Monthly Archives: May 2009
You will not be surprised, I trust, to learn that I spend a great deal of time meditating on the idea of revenge. I think revenge gets short shrift in modern society. By now I’m sure that the list of people upon whom I would like to revenge myself is far too long for me to get through even if I were to start right now.
The Platonic ideal of Revenge, I believe, is governed by two main principles, both of which I derived from The Count of Monte Cristo, a book I reread every couple of years or so. The Count of Monte Cristo is the story of a man who spends the first three hundred pages of the book languishing in prison because his enemies set him up and who spends the remaining eight hundred pages of the book taking implacable revenge upon them. (Actually, at some point near the end the revenge becomes placable, which is to my mind the only real fault of the book.)
The first principle of truly satisfying revenge is that the perpetrator must do no more than create favorable circumstances; the victim has then only to act according to his wicked character, and he will destroy himself. Fernand in The Count of Monte Cristo, for example, betrayed the Greek pasha to his enemies on his own; the count merely helped bring the truth to light. Similarly, the count merely engineered matters so that Danglars’s risky business ventures failed; it was Danglars himself who, out of greed, invested everything he had in them.
The second principle of revenge is that the victim must know or learn that he is being ruined because of what he did to you. Fernand, Danglars, de Villefort—by the end, the count has revealed himself to them as the Edmond Dantès, the wretch they imprisoned so many years ago.
It is by these principles that I am guided in all my revenge fantasies. Say P.C. Richards refused continually to refund the money I spent on a defective washer-dryer. I might imagine that the Attorney General of the United States shut the company down for fraud, discovering in the process a drug smuggling ring that would send all the executives to prison; I would be there in court, smiling at them as they were dragged off in handcuffs to a place where there would be all sorts of things it would be difficult for them to refuse.
But there’s one incident for which, even though it happened a few years ago, I haven’t been able to construct the appropriate fantasy. It happened on a rainy weekday afternoon; I was walking in midtown on my way to deliver a script to an agent or something like that. Now, when I say “rainy,” I mean really rainy, and I had neglected to bring an umbrella or even, I believe, a raincoat. I got to the end of one block and needed to cross to the next, but the space available to do so was limited, two cars having gotten very close to each other with perhaps a person and a half’s width between them. I saw a woman carrying a large umbrella coming toward me from the opposite direction, but I figured, what the hell, we’ll probably both be able to get through. This turned out to be incorrect, however, and when we collided she yelled, “WATCH WHERE YOU’RE GOING!”
Understand, please, that at the time of this incident I was not nearly as well medicated as I am now. And so when she yelled at me I was instantly filled with rage. Such rage, in fact, that, as you can see, I still remember it years later.
But I don’t know what the revenge fantasy is.
I imagine the spines of her umbrella coming to life and growing long enough to gouge her eyes out (and then doing so), but that violates both principles of revenge; even if they told her as they were gouging her eyes out that it was because she had been mean to me, the fantasy would still violate the first principle.
So any help you can give me would be most appreciated.
Note that, while umbrellas can apparently come to life in my revenge fantasies, I myself am subject to the same limitations that compass me in real life, so I can’t do things like divine her address and show up at her apartment.
The other day, while E.S. and I were watching The Millionaire Matchmaker, we were both struck by how well the millionaire and the girl he had chosen for his first mini-date were getting along—from their badinage you’d think they’d known each other for years. Then E.S. and I had the following conversation.
FAUSTUS: He picked her because she has a personality.
E.S.: He picked her because they have similar defensive structures. They both use humor to protect themselves, so they feel safe and comfortable with each other.
FAUSTUS: That’s why I didn’t like you when we went out the first time!
E.S.: You still don’t like me.
FAUSTUS: Well, right, but—we have different defensive structures.
E.S.: No we don’t.
FAUSTUS: Yes we do.
E.S.: We’re both avoidant.
FAUSTUS: I use humor as a defensive structure. You’re not funny.
E.S.: You use narcissism as a defensive structure. You think you’re funny.
FAUSTUS: Get away from me.
By this time tomorrow, the whole issue will have been settled one way or the other, but while it’s on my mind I want to write about the grammar of California’s Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution to add a section 7.5 reading “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
Let’s say we analyze the structure of the sentence as “Only [noun] [prepositional phrase] is [adjectival phrase].” We could then create an analogous sentence that read, “Only Sam over there is good in bed.” It’s nonsensical to read this as indicating that Sam is good in bed when he is over there but not when he is anywhere else. The only possible reading of this sentence is therefore that the Sam who is over there is good in bed, but that nobody else is. (Note that such an assertion, were we actually to make it, would be libelous; I happen to know from personal experience that, while Sam certainly is a sexual dynamo, he is by no means the only one in the world. Or in New York. Or, you know, in his family.) If we apply this structural understanding to our original sentence, we see that the only possible reading is that a marriage that is between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California, but that nothing else is. Not same-sex marriage, of course, but also not felony statues, not stop signs, not the laws of physics.
Actually, it’s a little more complicated than that, because in addition to the “only” problem we also have the issue of “or” (valid or recognized) and whether it’s exclusive (he’ll take my virginity tonight or tomorrow, but not both) or inclusive (he’ll sleep with me, Jim, or me and Jim (separately or together—an inclusive “or” allows for both) ). If “or” is exclusive, then, according to section 7.5 of the California constitution, heterosexual marriage is 1) valid or 2) recognized, but not both. Adding the “only” back in means that everything else (same-sex marriage, felony statutes, stop signs, the laws of physics) is either 1) valid and recognized or 2) neither valid nor recognized. If the “or” is inclusive, then heterosexual marriage is 1) valid, 2) recognized, or 3) both, while everything else (same-sex marriage, felony statutes, stop signs, the laws of physics) is neither recognized nor valid.
(And I’m not even going to start with “in California” and whether it governs “valid and recognized” or just “recognized.”)
To mean what its proponents say it means, Proposition 8 would have to read something like, “In California, marriage is valid only if it is between a man and a woman.” But it doesn’t. So instead it means that, constitutionally, the only way for the laws of physics to be valid or recognized in California is for same-sex marriage to be legal.
Anyway, I think I’ll head west. When I get there, depending on how they’re interpreting this stuff, I’ll get married or go on a consequence-free murder spree. Really, I’m fine either way.
Update: Consequence-free murder spree it is. Fuck.
E.S. and I went to see Star Trek this evening, and I’m sorry to report that I have to break up with him. He’s a nice guy, and the sex is good and all, but it’s obvious to me that whoever wrote the dependent clause “Since my customary valediction would seem oddly self-serving” is in fact my soul mate.
It has been a year and eleven months since I turned in the manuscript for Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever. I have spent most of that time tearing my hair out trying to figure out what to write next.
Today, thanks to an old friend and a former classmate, I think I got it.
I’m really worried here.
It was one thing when I missed it before.
But why is the Internet not full to bursting of Adam Lambert/Kris Allen slashfic?
Is there something really wrong with me?
I mean, even wronger than I thought?
Great. After sticking with it for years, after spending an entire season’s worth of Thursday nights whispering to myself, “Denny’s ridiculous and annoying reappearance is not shark-jumping, Denny’s ridiculous and annoying reappearance is not shark-jumping,” I decide to give up on Grey’s Anatomy two weeks ago. Now I can’t look at my computer screen without reading about the season finale, and it’s maddening because 1) I am furious that I missed it and 2) I kind of don’t care anymore.