- I pity the fool
- Pardon me, do you have any grey poupon?
- Opposite Day!
- You are the weakest link…good bye!
- Is that your final answer?
- Talk to the hand
- Oh snap!
- Take a chill pill
- Don’t go there!
I hope this short list has conveyed how popular culture creates memorable saying that immediately conjure different images, eras, and feelings. These short sayings catch on and – for a while – are really funny and cool. People laugh at them and make jokes about them. And then they fade from the public consciousness. Remembered but also forgotten. Fleeting.
As such, these popular culture catch phrases aren’t exactly ideal words for important or lasting life events. I imagine at least one wedding from the late 1990s somehow clearly worked the question “Is that your final answer?” into wedding ceremonies. In fact “I pity the fools” that have to endure a memory inspired by a line Regis Philbin was likely contractually obligated to say to prevent lawsuits. I would imagine that majorities of couples now regret expressing these love for each other using a pop culture catchphrase.
In fact, I don’t have to imagine this regret because I feel it myself.
Allow me to elaborate. During the fall of 2010, I was in the North Park library. I was sitting in the reference section surrounded by thick tomes that represent the best and most lasting contributions to human knowledge – perhaps that antithesis of these throw away sayings – and with the beautiful girl I was crushing on: Christy. We were flirting and reading together – each surrounded by books and our thoughts and insecurities and feelings for each other. We were in touch with these deep and core questions of life, meaning, love, and emotion.
A mutual friend came by and commented that because Christy had more than one book open at the same time, she must think she was better than us. He was joking, of course, but in my love-addled mind, I saw this as the perfect opportunity to step in and defend her honor. Like other great romances in history, I would step in and defend her honor and, by doing so, make my feelings evident to her. So I did. Casually, I boldly proclaimed what I thought of Christy. I said
“Christy is all that and a bag of chips.”
And I immediately regretted by decision. Deeply regretted. Regretted in a way that called into question my entire identity and raised questions about whether I could ever trust my brain to make any future decision. I thought to myself: “I had graduated from college! Was repeating the 1990s phrase ‘She’s all that and a bag of chips’ really the best thing I could come up with? If I could have said something better, why didn’t I say it then!? Was that the best I could do?”
Yet this regret immediately turned to panic and I forced myself to play it cool. Maybe I was over-reacting. It wasn’t that bad. Maybe she hadn’t even heard it! “Wait. Who says that?” said our mutual friend who’s joke had provoked the comment. Damn, I thought to myself, I’m not getting a pass on this. “Seriously, who says that anymore?”
That was just over 32 months ago. And, I’m very happy to report, my budding relationship with Christy survived this episode. And, in fact, the more I ponder this story, the more my regret is subsiding.
Part of this subsiding has to do with lesson – one printed on every page of every book that surrounded us both that day. That the only human access we have to these huge, eternal, and core questions of love, meaning, emotion, and ourselves, comes mediated through the tangible and concrete. The snapshots, definitions, maps, and commentaries on the pages of those reference books are not the reality they are trying to explain – they necessarily fall short – but that is okay. Access to the depths of the human experience happens in a particular time and place. Or, to put it another way, YOLO.