You know that phase you go through — the one where you want to only slaying everybody, all of the time?
Well, it came to my attention recently that not everyone goes through that stage, so let’s talk about it. I’m not saying I ever actually attained plans to shoot up my high school, I’m just saying I used to soothe myself to sleep at night fantasizing about it as a adolescent, the route I sometimes imagine myself having to break up a naked catfight between Karen Gillan and Isla Fisher in Idris Elba’s hot tub. So this goes out both to those who’ve been to that dark place( or, you know, are still there) and those who struggle to understand them.
I’ve tried to go back and retrace those steps, decades later, to map out how I got to that social/ emotional zone I now think of as the Shit Pit and how I left it behind to become the perfectly serene and well-adjusted person I am today. Tell me if any of this sounds familiar 😛 TAGEND
I have no doubt that I was and still am an asshole — don’t let me paint myself as a victim. But, what I perceived was that after a normal and happy childhood, all at once, the carpet got yanked out from under me socially. I didn’t become a weird teen, goddammit! I stayed the same, and everyone else got weird.
The first thing I noticed was that when we reached the middle school years, some guys had mastered the art of being phony. They had, for example, perfected a fake giggle to use when a gag was terrible, but told by someone whose ass they wanted to kiss( usually a pretty girl ). That seemed monster to me. Aren’t you devaluing your real laugh by devoting out a forgery one? Wouldn’t she be offended if she knew you were just patronizing her? Isn’t that a kind of lying? It’s like playing a game with them and letting them win — a demeaning insult. If you are willing to to laugh, strumpet, earn it .
“Why would six be afraid of anything ? Numbers have no feelings.”
Then, I think around age 11, I assured a pretty daughter in class drop her pen, and three different guys went diving onto the floor to pick it up. If I dropped mine, they would intentionally kick that shit under the radiator. If the fat girl with the bad scalp dropped hers, they wouldn’t even look up from the dicks the latter are describing on their notebooks — their ears were only tuned to the audio of cute girls in need of minor favors. This bothered me even more. Why weren’t the pretty daughters offended by this? Didn’t they see that the rest of us weren’t get doors held open and constant offers of help with homework? That all of the “kindness” was due to their hair and skin and pretty eyes? Wasn’t it obvious what these assholes were doing?
“How could anyone tolerate this sham? ”
I swear it happened overnight; countries around the world abruptly operated on lies. False compliments. False sympathy. False generosity. The popular kids, to my eyes, were simply the ones who were the best at faking it. It drove me nuts; how in the possible hell could I be the one who was wrong there? It’s not just that all of the rules had changed, it’s that video games itself had changed into one I had no desire to play, like if the second half of Dead Space had just been that tedious asteroid shooting minigame.
You know how some tribal cultures have a “rite of manhood” where, at a certain age, you have to run an obstacle course or some shit, or kill a rhino with a sharpened stick? Then, if you pass, you’re a man. But, if you fail, you have to keep practice until it’s time to try again. I like that — the idea of knowing exactly what test needs to be passed in order to progress and getting a little badge when you do. The route we do it now is a entirely random, nebulous process by which you simply wake up every day to a teacher, mother, or social group voicing a shrill buzzer to announce you’ve failed again at being a teenager. “How did I fail? ” you ask, guessing it’s a perfectly reasonable topic. “Not knowing, ” they respond, “is your failure.”
Now, for me, athletics was the rite of manhood I didn’t pass. I suspect it’s different for everyone; for some young girl out there, it’s the sudden expectation to wear makeup and dress a certain style, while, for some guy, it’s the inability to develop a sense of humor. The phase is, one day, you run into this filter that you can’t squeezing through , no matter how hard you try.
To this day, Brockway hasn’t even motorcycle jumped one flaming school bus .
So, in my example, when I was in elementary school, we had recess in the middle of the day, and you were pretty much just running around for 45 minutes doing whatever. Jumping rope or playing hopscotch or just inducing up a game by employing our imagination( I think it usually involved making each other with sticks we observed ). Then, somewhere around sixth grade, they had us begin playing organized athletics, and everyone started taking it really seriously . Recess was replaced by gym, and I’ll never for the rest of my life forget the gym teacher get enraged when I fell a pop fly during softball, letting the winning run to rating. I entail, it ruined his freaking day. He stared at me like he wanted to murder me — it was a look of loathing . The fact that I hadn’t spent my spare time getting good at softball entailed I was a worthless fucking shit and that I had failed at life.
I thought he was just a sociopath … then watched that everyone else was on his side.
“We’re a squad, and we’re going to go out there, as a squad, and shit
on your weakest teammate. Teamwork on three! ”
Just like that, play period went from fun to competitive, from inventing reasons to chuckle with your friends to participating in a tense, hateful competition that stimulated participants so enraged that they would physically fight over disputed calls and narrow loss. And then, I watched that suddenly everything was like that.
The goal of life “re no longer” about having fun; it was about predominating others to humiliate them and establish a place in a hierarchy that just one year earlier wasn’t even a thing. If you’re late to that party, guess what: You’re automatically at the bottom, and the only way to climb up is to dominate someone else. There is no such thing as merely scoring points; points must come at someone else’s expenditure. Their shame is your pride and vice versa. The longer you wait to start vying, the farther you fall.
And once again, I walked around school every single day feeling like I’d missed a memo. Because all of those cool, handsome kids with all the friends? They were magically good at sports, too. They were the ones who could appear cool while fielding ground balls and dribbling basketballs and catching footballs, like they had been doing it since birth. I went to a birthday party at a roller skating rink for the first time( that was big in the ‘8 0s ), and these fuckers magically knew how to skate! How ? It was like everyone else was taking night classes in how to be cool. And yes, my perception at the time was that it was literally everyone but me.
This was my perception of everyone but me at the skating rink .
Up until then, I had in my head this unspoken assumption that there would be this transition period when we would all learn these things together. That we would all go out and fail at baseball and laugh at how clumsy we were and various kinds of figure it out. But, I didn’t realize that other kids had an incentive to leave me behind, because of this zero-sum game that said my failure was their advancement. However they were magically learning to be cool, they sure as hell weren’t going to share it with me.
As a little kid, I merely recollect feeling the emotion of disgrace when I had done something wrong, such as if I got caught opposing with my brother, get careless and transgressed something valuable, or made a crude joke in Sunday school. Despite my objections( grown-up shit is so breakable ! And Sunday school is when petroleum gags are best !), I knew why I was in trouble — and understood.
But, by age 12 to 13, everything about my being was abruptly shameful, according to everyone at school. I was overweight, apparently, and didn’t bathe often enough( though nothing about my habits had changed, and this had never been brought up as an issue before ). I wasn’t combing my hair often enough, my clothes didn’t fit right, my glass appeared weird, I had bad skin, my mothers had money difficulty( though I can’t assert I was poor , not in that town — there were kids who didn’t have operating water ). These were all things that either seemed to be out of my control or picked at random. Why would any of this shit abruptly matter?
“So what if my verses aren’t the freshest? Who cares? ”
In those days, the notion of suicide that bounced around my head wasn’t this momentous, dark cloud of fatal believes. It was just a vague urge to escape and take shelter from a battering storm — the constant, stinging reminders that I was so utterly, shamefully terrible, with no hint of how to fix it. I believed the clothes the cool children wore looked stupid, and I got mine for Christmas and during back-to-school marketings while shopping with my mother. My mommy cut my hair; I didn’t know how to tell her to do it differently or what it should even look like.( And by the way, it appears exactly the same now, and nobody seems to care. At least , nobody mentioned it at Sundance. I freely and confidently post photos of myself on this site, knowing that I am immune from any insults .)
My hand-eye coordination lagged way behind everyone else’s. I fell down a lot. I spilled drinkings in the cafeteria. I was constantly forgetting things — I’d come to school and wouldn’t have a pen or the right homework assignment. I built gags, and nobody laughed, because my jokes were referencing shows they didn’t watch, games they didn’t play, or volumes they didn’t read. They joked about drinking and hunting and sex, and I merely gazed, at which point they took my lack of laughter as a direct insult( again, I had no fake chuckle ). Their idea of fun involved violating some regulation, or oppose, or doing some kind of mindless property damage. If I backed out, I was a coward or a narc.
“Your juvenile record get expunged at 18, pussy.”
This kind of searing shame is rare for most adults: You accidentally copy an embarrassing email to the whole company, or your spouse has a very public affair with a rival. But, in those teenage years, those gut punches happened daily .
The sheer volume of shit I had to keep track of — between schoolwork and all of these new social rules — had multiplied a hundredfold overnight. I haven’t been through anything remotely like that since. Going from high school to college was a breeze by comparison. Going from college to a job , no big deal. Transitioning from a undertaking to a career and from a career to excelling in my field and hitting the bestseller list … minor, in comparison. Nothing has been as hard as that brutal obstacle course of adolescence, with hot coals of disgrace scorching my feet with every single misstep.
In a coming-of-age movie, here’s where our beaten-down nerd gets a makeover or discovers their soulmate. But, in real life …
Here’s something that every asshole knows, but refuses to acknowledge, because they’re assholes 😛 TAGEND
Everyone you look down on — everyone you taunt because of how they live “peoples lives” — has busted their ass to not be like that.
You tell yourself that can’t be true, that the homeless guy never really tried to get a job, that the fat girl never genuinely tried to diet, and that the nerdy child never really tried to be cool. You have to tell yourself that, because the alternative — that is, the indisputable truth — is almost too terrifying to meditate. The reality is that the Shit Pit is actually full of quicksand, and the harder you struggle, the faster it sucks you down. It’s just called the Shit Pit because of how nasty it is and also lots of people shit in it.
“You want to apply for a undertaking? Sure, first I need a valid mailing address and phone number … ”
So, the harder “youre just trying to” strike up a relationship or get a date, the harder people push you away — you’re too desperate, too clinging, too unaware of how your vexing mannerisms come across. That last one is due to lack of experience and feedback, which is the even shittier part: It turns out that the first requirement for making a friend is to already have a lot of friends. The whole thing is a Catch-2 2. The key to being “cool, ” they say, is to be loose and fun and willing to “put yourself out there” — to always be trying new things and to be willing to danger appearing silly. Let your guard down! Open yourself up! These are the guys who are willing to actually dance at the dance, to try new fashions knowing they might not catch on, and to approach girls while knowing they might get shot down.
But, the reason that kind of risk-taking is attractive is because a willingness to look silly indicates that they have enough social capital to do it — they can hazard appearing uncool specifically because they know their coolness isn’t in question. Telling the nerd that he only needs to let loose and take risks is no different from telling the poor child he only needs to get some designer clothes and make sure he has a sweet vehicle when he gets old enough to drive.
“You know, I bet you could afford nicer shoes if you went and got yourself a lot more money.”
I’m not went on to say that jumping from one social status to another is impossible; I’m saying that it utterly seemed impossible from the inside. The message I was hearing was that in order to get out of the Shit Pit, I first needed to prove that I was never in it.
And here is where you find out that other people depend on you staying there. The social hierarchy needs punching bag; the easy victories for the bullies and popular kids to rack up. That portion is still true — in every social circle, every economy, every workplace. Those at the bottom are given zero margin for error. The prom king/ queen could get drunk at a kegger and shit their pants, and it’s a hilarious narrative of how entirely crazy and out of control their rebel life is. The nerd get diarrhea from tainted meat in the cafeteria and is tagged with a demeaning nickname for the next 10 years.
And said nerd will find that when they try to date, they’re radioactive. After all, everyone you approach knows that dating person low on the social hierarchy means losing their own position. They can’t danger getting sucked into the Shit Pit with you. Then, Squirts McGee gets to watch as his dream girl falls into the arms of one of his tormentors. That’s because …
Be honest 😛 TAGEND
Cruelty is attractive. As long as it’s not is targeted at you, of course.
It’s true in our friends, sex partners, and idols. You suppose Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is at his sexiest when he’s delivering withering insults to everyone around him — that’s when you most want to bang him or be him. It’s the same with Tony Stark and the same with Dr. House. All of our heroes don’t merely win; they also build everybody else look foolish in the process, including their friends. It’s attractive because, deep down, you want to be that one person who’s not in their line of flame and to have that cruel strength on your side, working for you.
In real life, the asshole doesn’t strap on a suit of power armor and save the world. He merely becomes a bigger asshole .
So, yes, when rumors started flying that some guys in our class were having sexuality, I didn’t miss the fact that all three of them were bullies — rough forms who smoked, who matured earlier, and get chest hair sooner. They tortured kids in the locker room and extorted lunch fund, and they got rewarded with sexuality. I’m not mad at the girls , not now — they were 14, what did they know? They only knew that those guys were “cool, ” the way today we think of Walter White or Star Lord as cool. Renegades. Rebels. Badasses. The fact that they don’t obey the rules must mean they’re strong and brave.
I only assured them as lumbering meatheads, eyes full of dumb animal meanness. So, yeah, ensure them get rewarded constructed me angry — at them, at the girls, and at the system.
Then, around eighth grade, guys started sneaking brews into birthday parties, campouts, basketball games … all the collects that used to be kid’s stuff a couple of years earlier. This, I didn’t know, was another rite of passage. It was dangerous and forbidden, therefore doing it took fortitude and therefore anyone who didn’t partake was a coward. A pussy. And where there was alcohol, there were hot girls.
They didn’t even need good alcohol .
This was yet another brick wall for me, the equivalent of some child sneaking in a live rat to eat and everybody salivating over their first chance to take a bite. I didn’t grow up thinking of brew as that stuff in the commercials that makes everyone laugh and play volleyball on tropical beaches with hot babes. I thought of it as that stuff that induced my dad truly sleepy and/ or enraged. This was the poison that was slowly killing him and the reason bill collectors were threatening to take our home. Drink it? I wanted to burn the liquor store.
But, at that time, in the rural midwest of the 1980 s, it’s all there was. When asked what guys were going to do on the weekend, the answer was, “We’re going to Bobby’s house to drink.” That was the activity , not “We’re going to go play video games, and also Steve is bringing beer.” I hated everything about it — not only being a sober person around a bunch of drunk children, but being a sober person around a bunch of people who were pretending to be drunk. They’d take one sip, and the latter are abruptly hollering with laughter and wackily falling down. It was so transparent what they were doing: “For the rest of the night, we all agree that there will be no repercussions to what I do or say, even though we both know I’m not really that impaired.” It was yet another one of those shared lies that I couldn’t get the hang of.
It also made me angry. Everything attained me angry.
Confession: If I were 17 again and my first exposure to feminism was a bunch of conventionally attractive daughters on Tumblr snarking about how I was a monster because I felt “entitled” to female attention, I would have redpilled so hard it’d have crashed the Matrix. I’d have GamerGate tattoos on my face. Their talk of me being part of the power structure or “rape culture” would have seemed like one more cruel device in their torture kit. At the time, I’d have killed to have spent one hour getting the attention they got.
At the time.
But, I do remember.
Now, you turn on the news and been talking about a dude shooting up his office, or you come home to find some stranger has spray-painted profanities on your house, or you try to play a multiplayer game and find it overrun by teenage trolls mindlessly trying to ruin it for everyone else. And you tut and shake your head and marvel at how people can do something so senseless .
But, it’s not senseless. It induces perfect sense, from inside the Shit Pit.
Pro Gaming Tip: The guy calling you a stupid cocksucker because you lost a
C.O.D . match for your squad likely doesn’t have the greatest personal life .
All it takes is a person who one day finds he or she is slowly getting starved to death. As a social animal, you have a hardwired hunger for relationship and intimacy and a group that you can belong to. Psychologists say you want approving or validation, but you don’t want to be treated like a boulder starring — you simply want to be treated like a human. You want people to meet your eyes instead of appearing through you. As time passes and you get deeper in the cavity, you find yourself desperate for any morsel of affection. And if not affection, then some kind of acknowledgement that you’re alive and that people think about you. Anything .
And as you get colder and lonelier and more powerless, you choose you’ll find ways to be powerful. If the system is going to try to ignore you in hopes you’ll simply wither away and succumb, then you’ll make yourself impossible to ignore. If that means throwing a brick through a window at school, that’s what you do. If it means get really good at insulting people, or battle, or stealing, then so be it. When you’ve been frozen out of the system — or perceive that you’ve been frozen out, to the point that swallowing a bottle of your grandma’s pain pills seems like a reasonable exit — what else do you have to lose?
“A plenty, I know, but if there was someone around to tell me that,
I wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place.”
“I merely don’t understand why he would do such a thing! ” says the conventionally attractive, middle-class bystander.
Oh, fuck you.
“He was so quiet. He just kept to himself.”
Uh huh. I’ll bet he did — in the way that a cancer patient keeps the tumors to himself.
“It was such a cowardly act.”
Sure, and operating from a pack of rabid wolves looks like a cowardly act through the eyes of someone watching from the safety of a helicopter. Spend a couple of years in the Shit Pit, and we’ll see how heroic you are. You’ll find out how small and bitter your world get, how little anything or anyone outside the Pit seems to matter. Holy shit, to have the glorious luxury of not knowing what it’s like, to take it as a given that the universe will always contain people who want to be around you, and to have no notion of how cold the world can be. You won the lottery, and you don’t even know it.
And, just like lottery wins, there’s always a way to blow it all and end up back where you started .
I get that I’m privileged in other routes; I genuinely don’t know what it’s like to have a severe mental illness, or chronic ache, or to live in abject poverty. But, I can very quickly spot someone who doesn’t know what life is like in the Shit Pit. “This guy is so funny, but I swear “hes having” moods that terrify me. Like there’s something inside him … ” Kind of like an adorable stuffed animal that you find out is full of broken glass, right? Ask him what his childhood was like. Even if he deflects, or doesn’t would like to speak about it, look at his eyes. Defenses will spring up: iron spikes splattered with the blood of the poor bastards who tried to get too close.
There was this one day coming back from school on the bus, I was a freshman, and I was reading a book across the aisle from a girl I had a crush on. I even recollect the book — The Andromeda Strain , by Michael Crichton. She made some little commentary about how I was always reading that book, and I snapped back with some snide barb to shut her down, and I swear to god it was five more years before I realized she was trying to be nice to me. And I know for a fact that any old high school friends of mine read this are like, “Dude, we asked you to go out with us like 20 days! You always made some bullshit excuse to duck out! ” I know! Now . I sometimes wonder if I could go back and watch it all from the outside, if I wouldn’t find that my whole paranoia about my stupid haircut wasn’t based on one single gag that one single child stimulated in the cafeteria, and if my self-loathing didn’t just take off and run with it.
I got to a phase where I didn’t trust anybody — every compliment seemed phony, and every conversation had some ulterior motive. If I became sort-of friends with someone, I would freeze the relationship right there — sure that if they actually got to know me, they’d run away. I was so insecure that I would brag about stupid things, stimulating me legitimately annoying to be around. Now that I think of it, “Shit Pit” is putting way too positive of a spin on it.
I held lying here, in this last entry, and writing a fake thing about how the working day I learned to be nice to people, to garment myself, and to fit in. Something that would inspire the social rejects out there, showing how with only a little attempt and patience I became the fully functional is part of society I am today, with a volume deal and a cool chore and a nice place in a trendy neighborhood and a loving family and sculpted abs and a golden tan and a swine that trembling fans and male challengers alike say exhausts the language of superlatives.
Well, here’s the amazing magical formula I used to get myself out of the Shit Pit 😛 TAGEND
I changed schools. Then, I became a fantastic liar.
“Hi, I’m Chloe. I was the more popular girl on my cheerleading squad.”
The rest of it took years. Things started to change near the end of high school when I gratified John and learned a little about how to talk to people( “Step one: Tell everyone you’ve got a huge hog”) and then got a part-time task and realise, for the first time, that high school is not the world. Then, when I went off to college, I realized I was going to a new township with new people who did not know my history and that all of our social ratings would reset to zero. So, over that summertime, I only … reinvented myself. I expended my paychecks buying different clothes. I went to an actual hair salon( okay, this one had no effect ). I went to the dentist and got my teeth cleaned. I lost 25 pounds on a revolutionary diet called “skipping lunch because I was too nervous to eat and spent my lunch fund on clothes.”
Then, I just strolled in the door and feigned I had always been a regular dude, a nice nondescript guy with a normal sum of friends and reasonable garb. I didn’t do some ridiculous “cool dude” makeover like in those teen slapsticks — I was just shooting for “face in the crowd.” It worked. Not one person in a hundred noticed anything was up. If you know me, you know I’m a pretty successful novelist because I’m contractually required to never let you forget it. Well, I’m good at making characters because I get practise generating one for myself.
After running dateless through high school, I had daughters being nice to me left and right — not because I was a babe magnet or that they could sense my hog situation, but because I wasn’t radioactive anymore. They weren’t risking social status merely by being find talking to me. And just like that, the cycle reversed. People were nicer to me, so I no longer felt the need to be mean to them. The world became friendlier, and I lost my desire to burn it all down. After college, I got a job in a role that involved managing other people( as a producer at a local TV station ), and I was forced to deal with humans every single day. My next task after that tripled the size of the team — I get good at talking to people out of sheer, forced repeating. I got compliments on how good I was at dealing with people. One dame joked about how popular I must have been in school. I didn’t correct her.
“Sure, I was on the Sex Team. We won regionals.”
I no longer had the insecurities that made me annoyingly boast about every accomplishment — when I became a bestselling novelist after writing a bestselling novel that constructed the bestseller listing, I literally never referred to it. I bet none of you even knew, or had heard that the New York Times had referred to my latest fiction as, “The David Wong’s hog of science fiction novels.”
It genuinely was a “fake it ’till you make it” situation. And if this all seems like shitty, cynical advice, well … here’s what I can offer you, if you’re in the Pit and want out 😛 TAGEND
What I’ve realized is that what people want most of all is to not be in the Shit Pit. What they want is to feel good about themselves, to be told that they matter, and to hear that you noticed them in the specific way that they prefer to be noticed. If you learn how to do that — to stimulate other people feel good about themselves — I think you can make all of the other shit not matter. Guess about it; people will house and feed an ugly dog that pisses all over their carpets and chews up their shoes, strictly because that dog is happy to see them when they get home. That’s it, that’s its only ability, and it attains them love it desperately.
He’s happier than a lot of people reading this .
But, the key word there is “skill.” It takes practise, learning what makes people feel good. Some love overt compliments, some don’t, some love to be the center of attention, some don’t. But, like any other ability, you get better at it with repeating. It’s worth it, however, because from what I’ve find, it encompasses all manner of sins — a weird face, an annoying chuckle, a lack of remarkable talents … all can be forgiven if you can get over the rage and bitterness and start dedicating people the very thing you’ve been denied.
And here’s what you’ll find: The people who are tormenting you? They’re frightened, too. Their posturing and arrogance and cruelty, their vapid pursuit of clothes and bullshit — it all comes from the same place your rage comes from: fear. Fear of not being good enough, fear of get cast into the Pit. But, that rage that feels so good in the moment, that attains you feel so powerful … it’s a short-term high as destructive and addictive as meth. Letting that hate swallow you up, well, that’s the only style you can truly lose here. Because then you’ve let the shit inside you, let it become a part of you.
Don’t do that. As far as advice runs, that’s the best I get. Here’s a corgi snow train.