Spring 2007




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the Best happiness money can buy
Matthew Spillum

So, it is autumn again. Another time of change and dying, another binge of introspective self-indulgent naval gazing. Another year to mope and ignore all pharmaceutical remedies, disdain the renewal of a new look. I admit it; fully and truthfully, even shame-faced…I am under-medicated and under-managed. I dress exactly as I have for the last eight years. I am one of those Dr. Bronner’s hippie-soap people. Outside of coffee and beer, my every step remains in jarring syncopation to the steady rhythm of the Paxilated, the Valiumed, and the Aveda-ed.
            I can hear the chortles now: Is he serious? Doesn’t he know about (fill in newest pharmacological savior of humanity here)? Doesn’t he understand that he could look so much better? How does he even manage to rise in the morning?
            How indeed.
            Was a time, I held myself above that question. Held myself superior in an above-the-fray kind of way. Natural human biochemistry for a natural life. Fresh air, athletic activity, yoga, teas, social interaction; I scoffed at television watchers and laughed out loud at the miracles of medicine touted in each and every supermarket aisle. I rolled my eyes at those who could discuss matters of fashion and personal care products. I just knew my healthy, low-maintenance lifestyle was right for me. I was happy, right?
            Sure. And then autumn arrives. The platitudes start around the second week of September. “Just part of the natural cycle…can’t have ups without downs…when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” What a crock. That might be how it was before good drugs and cable, but I live in this world. There are better ways available, if only I permit myself to see them.
            First of all, there is the appearance issue. I have always been scathing about the superficial ridiculousness of society, but isn’t it time I looked in the mirror for a change? Even as a child, I can still recall Billy Crystal’s Fernando character saying, “it’s more important to look good than to feel good.” And if the barrage of television and media has taught me anything, it is that looking good is actually the step towards feeling good. You simply have to put in the effort. Have to join in the social aesthetic. I used to mock such thoughts as trivial. Wouldn’t personal comfort be a better step towards happiness?
            Sure, if I live alone on an island. But other people have to see me, have to smell me, have to fit me into their environment. I might not like letting various television personalities tell me how to appear and what to purchase to maintain that appearance, but that is just a part of the ever-growing social contract. Insofar as happiness is a social construct, it isn’t capitulation to fashion to adopt more acceptable modes of appearance. We let designers craft our surroundings, our furniture, cars, clothes, even toilet plungers. Who am I to be the battered wagon wheel coffee table in the otherwise tasteful lounge of life? I might do well to let the Queer Eye guys help me out.
            Then there are the emotional issues. I have always been a ‘sensitive’ person. Certainly, there are many schools of thought as to how to deal with emotions. But years of natural methods and mystical means and that cheapest of all solutions, doing nothing (we in the inactivist school like to call it ‘riding it out’) have amounted to little but an accumulation of knowledge of my personal manic-depressive cycles.
All the while, I have ignored the psychotropic and anti-depressant route out of pride and a scorn for pharmacological cop-outs. And what has this recalcitrance availed me? Nothing but years of being out of emotional step with my more open to medication fellow citizens. For good or ill, the society has made a choice, and in numbers sufficient to render non-participation a borderline mental illness.
            Because it is crazy to be depressed when there are solutions to that problem. It is crazy to be out of sync with a happier populace. It is crazy to stay unhappy and isolated in our society. What is so frightening about a pill? If it makes it easy to go to work and talk to more people, why not? Get off the sidelines and get in the game, as they say.
            So, it falls to me to get a haircut, and nicer clothes and plenty of product. But most of all, I need a bunch of pills to smooth out the hills and fill in the valleys. So, when you see me, the new improved me, you might be tempted to give a smile. And I’ll smile back…just exactly the same smile: not too broad, not too tight. You know, the one we see everywhere. It might be nice, I think, to semi-experience this autumn with everyone, to sail smoothly through a beige winter in the company of all I see.

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