Dozing polar bear, Indianapolis Zoo

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Essay Question One

The good professor saves me with an essay question on this post. He writes:

This essay test involves two questions. There is no time limit; however, each individual answer may not exceed 750 words.

1. Valentines Day: Love it or hate it? Explain.

2. The phrase "guilty pleasure" has been defined as "something that you enjoy[, but] that you think you shouldn't enjoy, either for personal reasons or because of the possibility of other's [negative] reactions." Describe your foremost "guilty pleasure" and explain why it fits the definition.

In grading your answers, a premium will be placed on irreverance and wit. Seriousness, soul-searching, and self-reflection should be avoided at all cost.

I turn in my blue book:
1. Love it, of course. But not for the reason you might think. And to that end, a question: How did the jewelry industry come to clutch the Valentine's Day narrative so tightly in its gold-plated fist? I suppose it happened in the same way most of these things do -- by endless repetition. For the last two weeks I've noticed the standard exhortations to Mr. T that he buy me baubles in order to get the sex we're going to have anyway. Although Mr. T has lovely taste in jewelry, he knows I'd rather spend the money on travel or a new piece of outdoor gear for us.* And vice versa. But really the nugget of it all is this: Once rampant consumerism takes over a holiday, it starts to feel forced. This is one reason I like Halloween; because it still has elements that can't successfully be consumerized.

So, no. I don't love the standard Valentine's Day narrative, which I find kind of boring. But what I do love is the quirky, authentic parts of it.

Like this (via):

Everything was on the table -- more accurately, on a video projector -- at Miami Metrozoo's Sex and the Animals event, a Valentine's Day tradition.

Hosted by zoo ambassador Ron Magill, the popular lecture attracted more than 400 people to see and hear the intimate details of how wild things do the wild thing.

(No, not Enumclaw. Miami. That's because it's about how animals have sex with each other.)
This is the sort of thing Mr. T and I would do on Valentine's Day if we lived in Miami. And we're not the only ones:

''This is the fifth time in a row this thing has sold out,'' Magill said.

And really, where else can you learn about the exhibitionism of pink tropical birds?

Magill dropped plenty of nuggets of who-knew? information, such as:

Flamingos like to have sex with others watching them. Two of the birds will get down while 30 others look on.

Frogs sometimes do it with two or more partners at a time. Most animals are not monogamous, Magill said.

Female pandas only have a three-day window each year to get pregnant. Zookeepers have shown the pandas films of other pandas having sex to get them in the mood.

Tigers in captivity are implanted with birth-control devices so they don't over-reproduce.

Some animals are gay, too. ''Homosexuality is found throughout the animal kingdom,'' Magill said.

I suppose the entire kingdom Animalia Sodomitica is going straight to animal hell. Ahem.

In sum, I like this part of Valentine's Day. I like the graphic on Google today. I like the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals' impeccable timing in striking down Texas's law against the sale of sex toys. (I like it all the more because the Fifth Circuit is one of the stodgiest, most conservative circuits in the country.)

Happy Valentine's Day! More dildoes, less jewelry!

2. I had to reflect on this one for quite awhile to really consider what I think of as a "guilty pleasure," and I realized that my difficulty stemmed not so much from a lack of pleasure as a lack of conscience. I had to reframe the "guilty pleasure" concept to "something I engage in that I know I shouldn't because doing other things would be much more productive."

And in the process of reframing it, I named it. My biggest guilty pleasure is anything I do to avoid work. Which feels increasingly like what I do for most of the day.

I should be researching the theory of collateral estoppel right now, but guess what? I'm writing this post instead. And when I consider my hourly rate, it's kind of stunning to realize just how much blogging and reading about politics on the internet is worth to me. I make a paltry yearly salary considering the earning potential reflected in my hourly rate.

This would, of course, surprise no one at my former law firm. Particularly my supervisors, who received my monthly timesheets with no small measure of frustration. Back then, though, what I did to avoid work was interact. I'm an ENFP, so interacting with people is fun to me. It was so much more pleasurable to be gabbing with someone, even if it was about strategy in a case or something, than actually doing the scut work of lawyering, which always must be done in isolation and quiet. (That kind of scut work now constitutes 100% of my work now, unfortunately.) So billable hours were and are a challenge for me. And perversely, those with the biggest interest in my achieving those hours often enabled my avoidance.

You see, people seem to find it easy to talk to me. They will often reveal sometimes striking personal details to me, unsolicited, very early on in our acquaintance. When I was at the firm, this led to a parade of people in my office, chatting with me about one thing or another. Half of them were partners. They'd talk about uncertainties about their career choice, their kids, whatever. Some of them would drop by for an hour to yak under the guise of "getting the associates' take" on some act or another taken by firm management.

Had they made me the Firm Ombudsman, I'd still be there. But alas, there is little upside to having such a position in a large law firm, and I burned out and left. If I could go back to my early twenties and do it all over again, I wouldn't become a lawyer again. I loved law school, but the actual practice of law goes so contrary to my temperament that it's frequently painful. It's purely an income thing, these days.

If I had a clear expanse of time in front of me as I did in my early twenties, I'd probably become a therapist instead. I don't really want to do that now, in my late thirties, but it's probably what I should have done to begin with.

These days, since I'm holed up in a home office like a fricking hermit, I avoid work through the internet. Political blogs, personal blogs, the news, e-mail, IM -- it's all good. I just wish someone would pay me my hourly rate for doing that instead of legal work.

But they don't. Back to collateral estoppel.

*I won't even go into the social issues involved with the production of certain kinds of jewelry. That's another post for another time.


madeline said...

What an interesting concept for an essay. Valentine’s Day-Love it or Hate it and Why? The obvious reasons to not like it are if you don’t have anyone special in your life or if you just abhor the sheer commercialism and consumerism of it all. But there are so many pros as well. Just as Christmas is so commercialism, there are so so many icons and little reasons to LOVE Christmas at the same time. Snowmen, Caroling, lights, decorations, trees, gifts, etc. So does Valentine’s Day have its icons and symbolism; cupids, hearts, new romances, true love, jewelry, anniversaries, CHOCOLATE, and of course roses and other flowers. It would be wrong and heartless to be a total Valentine Grinch. Think back to the fond memories you had of childhood and looking forward to going to class that day to exchange all your little valentine cards with your friends. There is bound to be Some aspect of Valentine’s Day, present or past, that will warm your heart. And speaking of warming your loved one’s heart, go to where you can register for Dove’s “Expressions of Love” contest for a chance to win a beautiful 5.58 carat “Baby’s Breath Diamond Necklace” worth over 21K dollars. Just describe how you feel about your honey in the most emotional and creative way to take home this lovely piece for her collection. I work for the company so I have an inside track. And don’t you want this Valentine’s Day to be the most memorable one for both of you?!

Anonymous said...

I think Halloween has been commercialized but I really don't care. Another guilty pleasure? coming from a horror/scifi comic book illustrator? Halloween decorations for my house that last year round! Weee! I stocked up on Black Kitty stuff this year. Got icons of Kitty Tootinheimer all over my desk at work.

Take care. I'm outa here in 2 min


Professor Prenkert said...

Madeline: Thanks so much for the pointer to the Dove site. I'd found it so difficult this year to express my love for my wife. But with the promise of a Baby's Breath Diamond Necklace -- which, by the way, is so much nicer than a Morning Breath Diamond Necklace . . . *phew* -- I was able to clarify my thoughts and really put it all out there in the most heartbreaking and profound way.

Too bad I forgot to keep a copy of what I wrote to show to her. Oh, well, if I win the Dog Breath Diamond Necklace, I'm sure all will be forgiven. Who'm I kidding? She really couldn't care less how I feel about her or how I treat her the rest of the year as long as she gets the right number of carats on Feb. 14! That's what V-Day's all about, isn't it?

Danger Panda said...

Not a lack of pleasure but a lack of conscience? Excellent! So you're sort of a socially conscious hedonist, eh? We should all be so lucky!

Trailhead said...

Socially conscious hedonist. I like that.

Trailhead said...

And don’t you want this Valentine’s Day to be the most memorable one for both of you?!

Look folks! It's the bloodied, mangled corpse of irony, right here in my comments section.

KCB said...

Look folks! It's the bloodied, mangled corpse of irony, right here in my comments section.

And that image alone was worth enduring Madeline's 260-odd words.