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Saturday, September 20, 2014


Johnny was the smallest boy in his class but had big ambitions. He loved comic books and wanted to be Iron Man when he grew up. He would play fight and he dreamed about being a billionaire, with beautiful women by his side. Making the coolest new gadgets and riding in the fanciest cars.

But when Johnny would tell his dreams to his parents and share them at family gatherings, he'd be told to be a little quieter. Or he's be dismissed as having boyish dreams which nobody took seriously.

When Johnny would play fight and dream about saving the world and killing bad guys, he would be told to calm down and sit dutifully in his seat. There was no place for wild crazy dreams in life. Oh, and killing was wrong.

By the time he was 11, his mother decided that a more responsible, conforming, adult name would be "Jon". Forgetting about the passionate men named Johnny like Johnny Depp or Johnny Cash, men who didn't give two fucks about having a "boyish" name.

But no, that sort of attitude just wouldn't do if she wanted to have a smart kind docile young man as a son. The type of guy she wished that men were like. She'd make Johnny into this vision of a prince charming that she knew didn't exist, but would be damned if she didn't do her part to try to mould!

Johnny started talking about his ambitions to his peers when he got to middle school. At this point he believed that he was going to be the next game changing guy in the world (fighting villains would be a bonus). But his teachers all told him to stop his silly fantasies and focus on his incredibly boring essay about the European governments in the 1800s. The plan was that in high school he'd have to revisit the same essay and write about how that same form of government in his middle school essay oppressed women.

When he arrived in high school, he wanted the most beautiful girls in school. Yet these girls were going for the jocks and the guys who treated them like shit and had no ambitions. When he spoke about how he was going to be the next big thing and be rich one day, these girls would say "that's nice" and go back to bending over for the football captain because the football captain had muscles, while Johnny had brains. These girls knew there would be plenty of time later in life to "settle" for the nice guy with brains.

By the time Johnny, or shall we say Jon, got to college, everybody was a couch activist. When Johnny shared his career dreams with his peers then, people no longer dismissed him; they started attacking him. They started telling him that he shouldn't want a lot of money because people were starving elsewhere. That Johnny shouldn't want fast expensive cars because that was being too materialistic and not spiritual. That ambition and greed went hand in hand and made you evil, the worst kind of human.

When Johnny told his peers about his desire to have a beautiful hot nice wife by his side supporting him, he was told that all women are beautiful on the inside and that he shouldn't look for a hot wife. To his shock and dismay (what type of girl would get this upset?) Johnny was screamed at for promoting an "unhealthy body image". That he should look for a career woman because wanting anything else was considered holding women back in the world.

Johnny was confused. He had nothing against these ambitious women, but they seemed hell bent on attacking him. Johnny was confused because he simply wanted a hot wife himself. He wasn't trying to promote any body image, healthy or unhealthy. What Johnny wanted in a wife was simply what Johnny wanted, right? He found hot girls attractive, but Jon started to feel a twinge of guilt because he "shouldn't" be promoting unrealistic expectations of women.

Jon was conflicted because he wanted to do the right thing. He didn't want to be one of those evil misogynistic men he always heard about! Maybe he should lower his standards to someone who was more beautiful on the inside, because that's what the Dove commercials said he should want.

At this point, the girls were all fucking the frat boys who spent their nights drunk in their basements. Johnny would vehemently attempt to tell these girls that these guys were low lifes. These girls would say "that's nice" and go back to bending over for the latest douchebag because the douchebag "didn't give a fuck" about life. The douchebag's attitude was exciting and enthralling, whereas Johnny was focused on changing the world and inventing cool new gadgets like Iron Man. What a nerd!

After college, Johnny was ready to make his mark in the world. But his friends told him that he should spend his precious money travelling and finding himself. Since they had no direction themselves, they told him that he should travel the world with them to be trendy and worldly. Johnny was confused because he wanted to put that money into a new venture. No, he was supposed to go clubbing and travel the world and forget about the cost. Because apparently spending 4 weeks vacationing made you cultured and sophisticated and superior to those who didn't travel.

When Johnny said he wanted to be the next Tony Stark, they said there'd be time for that later, and that he should listen to them and what the current latest trend in society is, which is to live with your parents after college, rack up credit card debt travelling and having fun, and worry about ambitions later. "Life is too short!" they'd cry. "YOLO!" they'd shout while trying to force their own insecurities and lack of direction onto Johnny.

They were always scared and jealous of someone with dreams, and they couldn't have a friend making it big, because that would mean they'd have to take a good hard look at their own life. So they'd subtly shame him any time he spoke of doing something more with his life. They'd tell him that it's okay to live a little now, their way of saying that Johnny should be as directionless as them, lest they have to face their own insecurities. They couldn't have time for that while they were YOLO-ing.

When Johnny told his career dreams to his parents they told him that it's time to get serious and take a stable job.

By the time Johnny was in his late 20's, Jon was being pressured by his current girlfriend to settle down and have kids. A shrill, powerful, ambitious woman who really just wanted a Ken doll to control. A girl who would get angry at Johnny for speaking his mind. A girl who decide what they were doing and when. A girl who decided what was important for Jon to spend his money on, and already had her engagement ring picked out from Tiffany's in her head.

By the time he was in his 30's, Jon had a nice stable job with a 401k to which he dutifully contributed 18.4% of his salary based on the current studies regarding retirement and asset allocation.

Jon laughed at his former self and his dreams of changing the world. Those were childish dreams of a foolish man. But it was an empty laugh. He laughed because he was supposed to. He laughed because adults were supposed to laugh at childish dreams.

The Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerbergs of this world were just lucky. Just in the right place at the right time. Their passion and fire and unwillingness to conform could not have had any effect on their meteoric rise. The idea of dropping out of the most prestigious college in the world because you truly believed in yourself was foolish. That would be silly. Because to admit that they had true control over their destiny and actually seized what they knew they deserved, meant Jon would have had to admit that he could have had the same things.

At 33, still young but tired all the time, with two kids and a white picket fence, Jon came home early from work one day and saw something which shook him to his core. Jon saw a strange man leave his house which he had negotiated a great mortgage rate on. This man had his hair disheveled but would be considered ruggedly handsome and muscular and reminded Jon of a guy in an old western. This man drove away in his Lamborghini, without realizing that Jon was watching him from across the street.

This man had money, and had invented a brilliant gadget. The type of gadget Johnny had always dreamed of inventing as a boy. This man had women eyeing him up, and when he took them to his masculine yet tasteful bachelor pad, women would see his expensive TV and granite countertops, and would get a little excited because this man also had money. This man had a fire within him which made these women feel things they hadn't felt in a long time.

This man had just ravished Jon's wife, who unbeknownst to Jon was in the process of filing divorce papers behind Jon's back.

Jon didn't hate this man. This man was Johnny. He was everything Jon could have been, if he still had a fire within him. Jon was deeply jealous of the man in the Lamborghini. Jon sighed, walked into his house, and got ready to confront -- no, not confront since that's misogynistic and abusive -- but ready to talk to his wife about going to marriage counselling.

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All posts from my Grief miniseries here.

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