It's unbelievable to me that everyone continues to watch football when we know that men are getting genuinely, permanently, brain damaged. The game is tantamount to cockfighting, only with people instead of animals.
The NFL has finally admitted the problem, to the extent it is poised to be the largest funding source for research about trauma to the brain. But still, the game encourages brain trauma. And people cheer.
I can understand if it's like smoking. You're addicted, you can't stop. But what about bringing your kids to the game? What about all the people who make the Superbowl a family TV event? Kids who play football in high school are more likely to die from that than drunk driving or guns. And parents encourage their kids to play this sport?
The culture of football amazes to me — the incredible level of denial. So what I’m thinking is that people are delusional. And they know it, but they keep going. They cultivate delusion.
That’s what I think of when I hear about the HBO documentary about Temple Grandin. She’s a total freak. This is why she's interesting. Because people love an underdog—people love seeing weirdness succeed because most people feel weird and they worry it's going to hold them back.
The problem is that a little weird is normal, but Temple is weird in a way that makes her a statistical improbability. Unlike Temple, most people with Asperger Syndrome are very smart but cannot hold down a job. Most Asperger people are living at the edge of poverty. They divorce at very high rates, and they are at high risk for depression and suicide.
Journalists who interact with Temple say that, on a personal level, she is absolutely impossible to deal with on a regular basis. This is not surprising. (Being difficult is what Asperger's is about, in a large way. Everyone tries to isolate themselves from things that drive them crazy. Someone with Asperger Syndrome just has a much longer list with a much lower threshold in the you-are-driving-me-crazy department.) So it’s lucky that she is an absolute genius in a field that has very little competition from people with good social skills. Most people with Asperger's, even if they are geniuses at, say, engineering (which is very common) get in trouble mid-career for lack of social skills.
I hate the glorification of abnormal. People who are abnormal have an enormous struggle to find a place in the world. It's not fun or glamorous. The celebration of abnormal is a delusional luxury of the relatively normal population.
More about the world of delusion: Time magazine reports that 78% women feel that media does not accurately represent women with kids.
Probably the most accurate representation of women is in the blogosphere. There is no filter here, no need to appeal to both Peoria and Pasadena all at once. But even the whole of the blogosphere does not represent the female experience particularly accurately.
The Pioneer Woman is largely housewife porn. The men are hot and rugged, just like in a romance novel. The author, Ree Drummond, is running an operation similar to Rachel Ray or Martha Stewart, but she markets herself as a stay-at-home mom, and a homeschooler at that. The whole thing strikes me as totally preposterous. It's as impossible as Friends, where everyone had a pricey NYC apartment, and not-high-paying job. But regardless, The Pioneer Woman's traffic is absolutely through the roof, proving the appeal of preposterous escapism.
Dooce, on the other hand, is more gritty, and has about half the traffic of Pioneer Woman. On Dooce, Heather Armstrong blogs about depression, her kids being difficult, and her parents being Mormon. I love Heather Armstrong. But she's the gold standard for writing a blog about your life and keeping a marriage together, and she is not, actually, writing about the female experience for married women.
Here is the female experience for married women (from a survey from PayPal):
37% of arguments are about money
24% are about household chores
15% are about in-laws
13% are about sex
Heather does not write about any of these arguments, except, maybe, chores. So who is writing about these fights? Where is the blogger explaining how she got through these fights?
I think the truth is that women don't want to see themselves reflected back to them. Family life is messy right now. No one would aspire to have the life the baby boomer women had; people won't even use the word feminist any more. And Generation X women, after creating the first fertility crisis in history by putting off kids for work, realized that they'd rather be home with kids than work full-time. So Gen X doesn't want to look in the mirror. It's too painful. Gen Y looks ahead and has no role model that looks appealing.
At first I was going to tell you how everyone who watches football and Temple Grandin are delusional. But I guess I am, too, because I read Pioneer Woman and Dooce all the time. And I like it.
But mindfulness goes a long way. For example, if you carry a book on your head every day for ten minutes, you will actually have more self-discipline to do the stuff in your life that matters more than a book on your head. It might seem like just a funny example, but don't underestimate how hard it is to get yourself to keep a book on your head for ten minutes each day.
I think this works with facing reality, too. Maybe if we do it daily, in some aspect of our life, we get the temerity to implement that discipline in other parts of life as well. But we have to start somewhere in order to battle the magnetism of delusion.
It’s easy to call out other peoples’ delusions. It matters much more to call out our own.