I am known among my friends as somewhat of a pop culture maven. I always used to say I was an idiot savant, until I learned what that meant: a human who is basically a drooling moron, yet has unlimited access to specific, accurate knowledge in certain fields for no apparent reason. Not only am I not technically an idiot, but also I think idiot savants generally display astounding knowledge in fields like mathematics, science, and music -- not Brangelina trivia.
The fact of the matter is, I’m smart, but I like dumb things. I haven’t ever read Beowulf, I have a truly horrifying grasp of international geography, and, when playing Trivial Pursuit, friends often believe they are not speaking clearly: “No, what civil war general,” they’ll say, as if I have misheard the question. I haven’t; my answer is just that wrong.
Now, to give myself credit, I speak articulately. I can write well. I use big words; I follow basic news and politics. I guess you could say that I’m smart in a sort of blanket way. I can generally pass myself off as a bright person, but if quizzed on facts, I’m kind of fuzzy.
There is one area in which I’m sharp as the 10-carat diamond that Paris Latsis gave to Paris Hilton. Oh, snap! That’s right – I know everything there is to know about the vapid, pointless world of celebrity scandal. For instance, that 10-carat diamond? Fake, it turned out. And Man Paris totally dumped Girl Paris because his parents didn’t want their son dating such a spoiled American celebri-whore. And also that happened like years ago, because now she’s dating another Greek heir named Stavros Niarchos.
On one level I’m really not proud of this. Of my four college roommates, one is a German-Jewish studies scholar who has read every lofty book known to man, one is a traveled musical theater star with a knack for magazine publishing, one is well on her way to becoming a successful webmaster and web designer (who also speaks fluent French and is the partial owner of a downtown restaurant), and one is applying to business school, having climbed the ranks at a small but influential non-profit. I have my own successes, sure, but it pains me to know that, if I were pressed to choose an area of expertise, it would not be the Supreme Court, or even documentary film; it would be dissecting the downfall of Jessica (Lachey) Simpson’s marriage.
On another level, I have to give myself a break. There are lots of worse things I could be addicted to. I don’t drink to excess, I don’t do drugs, I don’t smoke cigarettes. So what if sometimes I need my trashy magazine fix so bad that I buy a copy off the newsstand even though I know it will be coming in the mail? So what if I check celebrity gossip blogs as often as I check my email? So what if I decline dinner plans in order to be home in time for “Project Runway”? I actually like this quirky facet of my personality. I like the idea of a girl who got a near-perfect score on her SATs who shuns C-Span for “American Idol” and the “E! True Hollywood Story”. I like seeing my stacks of New Yorker and Nation magazines next to my (admittedly larger and more often-read) stacks of Peoples and In Touch Weekly’s. I think it gives me balance. I spend a lot of time defending or making fun of my predilection for frivolous gossip, television, and reading material – this blog entry is evidence of that – but when I think about it I’m really not ashamed at all. I suppose I just have a hard time accepting that it’s something that makes me … well, happy. It’s not that I hate my life (I don’t) or that I don’t want to learn about the real world (I do); I just like what I like. It’s my thing. It’s part of who I am. If people on the subway judge me because of what I’m reading, well, screw them. Work is foreboding enough without having to read the Bible on the way there.
It’s actually been more a help than a hindrance in many situations. I helped a co-worker successfully aid his friend on “Who Want to Be a Millionaire” when, listening in on their “phone-a-friend” conversation, I immediately knew that it was Britney Spears’ diamond-encrusted bra that was yanked off of eBay in 2005. I have, on occasion, ROCKED Trivial Pursuit when I land on the pink squares. Also, I find that many people don’t read celebrity magazines or watch reality TV, and that as a result, by proxy, I am their entertainment. Some people have presented papers in front of illustrious panels, but I bet I have an even more captive audience when, surrounded by co-workers, I explain the unfortunate twists and turns that led to a contestant’s elimination on “America’s Next Top Model”.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’d never want to actually create the drivel I read and watch. I don’t dream of working at Star or VH1 – I pride myself on doing work that actually has some positive impact on the world, however small. But when quittin’ time comes and I walk through my front door, the only thing that makes me as happy as my boyfriend’s smiling face is a glistening pile of magazines. I tenderly set aside the New Yorker for later and look for the big pink letters, the splashy headlines, and the ridiculous compound names that tell me I’m home.