Here’s a story about two people. The first one is a successful assistant coach at a major D-1 college football program. The second one is the writer of the story.
Watch Marcus Wilson, the assistant coach, and you’ll understand. He paces the sidelines with his neatly-pressed university polo tucked into his neatly-pressed khakis. He carries a clipboard. He doesn’t miss a beat, doesn’t miss a play. He’s the best offensive coordinator in the Southeastern Conference and a lock to take over when his school’s current head coach retires. When that happens, he’ll become the first minority head coach in the school’s history. His life is perfect.
The other one, Oscar Berkman, is a bit more difficult. He’s lazy. What is he doing with himself, huh? His parents ask and he doesn’t answer. He shaves once in a while, eats once in a while, smiles once in a while. Those are his luxuries. He’s a teacher at a university and nobody cares. His life is perfect.
So here you have two perfect lives. Wilson’s life includes a six-figure salary and the keys to a football kingdom. Berkman’s life includes a modest five-figure salary and the keys to an efficiency apartment. Yet their stories are the same: the same as one another’s and the same as everybody else’s.
Wilson goes home to his gorgeous wife and three darling children. He kisses his wife and checks his children’s homework. He prepares dinner. He watches the local news. He reads the paper.
Berkman goes home to his futon. He reads a book for work. He reads a book recommended by one of his friends. He performs some light calisthenics. He stares at the ceiling until he falls asleep.
Wilson seems like the luckier of the two, right? He has his act together. Berkman is sitting and rotting; Wilson is on the rise. But that isn’t the truth and it never will be.
Wilson’s life is hell. Every night after that gorgeous wife and those darling children go to bed, he signs on to the internet. He navigates to a personals website. He enters his username (bigmommashouse) and his password (uafootball1) and the world starts to get a little crazy.
Oh stop this. What was this story going to be about? It was going to be about two people and I was going to write it using this really awkward parallel structure. But I don’t want to write that story anymore, nossir.
What I want to write about is sincerity. Now Marcus Wilson (the “hero” or “protagonist” or whatever of the story) wasn’t very sincere. He was living a lie. He would go online and pretend to be a chubby Arab chick (a big beautiful woman or “BBW”) and use this persona (created through his writing, which was secretly quite good because Wilson had been a frustrated journalism major) to seduce real women (whom he distinguished from “fake” women (like himself) using a variety of checks, protocols, tests, etc.). When they started to love him (i.e., when they started to love this persona), Wilson would block them on his instant messenger and never talk to them again.
Okay, so what about Oscar Berkman? Now Oscar Berkman was always very sincere (note that parallel structure, fo’ sho’!). He didn’t live a lie because he felt that’s what his parents had done and so he wanted to be forthright or on the level or “straight up” with the women he dated. When they said they loved him, he would shelve them in that dusty Royal Library of Alexandria mind of his and proceed to forget about them. Plus, he wouldn’t call it dating, because really, who dates nowadays? Do you go on dates? Don’t lie to me. I know you don’t, you big liar. You sit at home and rub your joystick or finger your slit or buzz your button or some such thing. I’ve seen the advertisements; I’ve seen the truth.
Anyway, the point I wanted to make was how both of these methods—Wilson’s lie and Berkman’s truth—were equally unsavory. Wilson was unhappy and Berkman was unhappy.
Yet there’s an even more important point here, and that’s why I’ve decided to truncate this narrative (a précis is as good as a disquisition to an ignorant reader in the same way that a nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse). The more important point is that there is no distinction between sincerity and insincerity.
Let’s take the simple sentence “I love you.” If you tell me this and it’s true, so what. If you tell me this and it’s false, also so what. Does it matter less if you don’t mean it? Of course it doesn’t.
People (i.e., “smart people” or “people in the know”) say that this is the age of irony, by which they mean that this is the age that has lost its grip on sincerity. Although this is a strange and incorrect juxtaposition, it’s no better or worse than saying that modernism gave way to post-modernism or some other gibberish.
Everything amounts to gibberish: Everything including that “I love you” and everything including this sorry excuse for a story. Marcus Wilson typed that he was a woman, he typed that in his online conversations, and yes he was a woman. His insincerity was their truth. And it was his truth too, even if he’s not real and they’re not real and none of this happened. Inside he was a woman, when he wrote from the heart of that phony persona he was a woman, and you have to get this.
I’m not making a complicated philosophical argument here. Because I don’t have the training, I couldn’t do that (i.e., make said complicated philosophical argument) even if I tried (and I won’t try because I’m too lazy). What I’m saying is that every single communication that we primates share with one another is true, because if you look at intention, well, the intention of primates is to reproduce and that’s always and everywhere the same (and that goes for of all of god’s creatures, “natch”). How we get there—how some of us get there—is the real trick. Some of us, having too much awareness for our own good, get there the long way; and some of us, having too little spirit and too much flesh, don’t get there the wrong way.
Poor Marcus Wilson. He had it figured out. Don’t most people have it figured out, so much of the time? No, reader, you just think that they do. And you’re a dumber son of a gun than I am because you think so.