Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Remember the Brady Bunch episode when Marcia was supposed to go out with a guy named Charlie, but she broke their date to go out with Doug Simpson?

Sure, she liked Charlie and all, but Doug was the quarterback of the football team, and the most popular guy in school. So, Marcia did what most of us would have done, and told Charlie she couldn't make it.

In old-school sitcoms, this type of behavior is viewed with shocked disdain: Marcia might as well have been hiding pot inside the head of Cindy's Kitty Carry-all. Of course, the network television gods, with their uncanny ability to solve all human dilemmas within a half-hour (including commercials), saw to it that Marcia was duly punished for her aberrant behavior.

As even non-Brady fans will recall, shortly after extinguishing poor Charlie's testosterone-fueled fantasies, Marcia takes a football right in her formerly petite schnoz. And once Doug gets a load of Marcia's newly banged-up grill, he suddenly realizes he's got better things to do than be seen with the female version of DanielBEAK.

The incident helps Marcia understand her appalling behavior, and after her nose miraculously heals--literally overnight--she decides to go out with Charlie, the purehearted lug who didn't care what her nose looked like, kicking Doug to the curb. And wouldn't you know it? During the date, Doug shows up, he and Charlie fight, and in a Shakespearean twist, Doug runs home with a swollen nose.

This is how I learned morality: in 30-minute installments, complete with clearly-delineated rights and wrongs, and guaranteed happy endings. I never bought it, not even at 10 years old. Life doesn't work that way, I knew.

You probably chuckled at the ridiculousness of this episode, because you know there's no way it would have happened like that. After getting ditched, Marcia would never have gone back to Charlie: She would have descended to self-esteem hell, convinced that she was the ugliest creature ever to breathe earthly air, until A) she underwent a few years of therapy, or B)Doug asked her out again.

She would have pursued a course of action dictated not by "good vs. bad", but by what felt right. She wouldn't have analyzed why it felt right; she would have just done it.

Whether we admit it or not, most of us work the same way--and it's annoying when others try to steer us in a different direction.

A good example is the 65-mph speed limit. We can assess road and weather conditions, and we know our own driving abilities. We have a clear sense of how fast we can safely drive, and that's how fast we go. And we don't agonize about breaking the rules, because the rules are arbitrary; they were written by people who don't know anything about us.

There are legally-blind octagenarians, with licenses still in hand, who are completely within their rights to do 65 on the highway. Of course, they would probably kill someone if they did so, but it's legal. Formula I drivers, on the other hand, do three times that speed with another car six inches away from them. I'll ride with Dale Earnhardt Jr. at 80mph a hell of a lot faster than I'll ride with some Depends-clad senior citizen at 50. But of course, the rules tell us one of these men is bad, and the other is not.

Some people are emotionally incapable of cheating. They simply can't bring themselves to do it, or they are racked with guilt if they do. For them, it's clearly wrong, so they stay faithful. But they are faithful not because some rule says they have to be, but because that is what feels right to them.

The Brady Bunch is good television, but it's a farce. People like Marcia are superheroes of morality, making choices to benefit mankind before themselves. It's a fairy tale.

Far be it for me to disappoint, but I ain't Marcia Brady. Then again, you probably aren't either.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006, 9:45am
Steve's office

"Do you want to come over for lunch?" Krista says.

The bottom falls out of my stomach.

With a simple question, she has managed to communicate to me that she wants sex, and that she is willing to have it secretly, without discussions of what this means or how we stand. I know a freebee when I hear one, and if I don't nail her, someone else will.

I wait for the guilt to come. It doesn't. Obviously, I will be safe, so I'm not jeopardizing anyone's health. I'm not breaking off a relationship to be with her, and neither is she. Hell, I'll be on my lunch break, so I won't even be wasting work time! I'll go back to work, and, at the end of the day, I'll go home, just like I always do.

"That sounds good... did you... I... did... could... I mean, I could... bring over some, Chinese, I guess--"

I'm surprised at how flustered I sound. Sure, I've played this scene out a million times, but not lately. In fact, not for well over a year. And it feels good, just like hearing a song from my high school days that I had totally forgotten about.

"Great! See you around noon?"