This story begins and ends with macrame (yes, the weird cotton knotted thing that hangs in bunches).
My best friend is helping me make a macrame hanging for my bedroom. The reason I need a macrame hanging for my bedroom is twofold: #1. I’m endlessly insecure about how not-cool my house is and what’s cooler than macrame, people?! #2. I need something for above my bed and since I’m endlessly terrified of the Big Earthquake coming to Portland, I need something that will land softly on my face as my entire house is sucked up by the earth.
So I’m making this:
But since I’m not that crafty and I only have one good eye, the only way I can realistically make a macrame hanging is to copy my best friend’s macrame hanging EXACTLY. So that’s what I’m doing.
Macrame takes a lot of time. Which gave us a lot of time to talk about our lives. And how I think I suck more than other people suck.
Like, my car, for example. It’s super messy. And in my mind, everybody but me has a clean and shiny car. And nobody else forgets to let their dog out to pee and then their dog pees right by the front door and does the saddest eyes. I’m the ONLY person who does that.
Or my career, for example. Most days, I feel like the only person who is feels like a blob-blob who spends alot of time doing blah-blah. And I forget that ALOT of other people feel the same way.
Or my marriage. In my mind, every other couple is having intense soul-searching discussions DAILY, maybe even 2x a day on the weekends. And so when Andrew and I literally have zero words to say to each other, I think we are the sole carriers of the rare and fatal disease of Nothing-to-say-itis.
This is reverse exceptionalism. That’s a term I made up.
It’s the idea that you think your life is exceptionally worse than others. Your marriage is exceptionally worse than other people’s marriages. You have exceptionally thinner hair than other people’s hair. Your loser status is unique in it’s level of lameness.
And the problem with being the only one with VERY thin hair is that it makes the problem seem much worse than it is. And then I start obsessing over how thin my hair is. Instead of realizing that most people have hair types they’re not stoked with and it’s kind of a non-issue.
“For example,” I asked my friend. “Do you ever not have plans on a Saturday night and you feel bummed out?” (Another good thing about having a best friend is you can ask them probing questions and you already know the answer…)
“But is it the fact that you’re going to spend your Saturday alone, which actually sounds kind of relaxing, that is bumming you out? Or is the thought that you should have plans and that there’s something unusual or unique about you that you don’t have plans, that is bumming you out?”
She said it was the former.
That’s reverse exceptionalism. If we knew that most of our friends also had no plans on a Saturday night, it wouldn’t surprise us or concern us when we also didn’t have plans on a Saturday. But it’s the idea that everyone else DOES in fact have plans and we are EXCEPTIONAL in our loser status.
Why do people have reverse exceptionalism?
Since I made up this term, I feel like I need to make it seem more legit by giving it a cause: Instagram.
Seriously though, I think it’s fucking lonely to be in this world where we don’t talk a lot about how mundanely shitty our lives can be. Where even our “vulnerable posts” on social media are a type of posturing.
Which brings me back to macrame. Instagram re-birthed macrame. It should have died a proper death in the 1970s. And then some edgy “influencers” started knotting rope and lo and behold, everybody suddenly thinks macrame is the cats pajamas. And then you (i.e. me) start thinking you’re the ONLY person on the entire continent who doesn’t have a giant wad of cotton rope hanging on their wall. And that feels like just another example of how uniquely you’re a loser.
Which is how you spend $76 and eight hours of your life and end up with this: