The following passage is taken from Andy Nowicki’s new collection of essays, Ruminations of a Low-Status Male, Volume 1, now available for a low low price from Kindle and in paperback.
In Confessions of a Would-Be Wanker, I argue that corruption stalks the soul through the looming specter of sexualization. I don’t wish to repeat myself here; I only note that the attainmentf of status only becomes a goal in one’s life after one has begun seeking to impress the opposite sex.
Status, after all, is generally inextricably tied to sex appeal. A high-status male is wanted by women, though it isn’t always clear which is the cause and which the effect in such a circumstance. Sometimes his sex appeal boosts his status, and sometimes his obtainment of status via external means (say, through accumulating wealth) ups his appeal.
The low-status man attempts to hold onto his pride and not allow his dignity to be besmirched; yet the corruption of his degradation is never far from his consciousness. He still finds himself pining for status long after comprehending the ignobility of this state. And it shadows him everywhere, never seeming ever to leave him behind, a humiliating reminder of the shame that surrounds his mind like a malodorous halo of filth.
Not long ago, I was going for a swim at the neighborhood pool. When I say, “the neighborhood pool,” I mean a neighborhood close by the neighborhood where I live, for which my family has purchased summer membership. (Being low-status, I cannot afford to live in the neighborhood in question; still, I have a son who has friends there, and I am a compulsive exerciser who finds it relaxing to swim laps during the waning hours of a summer day.)
On this day the not-my-neighborhood pool was generally empty, as foul weather for most of the afternoon had kept the crowds away; thus, a clear path was made for my monotonous back-and-forth trek from the south wall of the lap-swim section to the north, and back again. Other than me, there was one other man about my age present, and his son, who was playing happily with a friend in the deep end. The man, however, was otherwise occupied: he was busy chatting up the blonde, bikinied girl who sat atop the lifeguard perch.
When I say “chatting up,” this perhaps unfairly communicates a certain salacity to his motives. In truth, there was nothing outwardly untoward about his demeanor. He wasn’t openly attempting to flirt, or even making inappropriate conversation. Instead, he was simply asking how she was enjoying her summer job, how many hours she was working per week, how much training was required to become a lifeguard, etc.
He also shared little mundane observations of his own, the details of which escape me now (as I only caught snatches of the exchange between gulps of air during my monotonous watery journey), although I am sure that they were as dull as they were harmless.
The girl, for her part, didn’t seem particularly annoyed by the attention of this pudgy fortysomething fellow; instead, she answered his queries with friendly nonchalance. No aspect of her behavior registered that she was thinking to herself, “Ew, why is this loser talking to me!” if she was conscious that her status as a hawt young woman greatly exceeded his as a dumpy-looking middle-aged guy, nothing in her bearing elicited such an awareness.
The interaction between the two of them was, in other words, a benign event, unworthy of too much note. Of course if the guy’s wife had been around, he probably never would have engaged the girl in conversation in the first place; and if this absent wife in question had suddenly shown up at the pool and witnessed her husband chattering with this chick, things might have become a bit awkward. But again, nothing in the man’s choice of topics or manner of speaking registered as “creepy.”
Yet I—the man breast-stroking from one side of the pool to the other, seemingly minding my own business, immediately found my brain contemplating this ill-matched pair, and my thoughts quite involuntarily raced into all sorts of low, ignoble, even belligerent places… My screeching interior voice mocked the guy’s doughy frame– for an older guy, it flatteringly reflected, I at least was in moderately good shape—and scathingly asked just who the hell he thought he was to bore this beauteous babe with his repulsive insipidity… This same screeching, scathing voice in my head (its cadences keeping time with the rhythm of my arms mechanically tracing their strokes through the chlorinated water) went on to boldly declare that, if this bikini blondie were interested in any other man around, surely it would be me, not this repugnant schlub!
Much as my “better” self understood how ridiculous, petty, and pathetic these considerations were—and how powerfully they attested to the extent of my patent insecurities—I nevertheless had a difficult time sloughing them off. The man I was ridiculing in my mind was in all likelihood a thoroughly decent husband and father; in all probability, in fact, he was a far better financial provider than I was (as he evidently lived in this neighborhood which I couldn’t afford).
The girl’s pleasant demeanor towards him was almost undoubtedly genuine, even if it proved to be rooted more in her own native amiability than a response to his awkward efforts at being charming. She wasn’t merely tolerating him, but was in fact chatting in the effortless manner of a born and bred “people person,” bearing all the while a benign, indulgent smile.
And yet my mind, bathed in unseemly ambition and stewed in phantasmagorical resentment, continued to spin wild notions, based entirely upon my misapprehension of this essentially harmless interaction. I tickled my fancy with the idea that this hot girl was surely checking me out as I swam past her post over and over again, even as she pretended to humor the attentions of this fat boob, who imposed himself to engage her in such vacuous conversation.
I flattered myself thusly with absolutely no evidence, of course, as my “better” self was quite aware all the while. Yet all the awareness I could muster had absolutely no effect in quieting my screeching interior voice raging for egoistic satisfaction and psychic satiety.
Such is the essence of corruption. Such is the bitter debasement husbanded by status-hunger.