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CSotD: The Real World & all its works & all its pomps

I think we have to assume that Jeremy, in Zits (KFS)has just concluded his junior year (again), since he has a drivers’ license and has recently gone to prom.

The humor here is in the “Gather ye rosebuds” element, though a lot of my friends worked construction that summer, even if they weren’t putting money aside for college, the University of Asia being where a lot of them eventually matriculated.

A day after this strip ran, Jeremy’s GF began the process of roping him into a job as a summer camp counselor, which was my gig that summer and which was fun but paid nearly bupkis. It was certainly nothing approaching the Real World.

But let’s stick to the world of suburban privilege for a moment as we examine this

Juxtaposition of the Day

(Barney & Clyde – WPWG)

(Agnes – AMS)

These strips are already a juxtaposition, because, while Cynthia is only vaguely aware of her privileged life, so, too, Agnes and Trout are only vaguely aware of how low on the social register they dwell. In both cases, the cartoonists make that a recurring central element and a stark contrast to the Ozzie and Harriet middleclass world that is the default for most strips.

(I say “Ozzie and Harriet” because, contrary to popular mythology, “Leave It To Beaver” often addressed the Cleavers’ comfortable lifestyle.)

And I particularly like the way sarcasm goes over Cynthia’s head, because, as the child of management in a mining and mill town, I’m still sorting out how much sarcasm and hidden resentment went over mine, despite my parents’ attempts to keep us from being so blind.

But Agnes also reminds me of the opportunities for humor, because there was a large private estate in town where genuinely rich folk came to relax and my friends who found work there came back with wonderful tales of extravagant bad behavior, like the poker game in which someone lost a large pot by a single card.

He furiously hurled several hundred dollars into the fireplace, then they calmly dealt another hand and the game went on.

My buddies also knew that, if they caught a good-sized trout, they could freeze it and sell it for ridiculous amounts of money to these fat cats, who, when the weekend ended, would take it home and claim it as their own.

The Real World is a funny place, if you know where to look and where not to.

On a related note upon which I touched a few days ago, Big Nate (AMS) inadvertently strikes a solemn truth that Scot Fitzgerald never figured out, and which college presidents have:

Be kind to your A student and he’ll say something nice about you at commencement. Be nice to your C student and he’ll build you a dormitory.

It’s worth going to your 25th Reunion simply to see how many of the scholars and stars have crashed and burned and how many of the slackers have become self-made tyros. Dee Dee’s question is intended to be rhetorical, but there’s at least an impressive number of buildings, if not entire schools, in the answer.

While, on a not-at-all-funny note, the story of Susan’s attempt at a promotion — which began here — continues in Between Friends (KFS).

This is serious stuff on a couple of levels. I’ve been in a position where management was badgering me to quit so they could replace me with a part-timer without paying illness. It’s called “constructive dismissal” but, as this link suggests, good luck providing it.

The good thing was that everyone could see it. Fellow workers would drop by my desk and say, “I can’t believe they’re making you do this (intern-level busywork),” but I’d just smile and say it wasn’t so bad, because I had resumes and feelers out all over the place. It only took me a few months to find somewhere I was valued and wanted.

Susan’s situation is more insidious, because it’s not specifically targeted at her. It’s an overall management attitude, and even this insult comes with a dose of back-handed praise that leaves her with a sense of brooding discontent. It’s harder to push back against nebulous misery.

If there’s an upside, it is that this management style is self-destructive, since it makes young, dynamic Savreen, whom they have not yet finished exploiting, question the wisdom of sticking around.

And then, of course, they’ll complain that this generation has no work ethic or sense of loyalty.

When my dad was 49, he bailed out on a steel industry that had taken him for granted for a quarter of a century and went to work for a major school board that wanted and valued him. I was never so proud in my life.

And I’m glad he wised up and got out when he did, because he only lived another 20 years, but they were happy, fulfilling years.

As Macanudo Airport (KFS) says, it’s the joy in life that matters, not the length.

“You Only Live Once” should not simply be applied to jumping out of airplanes. It works for the daily things, too.

Last Sunday’s Barney and Clyde (WPWG) touched on a sore spot for me.

Real introverts don’t announce that they are introverts. By definition, they don’t announce anything.

This is not to understate the issue of clinical depression, which is a completely separate matter, but we’re all shy and insecure.

Some of us overcompensate, talking too loudly and laughing too hard. Some even become actors or athletes, performing in front of huge crowds, often just after having vomited backstage.

Most of us just find ways to deal with that aspect of the Real World.

I have compassion for people who think their insecurities and shyness are unique, but I don’t know how to shake them out of this unproductive mindset, except, perhaps, to send them to those above-mentioned 25th Reunions, so they can see how Many once-seemingly confident people have crashed and burned and how many of the quiet ones have prospered.

But, goddammit, it’s your movie. Be the director!

And, much as I love Al’s speech, your job is not at the bank. Your job is to become truly happy and improve the Real World. Despite itself.


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