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The Critic

June 28, 2011

As I explained in my previous post, I take online dating very seriously, and that means that I take the creation of my profile seriously.  That’s not to say I am satisfied with my profile; after all, the whole point of this journal is that it takes an awful lot for me to be satisfied.  However, it does mean that virtually everything in my profile is essential to understanding who I am.  I could write an entire essay on just about every line in my profile.  And, since my goal for this journal is to provide as complete a representation of myself as possible, that is exactly what I intend to do.

 

I’ll start with the first line: “I love being around people but spend a lot of time alone.”

 

—–

 

This line reminds me of the scene from the movie Ratatouille in which the food critic Anton Ego makes his first appearance.  Anton tells Linguini, “You’re slow for someone in the fast lane,” to which Linguini retorts, “And you’re thin for someone who likes food.”  Anton’s response is one of my favorite lines from the movie because of the creepiness with which it is delivered: “I don’t LIKE food.  I LOVE it.  If I don’t love it, I don’t SWALLOW.”

 

Such is the paradox of elitism.  To casual food lovers, Anton Ego’s slender figure seems to directly contradict his love for food.  In fact, however, the opposite is true: it is his love for food that makes him selective about what he eats.

 

It also reminds me of my experiences with a cappella music.  Four years ago, I was a freshman at UC Berkeley and completely new to a cappella.  Once I heard the Men’s Octet sing at a welcome week event, I was hooked.  I started going to the all of the groups’ weekly performances on Sproul Plaza every chance I got.  I probably spent upwards of three hours a week just listening to a cappella groups.  Then, over the course of my four years at Berkeley, I gradually became an a cappella expert.  I have joined a new group every year since then, and each new group has taught me more about what a good performance is.

 

These days, I don’t go to nearly as many a cappella performances as I did back then.  And when I do, I can’t stop analyzing everything I hear.  “They’re not blending very well.”  “The basses need to come out more.”  And so on.  I do sometimes miss that feeling of excitement about a cappella that I had four years ago, but the truth is, I love a cappella more now than I ever have before.  Because I’ve been exposed to so much a cappella music, it makes the experience of seeing a truly stand-out performance all the more mind-blowing.  During my last year in Artists in Resonance, for example, I wasn’t that crazy about our repertoire, and although there was a lot of talent in the group, I felt like we weren’t doing anything I hadn’t heard before.  But just a few months ago, I heard Artists in Resonance perform at the West Coast A Cappella Showcase, and the energy and spirit they brought to the stage made me remember why I love a cappella so much.  I don’t think I would have appreciated that performance nearly as much as I did if I had seen it before I knew anything about a cappella.

 

When Anton Ego finally tastes Remy’s ratatouille, despite his high standards and his low expectations, he is so profoundly affected by the experience that he drops his pen to the floor, forgetting about his review entirely.  You can say what you like about Anton Ego’s attitude, but there’s one thing you can’t deny: that guy REALLY loves food.

 

—–

 

I often feel like Anton Ego, like a critic, when I observe people.  Here in the age of information, there’s so much opportunity to interact with people.  I now have about 500 friends on Facebook, and that’s just a small fraction of the people I’ve met in college.  But the more I meet people, the more I notice how similar everyone is.

 

Have you ever thought about how constrained people’s interactions are?  Everyone does everything in a very prescribed way.  Take parties, for example.  Parties at Berkeley follow a very strict formula.  They play only one game (beer pong), drink the exact same cheap beer and vodka, and blast the same kind of shitty music.  If you’re lucky, there’ll be dancing, and you can dance in exactly the same way as everyone else–by dry humping the fuck out of your dance partner.  (God forbid anyone should learn how to dance for real).  And that’s one of our primary modes of interacting with people.

 

I could say the same about OKCupid.  I’ve gone through hundreds of profiles on QuickMatch, and I consider myself something of an aficionado when it comes to profiles.  What I’ve noticed is that the overwhelming majority of people use their profiles in exactly the same way.  I understand that what I’m doing with this journal is weird, and I can understand why people would not want to expose this much of themselves on their profiles.  But after perusing so many profiles, it’s mind-boggling to me that absolutely NO ONE uses the journal the way I do.  Why does everyone have to present information about themselves in the same superficial way?  Why does everyone seem to hate talking about themselves beyond more than a few spur-of-the-moment sentences?

 

Let me make this clear.  I consider profile creation an ART, just like cooking is an art for Anton Ego.  Someone who makes a half-assed profile is like someone who expects to become a famous singer by singing in the shower.  If you’re just doing it for fun, fine–it’s none of my business anyway.  But don’t expect me to sign you onto a major record label.  And don’t expect me to waste any more time on your profile or bother to consider you as a potential match if you’re not taking it seriously.

 

—–

 

So, as you can see, I may seem jaded and critical about people.  But, as in Anton Ego’s case, I say these things because of the depth of my love for people, not in spite of it.

 

It’s just like a cappella.  Back when I first started going to college, I was always excited to meet more people.  I thought I would never get tired of meeting people.  These days, however, I often find myself torn between my love for humanity and my boredom with my typical interactions with people, and the result of all this conflict is that I often don’t bother to go out and socialize even when the opportunity presents itself.

 

It’s not that I don’t enjoy people’s company (indeed, I suspect that notwithstanding the large population of introverts on OKCupid, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t want to spend time with people).  It’s just that after so much exposure to so many people, it’s not enough for me to just interact with the same kinds of people that I always do.  I always feel the need to be selective about my interactions, in the same way that Anton Ego is selective about the food he eats.  I ache to meet someone who challenges my preconceptions about people, someone who makes me drop my pen to the floor.

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