Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Top of the Bell Curve

     I was bowling the other day, Company, as I often do in an attempt to stay grounded and keep in touch with the proletariat.  We were having our holiday celebration, and as part of the festivities, the bowling alley management were giving away prizes for the person who gets the most pins over their average, and the person who gets the most pins below their average.  Well, I am not a great bowler, so I was excited by this.  I am thinking "Now there is a prize that I can actually win.  I bowl way below my average almost all the time."  So what did I do?  Bask in glory? Bask in sheer, unadulterated ineptitude?  Nope.  I bowled almost exactly my average.
The infamous bell curve
     But that is the idea, right?  There is a reason why it is called me average - because that is what I usually bowl.  It sits right at the top of the classic bell curve.  The bell curve that is representative of so many things and used to determine so many things.  But regardless of what you think of it, the premise is actually pretty simple.  The idea is that the things that happen at either end of the bell curve are rarities, usually something really good or something really bad.  The middle of the bell is the highest part because that is where the largest potion of the sample should fall.  So why is it then that the middle part seems to be the part that is considered the worst to be in?
     Think about it.  There is a book on the shelf that I put in my living room and fill with books to impress people called Last in Their Class which is all about the people who fell on the far left side of the curve while they were at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point but whom decided to skip the entire middle portion of the bell curve and go straight to the right side once they got out.  Here are a bunch of guys who were certifiably the worst in their college class.  Dead last.  Bottom of the list.  As far left on the bell curve as one can get.  Yet here they are idolized in a book that is on a shelf meant to impress.  As far as I can tell, there is no literature about people who have finished in the middle of their class at any institution.
The South Park goth kids think you are a conformist.
      Let's tackle this a different way.  Being totally average and normal is often derided in our society.  Ask any of these kids and I am sure that you will hear the word "conformist" uttered in contempt.  What about the movie Office Space?  The entire movie is based on derision of those who are either normal and average within the soulless corporate office setting or those who strive to be.  Maybe it is just the media that sets this stuff up but I have one more example.  In the television show Community, a barrage of comparisons is used to make someone feel bad because they are totally and completely average, or at least that is the premise:

      You're average, Britta Perry. You're every kid on the playground who didn't get picked on.  You're a business casual potted plant; a human whites sale.  You're VH1, RoboCop 2, and Back to the Future 3.  You're the center slice of a square cheese pizza.  Actually, that sounds delicious.  I'm the center slice of a square cheese pizza.  You're Jim Belushi.

- Abed Nadir

Now, this television show's longstanding hatred of Jim Belushi aside, the point here is that poor Britta is being skewered for being normal.  Because apparently being at the top of the bell curve is a bad thing.
      I disagree.  I don't think that there is anything wrong with being normal.  With being one of the giant slice of those of us who inhabit the area in the middle of the bell curve spectrum.  It is great to be an exceptional occurrence, but being the norm is okay.  We have for some reason set up this who idea by which we are all told that we are individuals, snowflakes, uncommon occurrences, yet we all long to fit in and sit on top of the bell curve.  Even the nonconformists hang together.  We rove in packs - it is in our DNA.  But packs can't be all made up of examples of the ends of the bell curve, it just doesn't work.  Someone always ends up on the top of the bell curve.  And I think that is a wonderful place to be.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas

     Company, I know that it has become politically correct to wish people a very bland and general happy holidays at this time of year.  And that is fine.  But I do not believe in that.  I celebrate Christmas, so please have a Merry Christmas.  If you choose to wish me tidings for a different holiday that you celebrate, that is great, and I will gladly accept them with a smile upon my face.  Whatever you choose to celebrate, here is hoping from everyone here at Big Dave and Company that you do it safely and festively.  And we wish to extend our sincere thanks to those who will be working or serving on the holiday - soldiers, police, fire, EMT's, nurses, utility guys, etc. - so that we don't have to.  Thank you very much.  Oh and I will do it anyway - Happy Holidays everyone!

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Gift that Isn't

     I know someone who used to date a guy who would preface anything serious he was about to say with the term "real talk."  So, for instance, he would say something meatheaded like: "Real talk, I think that shirt might be a little bit too small on you."  Or: "Real talk, does this look infected?"
      So real talk, Company, I want to talk to you about Christmas, which is approaching not fast but at the same speed as it does every single year.  I want to do some real talk with you about why I dislike the Christmas season.  Because when you strip away all the stuff about being an award-wining media mogul, a famous North Korean metal foundry owner, and larger than life oppressor of hundreds of Unpaid Interns, I am just a super charismatic, handsome, and incredibly awesome person just like the rest of you.  And I have the same issues and insecurities as you all do.  Issues and insecurities that are heightened at this time of the year.
      Tons and tons of people are going to be running around and lamenting how the meaning of Christmas has changed, how it has become this ode to mass commercialism and extravagant gift giving while losing all of the meaning that is supposed to be wrapped up in the season.  (That's a sweet pun, did you see what I did there?)  And maybe it has to a degree, but the people posting memes about that on Facebook are the same people posting photos of themselves with their new 60 inch SmartTVs at Wal-Mart.  Or they are hipsters who just finished filming a Budweiser commercial.  I reject that argument anyway because on the first Christmas, the day on which Jesus Christ was born, the three wise men are specifically noted for the gifts which they bring, and their astounding sense of direction.  So Christmas has ALWAYS been about giving gifts.  That was the blueprint that was set out for us.
      Besides, I LOVE giving gifts and making people happy.  I LOVE IT.  It is one of my favorite things, especially when you get to have the sort of element of surprise and the person doesn't know it is coming.  When it comes out of the blue.  Birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays - read Christmas - are fraught with peril and nervousness for me because the element of surprise is gone.  There is a real expectation which is wrapped up (there it is again!) with the holidays, and I just can't handle that emotionally.
     The problem is that I am totally insecure, and in the end I just desperately want to be liked.  That is all I want.  So while I like to give gifts to people, once you add that sense of expectation to the equation now I am unbelievably afraid that I am going to fail at the gift giving.  If you know the gift is coming then you know what you expect to get, and if I fail to deliver that for you, then there really isn't a reason for you to like me anymore, is there?
     So I do the grown up thing and I ask for a list.  Or at least some suggestions.  And I get nothing.  Oh, I pony up and tell you what I want, but invariably I do not get a list in return.  So I left to wander the wasteland of my mind and store after big box store after strip mall after Chinatown back alley to try and find just the right gift for you, which is impossible because YOU know what you want, but God forbid I get to get in on that action.
    Stress level, through the roof.  Because to me, Christmas is not about simply giving you a gift in the spirit of giving.  It become this sinister self imposed test as to whether or not I am worthy of being liked by you., which is absolutely fucking absurd.  Because it is a test in which no one else is participating, whose results are actually meaningless, and which I know I will not pass.  Because I am the grader and I know what the results will be, regardless of what the results really are.  So I stress out about it, and invariably I fail at giving the gift because that is what I set myself up for.  Complete and utter failure in no one's mind but my own.
     So that is it.  That is why I dread the Christmas holiday every single year.  And that is why I fail at it, even when I don't really fail at it.  Because, in my mind, I cannot succeed.  And I will not succeed.  And I don't deserve to get the wonderful gifts that you got me because mine are so subpar that they aren't really gifts at all.  That is my problem with the holiday.  And thankfully, wonderfully, and frustratingly it is my problem alone.  Great.  Merry Christmas.