The following is the first entry in a new series, On the Orange Couch with JLG. It derives whole heartedly from my new found obsession with beloved podcast, magazine and Netflix series Off Camera with Sam Jones.
Velvet couch, orange. Framed by barrel lamps with shaggy, seagrass shades. The wine needs opening, but the record’s on, Leon Bridges maybe. What else on a Sunday. Racing back to the mirror and in my haste I set myself back a solid two minutes as the mascar dots my eyelids with black flakes. Naturally in the midsts of wiping everything clean, he’s knocking. He can wait a few more seconds, I tell myself as I dig into the draw for a dab of lip paint in desert rose. The mascara I’ll forgo: too stressful, too tedious. And the messy bun atop my head will have to do.
This is hosting at 25 — Hasty but pulled together enough to almost pass the adult test. Naturally Drew rolls up classy as ever with his collar popped and that side smile. Arms go out, as though you could resist. His eyes move inside as he assesses…and more or less seems to approve, “Looks great, so much space,” says the boy with the most impeccable taste, and an immaculate shoe box in Beverly Hills.
We’re midway through the first story, and I’m nodding like a bobble head. No bother that in my absent minded twisting I’ve likely ruined any chance of ever untangling that cork from our extraction contraption. We pour generously, and there’s a sense that the room is sort of floating. Finally The Great Gatsby’s descriptions of “smudgy” (to use a Joan word) spaces makes sense in my head.
I lied. Actually the first conversation was more of a musing than a story. He opens in earnest with ‘Isn’t it the worst when everything’s going right? When you feel too happy with the way things are?’ This could come off as irritating, but it’s clearly a genuine quandary. And I get it. Feeling settled is the goal that never feels all that satisfying. Is happiness suppose to be a sense of enjoyment ‘in the now,’ but clouded with the ever present concern over just how long until it all turns stale? Or is a better version of happiness a yearning that can never feel stale because it’s never really all there? We discuss.
I cut myself off before I can get to my Quartz article spiel: The cornerstone of my argument on the matter. He hasn’t told me about Abu Dhabi!
It’s like a sweltering version of the Netherlands– moneyed, incomprehensively well run, filled with happy, communal people that barely work — barely as in 3 day work weeks. And moneyed as in people don’t have mansions; they have compounds filled with mansions…and “fridges for Ferraris.” Yet for a nation that has it all, the one thing they lack, he observes, is the very thing that fuels America. They lack a sense of individualism, and with that comes an utter lack of personal tastes, a creative class, and really any mode of true self-expression rooted in personality. Every aesthetic object is valued in terms of monetary capital. In short, people there buy based on known price tags, then shamelessly flaunt their expensive “hodgepodge of bad taste” for all their friends and family to see.
In other words, the AUE is one of the 10 wealthiest nations in the world, so how wild to have all the money in the world and yet not know how to spend it, or rather, to spend it well? For a place that could easily be written off as a utopian kind of wonderland sounds to me like a dystopia. Surely it has to feel slightly unfulfilling to clutter one’s life with objects one doesn’t even personality like — but simply wants because the rest of the world has decided to give them a steep sticker price?!
The ending to our overdue gathering lands on the topic of love. Well I force him to discuss. Initially he coyly says, “Nothing new, lets hear about you.” No no. I press on. And it’s funny, no one worth talking to ever opens up about this topic at the first try. Everyone always holds back. It’s almost like an unspoken social code not to gush about these things on the first cue. “So how’s that guy?” I’m vague but I can’t be wrong if I keep the line open-ended.
We finally get into the heart of what turns out to be a truly crazy story. The plot line revolves around an Instagram star that initially seems like a promising potential but around Christmas time goes off the rails. For every curt text by Drew an average of seven rapid fire replies are vollied back. He’s relentless and revealing all his cards — i.e. shamelessly proving just how many tabs he keeps Snapchat history. It’s actually absurd…and hilarious to read. The endless texting thread has me thinking back to an all-too-true op-ed by The Atlantic, How It Became Normal to Ignore Texts and Emails.
“As much as these communication tools are designed to be instant, they are also easily ignored. And ignore them we do…The result is the sense that everyone could get back to you immediately, if they wanted to—and the anxiety that follows when they don’t. But the paradox of this age of communication is that this anxiety is the price of convenience. People are happy to make the trade to gain the ability to respond whenever they feel like it.” And in some cases this drives some mad. And gives the other party all the power.
The article continues, “it’s not always easy to figure out what someone meant to convey by using a certain emoji, or by waiting three days to text you back. Different people have different ideas about how long it’s appropriate to wait to respond. As Deborah Tannen, a linguist at Georgetown University, wrote in The Atlantic, the signals that are sent by how people communicate online—the “metamessages” that accompany the literal messages—can easily be misinterpreted.” The irony is that we seem to both be troubled and obsessed with this ambiguity.
I could go on, but I’ll stop here. Because we did too. Drew got a message from Pillow telling him it was past his bedtime if he wanted optimal REM.
All this rambling is to say that we had a good conversation. One that was offline. I want more of these, so I’m going to make them happen…Next up? ‘On the Orange Couch with JLG’ will host Ashley, Consultant & athletic enthusiast, on the topic of modern love. Stay tuned.