Conniving brothers and dead-end jobs

This week, Dr. McFeely attends to uncomfortable skirts, scandalized chat roomers and a man who's doing it to his own brother's mop.

Published August 6, 2001 7:00PM (EDT)

Dear Dr. McFeely,

I'm a recent college graduate and I'm the only one of my friends to have a "real job" that might actually lead to a career. So here I am at 22 wearing skirts and staring at a computer all day with another 50 years of the same crap looming, looming.

I think I should stick with the job, because then I might actually learn some skills that would help me get a job I hate less. And anyway, maybe the job's OK and I just hate the skirt, the computer and the adjustment to sitting still nine hours a day. Then I think I'm making a terrible mistake and should join my friends in the great outdoors and have an adventure instead. So you see, I am stuck. How should I feel?


Dear Anonymous,

Your friends in the great outdoors are snipping at each other over the can opener, which got left on the kitchen counter. They want a career.

That said, you should feel noble if you do quit your job. Nobody tells bosses to take jobs and shove them anymore. It's like hopscotch -- one day people simply won't know how to do it anymore.

The doctor feels that your skirt can go. If your boss complains about you wearing pants, you should feel entitled to tell him or her that you work better when each leg is surrounded by fabric, and also that Einstein wore pants, and look how great he was.

Dear Dr. McFeely,

Last night in a chat room a group of us "older" (20- and 30-somethings) "girls" (gay men) were dissed by a 17-year-old who basically indicated that we were all big fat old losers. For some reason this didn't bug me, and I reflected on what I had been like at 17 -- maybe as clueless, but not nearly as big an asshole. I feel like I should be madder at this punky little homo, but I also feel like life or the Universe is going to serve him up a large fresh heaping platter of humility one of these days. HSIF?

Older and Wiser

Dear Older and Wiser,

The doctor has seen evidence of humility's existence once or twice, not counting TV and the movies, and not counting people who already had it. Your friend the big asshole will indeed enjoy a comeuppance, but he won't recognize it. He will simply find himself at a quiet crossroad afterward. He will either get surly about the comeuppance and become a bigger asshole or begin to slowly mellow out. If he's lucky enough to go the mellow route, he's still not going to be issuing apologies.

You should feel like a 70-year-old in a 20- to 30-year-old's body, on account of your perspective and your impressive restraint. Just for fun, try hiking your pants up to your armpits and watching Court TV. Eat dinner at 4:30, then wait for the next young chat room interloper, who will be an improvement on the last.

Dear Dr. McFeely,

I'm a 24-year-old boy who lives with his family. I have a brother who's 18, and handsome, and he's always bringing home girls and making bang in the room next to me. I can hear them through the walls, and sometimes I sneak in and watch them. I don't have friends, so I made a pet out of a mop and a carrot. It's called Lorenzo, but it's a girl, and we had an affair that I hid from everyone. But lately things have been different between us, and I suspect that my brother's been doing it to Lorenzo. I don't want her to go to hell, but she might have to. HSIF?


Dear Larry,

Let's say there's a donkey walking down the street. Is he wearing stockings? Well, yes. But imagine a doggy selling vegetables to the donkey -- which one will go to hell?

That's a rhetorical question. The doctor suspects you haven't even tried talking to Lorenzo. Or your brother, for that matter. You should feel like it's you who's the handsome one. Your long lashes are the envy of all the neighborhood boys, and the way you sit up straight at the table makes your brother look like a bag of flour.

Dear Dr. McFeely,

I'm 26 and have a job as a "researcher" that pays well and, if I worked hard, would provide me with some satisfaction. However, my bosses have little idea what I do, and no interest, and only provide disinformation for those whose money they are trying to extract. I feel that it is all a farce.

Obviously I am now trying to get new work, but as I have been in the job for a while my motivation has sunk to a new low and I am finding it difficult to motivate myself for anything, including having fun. I am worried that my habits are becoming ingrained. What do you recommend in the meantime, before I get a new job, as a way to motivate myself and change my habits for the better? How should I feel?

Dazed, Confused and Fed Up

Dear Dazed,

Habits becoming ingrained? This is like saying a pheasant is becoming feathery. Habits are ingrained, and the doctor thinks you might like it if he paraphrased Kierkegaard now: The self is only that which is in the process of becoming. This doesn't just mean that we're all always evolving; it also means we can hope for no cohesive "self" until we are evolving.

The doctor doesn't think a self will magically locate a new fun job, such as water slide monitor. But he does think it could be useful while the old one drags on. You should feel your brain is a rough 4 feet of sidewalk. Why do the ants always follow the same invisible line over the sidewalk? There are many others they could follow, and nothing to it but to do it. This is a metaphor, by the by. Also, aren't those big, juicy ants disgusting?

Dear Dr. McFeely,

Just found out I'm losing my job due to lack of funding. Trying to survive a night course in biology at a local college. Broke up with my girlfriend because she's mentally ill and not taking care of herself. Planning a move that was in the works before all this stuff hit the fan. Just met a wonderful new woman but still reeling from the old one. How should I feel?


Dear Reeling,

The doctor doesn't care about night courses in biology. He wants to know about the girlfriend, kicked to the curb, not mentioned until sentence three. The doctor doesn't know whether you belong together, but he worries that she's having a needlessly hard time.

Your impulse to start over is admirable, and it was a similar impulse that yielded the United States. But reeling people don't always make good movers. They leave boxes of books on top of the car and feel empty in their new apartments. You should feel like slowing down and making some lists, at the very least.

Dear Dr. McFeely,

Sometimes I am overwhelmed by feelings of hatred of my fellow man. Not my friends, mind you, but the anonymous, SUV-driving types that seem to be taking over my whole city.

Is this an OK way to feel?

Part-time Misanthrope

Dear Part-time Misanthrope,

It is an OK way to feel in the same way it's OK to run over rats or spit on your television set. Not only are you wasting precious time, you're doing it in an uncreatively vituperative way.

If the doctor hadn't already used up that Kierkegaard thing earlier, he might bring it out now. You should feel like becoming a self that finds better targets than oversize cars. Besides, your misanthropy will eventually lead you to your own SUV, in which you'll drive around 15 feet off the pavement, probably hatching plans.

Dear Dr. McFeely,

My grandmother was lamenting her old age symptoms -- how she can't remember anything, her sleeping problems, et al. I had nothing to say. After all, she is old, and those things are to be expected. However, she was clearly expecting some response from me. HSIF?

Golden Silence

Dear Feelings Unavailable,

You might have expected those things, but it doesn't sound like grandmother did. Your friends, when they're done dutifully sympathizing, will tell you to say something, anything, next time. Say something comforting and understanding nice. Doesn't need to be logical, and so forth.

However, the doctor thinks you have a block. Like at parties, when the guy in the scarf keeps talking about how travel is enriching, and you can't do anything but nod and say, "OK, OK." Surely there are better things to say in the brain, but they are inaccessible. It's a frustration for you, and also for Mr. Scarf.

You should feel like taking a long walk in the afternoon, alongside a lake. Make sure it's hot, and that your clothes aren't cashmere, because after a while, you're going to jump in. You'll swim out past the mossy rock, then out around the bend with the dead tree. You'll swim to the log, and the sunning turtles will waddle back into the water. Amidst your exhaustion you'll notice that your thoughts are pounding away in your brain, thousands of things to say at any given moment, enough for a lifetime. And when you get back to shore, you'll be freezing, and only later will you make a plan to visit your poor grandmother.

By Chris Colin

Chris Colin is the author most recently of "Blindsight," published by the Atavist.

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