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The Origin of Follies

Do you know how many people subscribe to Redbook? Based on every experience I’ve had in life, the answer should be zero. Based on how many places this magazine is for sale, however, I imagine it’s in the millions. This perplexes as it mesmerizes.  Square-hectares’ worth of trees and hectoliters of gloss are going into this pervasive magazine each month, yet no one ever seems to buy it. It’s not at my grandmother’s house, and it’s not at your grandmother’s house. (She said hi, by the way, and that you should call more.) It’s not at the dentist’s office. It’s not at the solarium at the senior center. (Okay, that tiny room with only three books, two by Leon Uris, is less a solarium and more a converted storage closet.) If it’s at the library, I’ve never seen anyone flip through a copy. As Siddhartha once opined, if a magazine remains unflipped through, does it really exist?

Disclaimer: I’ve never worn ladies underwear. Sorry, that’s a disclaimer for another article. I meant to write, Disclaimer: I’ve never read the magazine, so I can only hazard a guess that it covers vague themes of safe empowerment and empowered safety. I imagine it stands bestride the demographic middle ground that is too hip for Good Housekeeping but too realistic for Vogue. That sounds like lots of women I know. So, why aren’t they reading this periodical? The only explanation that remains is based on the name: Perhaps it’s not for women at all, but instead serves as a latter-day Chinese Communist secret communication to maintain the message of Chairman Mao and his little red book.  Feasible as this is, could any pub that features Mariska Hargitay really be a socialist front? Sure her dad was Hungarian body builder Mickey Hargitay, but her mom was Jayne Mansfield, and if there’s one thing you can say about Jayne Mansfield, it’s that she had really enormous views of the capitalist system.

All reactionaries are paper tigers, even the children of Mighty Mickey Hargitay. Go Redbook!

You think about that, and think about it hard (hard enough to forget that whole ladies underwear slip up, please). Then take a quick mental break, since thinking has become arduous in these days of perpetual electronic distraction, before thinking about the fact that our lives are generally absurd. We define our lives by familiar milestones, but aren’t those just a few parts of a broad framework amid billions of goofy happenings and generally silly things that occur over a lifetime? If not for common sequences of events, such as college-work-marriage or DWTS-NCIS:LA-CSI:NY,  we would be blown off course every time weird and unexpected stuff happens.

…which is every hour of every day. Picture any four-hour span of time in your life in detail, and tell me there are not dozens of bizarre exploits taking place. Someone says “often” with a particularly hard T sound, or they use refulgent twice in the same conversation. A plastic bag blowing in the wind gets stuck on some guy’s foot. The 8 key on your keyboard is gummed up with a strawberry jam incident, and when you hit the key and it responds lethargically, you start singing a mashup of Pump Up the Jam and Driver 8 to yourself.

Maybe you’re driving up an unfamiliar road in Massachusetts, and no matter how far you go you will not see a sign that shows the name of the street you’re on.  (“Take a left at the wicked fat kid, and you’ll get ovah to East Bumblesquid in no time.”) Or are you at CVS, deciding to buy toothpaste that features a revolutionary gel that activates the moment you start brushing, transforming into a micro-fine foam? Why have you not reached the point where your teeth are too free of bacteria, or too white? Do you have no limit to the intensity of your dentifrice? Why are the worst songs catchy? It’s not fair that no one ever finds herself humming Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down, yet Hotel Room Service is forever in her brain. And why do females have female genitalia and males have male genitalia? Were it reversed, sexual assaults and generally assholic behavior would go down ten billion percent, just as a start. And why in the wide, wide world of sports do flammable and inflammable mean the same thing?

Maybe we’re looking at this the wrong way. I’m questioning why we are so bound by mischief in our lives. Perhaps the debate should not be on why do we endure so much mischief? but rather why is mischief our nature? Sometimes there are reasons for our absurdities. When we drink, we can end up with unsightly purchases, lamentable body art, or, for particularly long benders, lousy spouses. When the few of us left who actually watch commercials in between TV shows, we can be pressured into buying random things. Buy one Snuggie, and get twelve Garden Weasels free? I’d be a clown NOT to!

But these are exceptions to what appears to be a fool rule. If we accept that we are at our core mischievous beings, that would explain why we are so drawn to mischief and surrounded by mischief, despite our mental faculties feebly guiding us toward more stable things.

Is this so far a stretch? Maybe Creationists will find these words to be horrid pabulum, but those who abide by the ideas of evolution should make a comfortable connection. You accept that we make mischief because it is in our nature. One person says we are created from something divine. Another says we just sort of happened as a long goofy process.

Which one makes more sense?

7 responses to “The Origin of Follies”

  1. Wow, where do I begin…Jayne Mansfield’s really enormous views on capitalism…female vs. male genitalia…garden weasels? Ha! Great work, Jason.
    Is there really any denying that we’re a people fixated on mischievous behavior? Whether it’s sitting down glued to the news, watching as these yahoos report almost exclusively on god’s and humanity’s daily mischief, or the fact that Darth Vader is the most popular action figure of all time, we are consumed by “the dark side.” If I were wrong, TV’s Nielsen ratings would be topped by some cutesy crapfest like Meerkat Manor and not shows like Heroes, True Blood, Dexter and dozens of crime dramas.

    • Avatar lee lee says:

      oh, God. if someone writes a post about dexter, i will jump ship. by the way–who’s opinion is it that darth vader is “bad”? maybe he’s just our “other…” so we feel comfortable labeling him bad. btw–nice post, jayleer. and so true…you never see postings on CL for old Redbooks, the way you do New Yorkers and Nat’l Geos. what’s up with that?

  2. Avatar angelatav says:

    If there’s never been a text-based standing ovation on the Internet, please, oh please, let me be the first.

  3. Avatar lee lee says:

    another thought (i’m having a lot of those today): can you start every post title with The Origin of ___________? pretty puh-lease!!!

    • Jason Jason says:

      Sure, that’s a great idea. Then, my fifth story can be called The Origin of Boredom, and I’ll just provide links to all my stories. Basta!

  4. Avatar Moon Mee says:

    No matter what others say, I think it is still interesting and useful maybe necessary to improve some minor things

  5. Avatar romain says:

    I share most of your thoughts on this question ! Happy to see your posts.

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jasonleary About jasonleary

Jason Leary is liberalish, except regarding the Oxford comma; an occasional runner; and a part-time thinker. A happy family man, Jason also loves William Carlos Williams, liberty, and beer. He pulled this bio from his Twitter profile, @JasonLeary74.

Read more by this author on 30POV .


December 2009
Season Finale
November 2009
{Seven Deadly} Sins
October 2009
Mischief Making
September 2009
Green Ethics
August 2009