Monday, March 5, 2012

'Why Am I Still Sitting Down Eating Cheese?' and Other Quandries

Recently, while watching Simon Amstell's stand-up show 'Do Nothing', I began subscribing to Simon's quasi-Buddhist explanation of the world: that imagining things makes them so. If you can convincingly imagine your dream situation, the universe will indeed provide it. Because the universe is effectively Amazon, where things can be arbitrarily added to your 'wishlist' without there ever being the pressure to Proceed to Checkout. Because it couldn't possibly hurt, I cautiously wrote down a list of my hopes and dreams lately. I got the big ones out of the way early.

Caroline's List of Hopes and Dreams

Become the editor of a national magazine

Write a critically acclaimed but commercially failed sit-com

Write a commercially successful yet critically unpopular chick lit novel

I stepped back from the list. God, check me out. I have goals. And ambitions! I'm Rory Gilmore, Lisa Simpson and Clarissa Explains it All. Acknowledging a game plan felt spectacular. I picked up the pen again, and tentatively added one more thing to the list. 

Own an iPhone. 

I closed my notebook. Three days later, Chris decided he wanted a new iPhone and gave me his old one. A week later, I had an interview with one of my favourite magazines. I couldn't believe it. The dream list was coming true! Now the sitcom thing should be easy. 

Sitcoms are important to me, and of all forms of entertainment, they're probably my favourite. This was an accepted preference in the nineties when the best things on TV was Just Shoot Me! and Veronica's Closet. Since the rise of the 40-minute HBO drama, TV has become less simple. The Wire happened. Mad Men happened. The friggin' Borgias happened. TV became less about mindlessly absorbing entertainment and more about being invested and being involved and plot twists and clever storylines and THINKING, THINKING, SO MUCH RUDDY THINKING. TV shows are now as exhausting as trying to escape an Escher painting, and the chances of me watching TV has become about likely as being trapped in an Escher painting. In fact, I would not be surprised if HBO were currently green-lighting a series that involved six characters running up and down infinite stairs while questioning the morality of their crack habits.

Let's call it "Crazy Stairs"!

I love 30-minute sitcoms, because they're just like real life, only more attractive, funnier, and most importantly: everything always works out. In a sitcom, the worst thing that's going to happen is that a character is going to get off with another character, slightly perturbing a third character. In a proper, modern shiny TV show, the worst thing that's going to happen is that every character dies, the world's economy collapses and Journey will have another comeback. As a partially employed urchin currently wearing men's clothing and blue nail varnish, I just cannot take this kind of stress.

As with many people in their early twenties (we'll let the "in this economy" part go unsaid) my life is a series of loose ends. Or, to add more severity and drama to the situation, my life is in a position where it feels as if it could go either way. Either I will be a roaring success or I will stumble, fail to live on a freelancers salary, have an emotional breakdown, move back to Ireland, buy a guniea pig and spend the rest of my days as a children's entertainer who dresses like Gadget from The Rescue Rangers.

Or, to summarize it more neatly: I will be either a Rachel, or a Daisy.

The Dream


We all know who the woman in the first photo is. That's Rachel. We love Rachel. Rachel moved to New York because she didn't want to marry her orthodontist fiancé, Barry. Or, to tweak it slightly so it fits my exact set of circumstances, she saw her life fast becoming a dull and formulaic one, that she fell into, rather then really asked for. She knew that she needed to change, but she didn't really have an inkling as to how, or why. She stayed with Monica. She got a job as a waitress. She gradually got to know herself. She got a terrible job sorting hangers, but hey, at least it's in 'fashion', right? She got a better job as a buyer for Bloomingdales, she eventually got an even better job at Ralph Lauren. She worked hard. She went on dates. Her parents divorced. She worked hard. She wore great clothes. She had great hair. Ross cheated on her. She survived, because she's a survivor. She had a baby, but no big deal. Everything worked out.

Women have been obsessed with Rachel for over a decade, and we've palmed off all our hopes and beliefs in Rachel on to poor Jennifer Aniston. This is why every magazine in the world gets irritated when her life isn't going to plan, i.e, she hasn't gotten re-married OR stabbed Angelina Jolie through the heart with her shoe. Because Rachel Green wouldn't have let that happen. We need Rachel Green. Rachel Green is what we whisper through gritted teeth while we're serving coffee but thinking about our thesis, scanning barcodes while thinking, godamnit knowing, that we're better than this.

The woman in the second photo is Daisy Steiner from the cult British sitcom Spaced. Daisy lives with Tim. Daisy wants to be a journalist? Sort of? She isn't that sure. She plods along. She writes an article on winter skin care. She plods some more. She gets stoned before going to a magazine interview. She says 'girl power'. She never, ever has sex. She has crap clothes. Things work out for her, presumably, but not in the shiny aspirational way it can work out for Rachel. We can assume it involves eating cheese and sitting down. 

Daisy is a great sitcom character, but you don't want to be her, do you? Rachel and Daisy are the classic angel-and-devil on your shoulder, except instead of representing good and evil, they represent what you could be and how you will end up if you don't get it together. 

In sitcom world, 'getting it together' is just a matter of staging the right montage, and 2012 has been a focused attempt on my part to achieve a perfect sit-com reality. I cut my hair! I stopped smoking, almost! I got an English boyfriend! I got some freelance work! Why am I still sitting down eating cheese?  

Because, as I'm learning perilously slowly, life is nothing but a constant battle to not sit down, forever, and eat cheese. When you get fired from the job you hate and immediately get so drunk you fall asleep on your friend's floor in Kentish Town, that's when it's ok to be a Daisy. When you get up the next morning and interview two aspiring rock stars for money, that is when you absolutely have to be a Rachel. And when your new shiny English boyfriend leaves for work at 8am, it is your goddamned job to get out of bed, eat his cereal and write something. Even if you have nothing to write about. Even if you end up googling pictures of Jennifer Aniston for an hour. Even if the whole blog post is utter gash. Because you wrote a list, and then you got an iPhone, and that means anything is possible. 

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