheese fries in your hands, far more than you can reasonably consume by yourself, you'll know that it's over, that the gnomes have won.

Best of luck!

Rabbit

2:03 PM



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staff writer at salon.com, co-creator of filler, author of the memoir disaster preparedness due from riverhead press in fall 2010


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