Saturday, February 8, 2020

The Delectable Opportunity to Finally Be The Asshole You'd Always Aspired to Be

I have an old musician friend who was always extremely talented. He knew it, we all knew it, but he was a nice, normal guy - though he worked so seldom that I sometimes had to house and feed him. I lost track of him during the Chowhound madness, and he'd gotten a bit famous. I gave him a call and we made plans to grab a beer, but he, awkwardly and apologetically, asked me not to also come to his gig the same night. Other childhood friends, he explained, had shown up at gigs and behaved poorly, embarrassing him. Really, that scenario just never works out well. (we actually knew each other in our 20s, when I was a busy and well-regarded player, but he seemed to recall that as his chrysalis period, before the dawn of Real Time.)

I bought a painting once from a student painter, seeing something in his work. He was quite a down-to-earth nice guy. A year later, he won a young artist prize, and immediately transformed into a sneering arrogant lout.

An old friend who's been a respected amateur in a certain field went pro three days ago, to no particular acclaim (it takes time). I complemented his first professional effort, and he aloofly ignored me, like I was a stranger complimenting Beyonce for her singing. Later in the same conversation, he informed me that "I don't make mistakes."

This is not an unknown phenomenon, of course. What's surprising is the instantaneity. I came in late on my musician friend's lofty ascendance, so I didn't track it in real time, but the painter and the amateur-gone-pro transformed in a flash upon the slimmest achievement. I'd always assumed people got high-and-mighty via accretion over time.

I also got the distinct impression that they'd been waiting for it. Not for the success, or the validation, but for the opportunity to be assholes. They'd been assholes-in-waiting the whole time, and seized upon the first excuse to become That Person. In fact, the painter's hardly produced anything new in years. I suppose he got what he wanted.

My dad owned and ran an auto parts store with two partners, one of whom, "Bernie", was older. I remember my father saying that Bernie would soon reach a stage in life where he could sit in the back room at a nice desk, working less and worrying less. Count the money, kibbitz with visiting salesmen, etc. He said this with a cherishing look in his eye, which surprised me, because I never realized he thought so highly of Bernie.

Turned out, he didn't. Rather, he was cherishing his own fantasy. Bernie died, my father got older, and, yup, he lorded over the back room at a nice desk, working less and worrying less, counting money and kibbitzing with visiting salesmen, as he'd envisioned all along. Finally, he'd blossomed into his true self. Meanwhile, his surviving partner - and younger partners they'd brought in - struggled to hold up disproportionate shares of workload. I suspect that was part of his glee.

See "Mike Tyson Goes Into a Bar" for more confused delusions of self-elevation. Oh, and don't miss "Cringeworthy Displays of Status".

1 comment:

Display Name said...

Nice meaty post to dig into today Jim. You see some flaws in your dad which is way cool. I know people who don't get to this stage much, maybe out of a misguided sense of loyalty. I wonder if the behavior you are describing could also help explain NRE? My one friend fell in love and became a couple for a brief time. We both hung out in the cafeteria of a community college. And he would not even look at me. I had no idea of this change in his status and he was furious that I had dared to call his cell phone while he was on a Date. He really wanted to be in a serious relationship. He got a break up call on his birthday and that was the end of New Relationship Energy. He wanted to spend hours complaining to me about how badly he was hurt. I was pretty much shut the f up but I still played magic with him in the cafeteria. Couples can be terrifying.

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