Mankind’s Not a “Thing” Anymore, You Asshole

by Charlotte E. Wilde

“But I didn’t get the memo,” I explained, hurriedly scanning my inbox.

“Paradoxically, he said ‘it’s too theoretical’ for a paper on theory. What the fuck does that even mean?”

“Wow, that’s rough.” Her reply rings with a shade of pity, unique to people who’ve never really had anything to feel sorry about, and a mild discomfort which I attribute to the vehemence with which I’d let fly the word ‘fuck.’ It was an innocent and endearing pity, at any rate.

Apparently, an anonymous dissertation advisor once said good writing was 50% of the battle. And, if that’s indeed the case, surely this paper received at least 1% for effort, which, if we stick with the battle analogy, makes it a win. Right? Well, I’ve never been good at numbers.

I’m skimming a sprinkling of fairly forced sounding praise that I read as ‘don’t drop out, I’ve seen worse,’ followed by a mountainous rubble heap of shortcomings. Sounds a lot like everything else in life, so what’s the big deal? I’d trudged through the metaphysical platitudes everybody already knows, but I was unaware that everybody knew them. Where was I for that? Probably the same place I was when ‘mankind’ ceased to be a thing. Probably a bar.

“You’re too hard on yourself,” she told me, slurring her words just enough to make them sound heart-felt and wise. And in that moment, I’m convinced. In total agreement for exactly the length of time it takes my eyes to flick back down towards the email I’ve been covertly looking at under the table.

“Wait, you’re saying you prefer the ‘fucking-amazings’ coming from everybody else? But you complain about that too…” Her words float off at the end, hesitantly forming a question.

“Uhhh, yes.” I reply, absorbed in the fanfare of my pity party for one.

But it’s true, I wait for these handouts in the department hallway with a sign that reads, “down on luck, not on hope,” eagerly awaiting somebody’s recycled praises that I can slip into my back pocket to take out on a rainy day. I save these up for when I’ve not showered in 48 hours and resorted to eating nothing but cheese. Then, draping them around the Pinterest-worthy bones I call shoulders, I prance about the house looking in mirrors, thinking, “OH YOU! You are such a fucking innovation! Nobody has ever read THIS and saw THAT before, not a single person in the past 100 years!” Then maybe take a selfie or two…but I erase those before they end up on RedditNSFW because my internet is stolen from a neighbor (clever enough to come up with the title “where the wifi things are” but not to password protect).

“That’s what I get for trying,” I grumble aloud, or was it silently? ”And what is writing anyway, if not some ode to the circle jerk?”

I’m picturing prose draped in sneaky self-promotion, strung out like Christmas lights on my parent’s neighbor’s trailer. Well, those particular ones are left over from Valentines day…but who really cares anymore? At the end of the day, it’s the “burying” that will help you trim the fat off “too much passion” to better fit the mold of academia. ‘Extra dry,’ like the middling Yellowtail champagne that marks the end of semester 1. Er, semester 5…but who’s counting?

I realize she’s too innocent for the circle-jerk reference. “I’ll have another glass,” I announce with feigned conviction, shrugging slightly in response to her quizzical regard.

I take the drink she offers and slip my phone back into my pocket. This champagne is making my wallowing taste funny. As she pours her own I consider her flat A- jealously, even as I realize that I wouldn’t have been happy with that either.

[Insert something here about the color of grass and fences and whatnot.]

Shrug. Some people have all the luck.