Aaron R. Davis
No matter how much I complain or threaten to block her, my mother keeps forwarding me little bits of what I call Sentiment Porn. You know what I’m talking about; those emails that people keep forwarding because they’re apparently comforting to a certain kind of person who takes comfort in Love Is cartoons and the reduction of complex emotions into little aphorisms. If you’re afraid of life and afraid of your own feelings, you may be the kind of person who loves relentlessly cute Sentiment Porn. If you’re as cynical as I am, you resent them tremendously and seriously wonder about the emotional balance of the person sending them to you as though they will actually improve your life in some fashion. Yes, yes, dance like no one’s watching; that’ll make me feel better about losing my job. Thanks for the incredible help.
Anyway, with the big Valentine’s Day sham approaching, it seems like I’m seeing a lot more Sentiment Porn in my inbox than usual these days. In fact, this morning I received one called “Green Dog” that I think I first saw five or six or 20 years ago. So, what with the big day of corporate-enforced love coming up, I thought I’d answer this email with a cynical retort of my own, point by point. Here’s what “Green Dog” has to say about feelings, and what I think about such things.
1. I love you not because of who you are, but because of who I am when I am with you.
Ouch. That’s one of the hallmarks of Sentiment Porn: the thing that sounds sweet at first, but comes across more like a veiled insult. I mean, I love you unconditionally for you and for who you are, but if your feelings hinge on the depth of your response to me, I’ll try not to find that disgustingly selfish. My feelings don’t matter, it’s all about you. Sure … that sounds like true love to me …
2. No man or woman is worth your tears, and the one who is, won’t make you cry.
Now, I don’t know about you, but my wife and I make each other cry every couple of weeks. We’re human beings, not genderless naked angels in a sappy one panel comic strip. This is another common theme in Sentiment Porn: the assertion that the ideal relationship is one that will never make you feel anything icky or complex or troubling. This is the kind of thing that sounds wonderful to someone who is terrified of messy emotional developments like, you know, having a relationship. These people need to adjust their helmets or something.
Also, what is the condition of the tears, honestly? If my wife died in a car accident or something, I’d cry until I had no tears left. Would that mean the relationship was ultimately worthless, because no woman is worth my tears?
You see the kind of dumbass questions these things raise?
3. Just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to, doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have.
That’s some weird shit stalkers say to make themselves feel better, or something. Or it just translates to “You’re good enough for now, Lurlene. For now.”
4. A true friend is someone who reaches for your hand and touches your heart.
For “heart,” substitute the word “penis.” Go ahead, it sounds less disgusting.
5. The worst way to miss someone is to be sitting right beside them knowing you can’t have them.
“And that’s why I killed her in the parking garage and kept her eyes as a trophy …” Who was the author of this email stalking?
6. Never frown, even when you are sad, because you never know who is falling in love with your smile.
Ew, that’s just terrible! I hope this thought isn’t going through peoples’ heads all day at work. It’s like a call to be either more arrogant or more self-conscious. Or both. Because, you know, I just go around all the time so certain that everyone’s watching me and fawning. I mean, sure, when I wear my tight jeans, but …
7. To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.
“Seriously, just look at the shrine I have to you in my bedroom! I made a doll of you out of your hair, and I have scraps of your clothing, some used chewing gum I took out of the trash, and one of your old soccer trophies from that time I broke into your house while you were at the doctor’s office! Would you consider urinating in this cup for my collection?”
I just looked over my shoulder. Why does this email make me feel like I’m being followed by some random stranger?
8. Don’t waste your time on a man/woman, who isn’t willing to waste their time on you.
That’s the trouble with men/women, they’re always so into themselves … I don’t know, I don’t think that my self-worth hinges on how much I can shame another person into making their entire life about me.
And if they do, I’m still not urinating in that cup.
9. Maybe God wants us to meet a few wrong people before meeting the right one, so that when we finally meet the person, we will know how to be grateful.
Well, you didn’t think we’d get all the way through a piece of Sentiment Porn without some mention of God, the ultimate device through which people abdicate responsibility for their lives, did you? These days, God has been reduced in stature to just another horoscope or parable from nature, as the planets or the trees exist only to provide us with object lessons on how we should live and to govern every moment of every person’s life. (I can’t remember if I’m ripping off Sagan or Asimov or both by saying that.)
Either way, God should stay out of my love life if he knows what’s good for him.
10. Don’t cry because it is over, smile because it happened.
Oh, puke. Grieving is a complex psychological and emotional process that takes time and sincere personal work to get through. Traumas great and small require serious reflection to overcome. Reducing it to an aphorism as simplistic as this reveals a fear of feelings. A fear so deep that it practically begs you to hit yourself in the face with a pot to keep from thinking about reality. Sentiment Porn always asks you to ignore the feelings you have and just get over things, as if it’s that easy. It isn’t always. They must use this little gem to keep people from swan diving off of skyscrapers.
11. There’s always going to be people that hurt you so what you have to do is keep on trusting and just be more careful about who you trust next time around.
This one seems so self-contradictory that I can’t even analyze it. Maybe it’s the terrible wording. Constructing aphorisms ain’t as easy as it looks. How about this one: “People are assholes, but don’t act like you expect it of them.” That’s basically what we’re boiling this down to, right?
Either that or this one is directed at serial killers. Or warning against them. I don’t know; Sentiment Porn doesn’t have to make sense. In fact, the less sense it makes, the more people seem to coo over it.
12. Make yourself a better person and know who you are before you try and know someone else and expect them to know you.
Duh. Oh, and look both ways before you cross the street. And always wear your seatbelt. Not because of safety reasons, but because you don’t want a ticket.
13. Don’t try so hard, the best things come when you least expect them to.
At heart, most Sentiment Porn comes from a place of Slacktivism: the school of thought that says you should be proud of not trying very hard. Why not just be a slacker and hope good things happen, right? After all, Sentiment Porn isn’t about doing anything for anyone as much as it is about figuring good things will happen to you if you’re more open to good things. That’s why the Secret was such popular Sentiment Porn: it required pretty much zero effort. Just, you know, wish for something good to happen and maybe, eventually, it kinda sorta will. Maybe.
This sort of anti-productivity message is what I find most offensive in this garbage. Maybe it’s because I’m a teacher, and I see how much children are encouraged to live in a tiny little bubble these days where they never have to do anything for themselves or suffer any consequences for making the wrong decision. It’s just … easier.
So the message here is: Just keep clicking your heels like an asshole instead of getting any work done. Or, to make it relationship-specific: wait for someone to take an interest in you instead of trying to find someone. Nice advice.
REMEMBER: WHATEVER HAPPENS, HAPPENS FOR A REASON.
This is the stupidest rationalism I’ve ever heard. It’s all about making people feel better for not trying to change their shitty lives or comforting them because, you know, sometimes bad things just happen randomly and without any order.
And then, of course, the overripe cherry on this disgusting sundae:
You will Have Good Luck For Two Years if you send this to 8 people or more and if this is sent back to you then you are a true friend……
THIS makes people feel better? Really? To be given pointless aphorisms about love that are all self-serving and insulting, and then to be told they have to forward it to others and, if they don’t get it back, they don’t have any “true” friends? Jeez, that’s bleak. I don’t think I even have eight friends, and the friends I do have would ridicule me for sending this stupid missive onwards. And you know what? They’d be justified in doing it! Because only desperate people who are too scared to face themselves take comfort in this junk.
Next time you want to send your friends something, just forward some porn instead. It’s much nicer, and you don’t scare them into bothering other people just to prove how empty their lives really are.
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at email@example.com.