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Apathy Girl and Other Tales

Musings of the Overly Naive Cynic

I am, for those of you anonymous interweb readers who do not know me, a BIG Death Cab for Cutie fan. Granted, I am not as into them as I once was, but that will still put me way ahead of most people. Ah, the geeky things I brag about. Name a country, I can probably tell you their system of governance. Boo-yah. I digress. Where was I? Death Cab. Ok. So there is hardly a song of theirs that I do not like, several that I love, and only about two that annoy me (sometime I will write a diatribe on Narrow Stairs, leaving out the fact that it is almost always in my car cd player) but one song that I have pondered frequently (and jacked for facebook status updates) is The Sound of Settling. There is a line that I identify with at varying levels:

My brain’s repeating
“if you’ve got an impulse let it out”
But they never make it past my mouth

Other fans or casual listeners may interpret it differently, but to me these three indie-rock lines describe perfectly a phenomenon of our generation I’ve decided to call passionless passion. Those of us who are Echo-Boomers, Gen Y-ers, whatever-ers, have, based on my totally not creepy at all social observation, seem to have a unique interaction with the world around us. Those who came before us, Generation X, the baby-boomers, they saw things. Those with fantastic memory retention might recall Khrushchev promising to ‘bury’ the United States, or Barbie being born. The first Wal-Mart went up, the Wall came down, The Wall was released. They either fought or watched Vietnam, many learned the importance of good hotel security from Nixon. There was so much, so much to care about, so much to rejoice over, so much to be enraged by. And then they got older, got married (or didn’t) and did the dirty work required to start a whole new generation: Generation Y.

Oh! That’s me! Myself, much of my generation, we did not grow up with fear. Or, not the same kind of fears. The world at large was not coming down on us. Devo, David Bowie, bad eighties rock did war with the glory of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, early-nineties grunge, and the following nerd-rock wave. We were hardly, if at all, aware of any type of war, let alone a Cold one. But we were subject to a subtle, tricky kind of abuse: we were told that we were special. Several years ago I was listening to NPR (I told you, geeky) and a brief report was done on the fact that children of the eighties often have trouble relating, working, excelling, as past generations did because we were told too often that we were special. We were told this so many times, that we could care about anything, do anything, be anything, that we seemed to have lost the ability to do anything of the above. At a young age we saw too much, MTV wasn’t just music anymore. We became cynical, almost across the board. A certain level of detachment seemed necessary just to survive.

It was especially the case for me. I was a bookish child, and that is putting it lightly. I lived every moment of every day surrounded by my own fantasy. Of life, of family, of friends, of love. It made it easy to forget about everything else, my abusive sister, my absent mother, my tired father. So I existed within a heightened world. Everything was more. As I got older, this allowed me to become an easy target. I cared about things too much. Take your pick: the environment, feminism, friends, politics, history, literature, music. It was easy to work me up, and easy for me to get hurt. I was, quite simply, a bit absurd. The older I got, the more aware of this I became, so I started to dial myself back, until it was just a few things that would work me up: stupid people, anything having to do with debate, music, and love. Now it is just music and stupid people. I became so afraid of the ridicule, the subsequent rejection, that comes with caring, that I can almost totally mask the fact that I give a damn about anything. How do I feel about God? Meh. How do I feel about Obama? Whatevs. What do I think about the oil spill? It’s all water under the slick. Am I in love? It doesn’t matter.

I allow myself the things that most people get excited about, that our entire generation is allowed, and encouraged to care about: stuff. My computer, my car, my dog (he isn’t quite stuff, but it follows) my tv, clothes, shoes, all of the crap that clutters our lives. The things that don’t make people squirm to talk about emotively. Do you love your iPad? Yes! It is the best thing ever! Do you love your Mother? Well, um, dude, she’s my Mother, wait…have you seen my iPad?! Another notch back lies our careers, the things that allow us to get the stuff that we get excited about. But it is a rare thing to find someone my age who can hold a real conversation, or will be vocal about the things they care about. Vocal meaning passionate. We hide the things we are passionate about, perhaps in order to shield them from the scrutiny of others. The rejection of their importance.

I am nowhere near enlightened. I have learned a great many things about myself. I’ve come almost full circle in my quest to be me. I know what I care about. I know who I am. I was surprised to figure out what I really do want in life. I lack execution, it is true. However, I do still subscribe to the rigors of passionless passion. The things I care about the most I rarely say anything about. I don’t share willy nilly (yes, I said it) that which I hold most important. If I have the impulse to get mad, to be sad, to declare my like for things, my love for someone, it would not dare to make it past my mouth.

And for that I kick myself (after years of yoga, I can indeed bend that way). The sound of a passionless mouth is the sound of settling. Because if you are not screaming at the top of your lungs that you hate seeing baby seals covered in oil, are you ever going to clean a car’s worth? If you aren’t willing to stand firm about your religious beliefs, do you really believe in anything? If you cannot tell the person you love that they are the only song you want to hear, how much can you really love them? Ultimately, if you are willing to hold your breath in order to not disturb the air around you, won’t you suffocate? In the long run, I don’t know. It comes down to taking a chance versus being hurt. I would discuss it with you but I can’t talk, my mouth is closed.

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