Point/Counterpoint is a beloved feature that first appeared in the fall 1972 edition of the Weeklings. PC/P is the product of an intellectual tradition hearkening back to storied Oxford debate squads and the golden age of radio, in which two authors match wits over random subjects while being forced to choose a side and defend it on the fly. Readers are advised to stand back, as the heat can get intense. This week’s arm wrestle involves bestselling author, Dead Pet fetishist, and LA legend, Miss Lenore Zion
Ladies and gentlemen, we are now on the clock.
Point (Zion): It is my understanding that when a child is forced into tennis lessons, he is typically required to dress all in white for the duration of the class. I understand that this is not always the case – some tennis venues are more relaxed. I am going to speak only about my views of the kind of tennis that requires a white uniform. I am anti-tennis uniform. I am generally opposed to rules in general, especially those that fail to regulate what they were designed to regulate. What a white uniform is designed to regulate is anybody’s guess – maybe the clubs that require them believe it sets a standard of clean presentation of its members? – but I think a better way to handle this is to allow a person to wear whatever he pleases, and suffer the social consequences should his choice be unacceptable to his peers. This accomplishes two things. One, the person choosing to deviate from the uniform is either socially discarded due to dressing in what is collectively determined to be an inappropriate alternative, or he is lauded as being a desirably unique individual and is therefore rewarded socially. With either result, the person choosing to take this risk also must assume responsibility for the consequences, good or bad, of that risk. Personal accountability is good. It builds character. Two, the group, challenged with an individual who chooses to deviate from the norm is then able to determine whether that particular norm is a worthwhile one to begin with. Perhaps there are no consequences, because it is discovered that the original assumption that there is value in adhering to an arbitrary norm is faulty. With this discovery, the group is able to simplify its social code. Another possibility is that some members of the group will find the deviating individual’s alternative choice of attire distasteful, while others find it exciting and fresh. This difference of opinion allows people to better know one another. Another benefit of further knowing and understanding people is that you are now more equipped to identify the individuals with whom you’d like to spend your time. The more defined individuals are, the more groups adaptively separate into sub-groups that are better able to function cohesively. This can be both good and bad, but when we are talking about a voluntary membership to a club that teaches tennis lessons, it is in the individual’s best interest to know if he’d prefer one particular club to its competitors. Otherwise he runs the risk of supporting the club that less accurately represents his values. So I guess I’m anti-tennis, as long as the tennis people keep it up with these mandatory uniforms.
Counter-point (Beaudoin): I played tennis once in high school as a foursome. There were two cute girls in cute outfits, one of whom I had a crush on. I barely knew the other guy. They were all good players. I chose to adopt the clown/brute role, swinging and missing, my sneakers untied, doing spit-takes and pratfalls. They laughed, but deep down we all knew I was the barely amusing valet who would never buy the right stocks. Or socks. I hit a few balls over the fence, posing to admire them like Barry Bonds, and then we got kicked out. The place was actually amazingly like the set of Caddyshack. We got sodas at the snack bar and then suddenly I was on my Huffy Santa Fe, peddling home in a welter of mortification. I attacked the hills, positive if my thighs ached just a little bit more, I would be some percentage less of an idiot. Tennis is all about angles. It’s about spin and force and subtlety and footwork. Its whiteness, in both attire and pigment, reflects a mathematical formula based on the elitism of requiring a court’s worth of space (4,750 sq. feet) upon which only two people can participate at a time. It’s a game that some people are very good at.
Before there was something, was there nothing-
Point (Beaudoin): Oh, I dunno. I would say I am a devotee of the religion of Greatest Necessity. Is there a supernatural intelligence responsible for all creation? If we emotionally require one, sure. We will no doubt continue to suckle that teat until our intellectual capacity expands enough to include a plausible secular explanation for existence. Bam! Freedom. It’ll be like Coke Zero, but better. God won’t cease to exist, but it’ll be more like the memory of the years when Lionel Ritchie had cred. Hey, there was a time when Lionel walked on the ceiling. In any case, all questions beg answers, even if they’re not always the correct ones. All meaning requires belief, often in the form of faith. But purpose is a luxury. So I think what we need as a species, far more than sex or sustenance, is a reasonably convincing explanation. What sprung out of the void? The Greatest Necessity. And that’s whom (what?) I’m prepared to pray to.
Counter-point (Zion): I don’t understand how anyone can claim certainty in this topic. The concept of “nothing” is a difficult one for me, as nothing is something. I don’t trust the very limited capacity of human beings to know what is real. Every week I read articles describing new discoveries that seemingly prove incorrect our previous assumptions about reality. Scientists describe things I can only partially understand, things like String Theory. I think String Theory means that there are little invisible strings all over the place making stuff stick together or something. Little invisible strings. I don’t know what that means. And I don’t know what it would mean if a God made those invisible strings, nor do I understand what it would mean if those invisible strings just happen to exist in a Godless reality. No one should look to me for answers, is what I’m saying.
The mid-90’s proliferation of movies starring Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie in which serial killers “collect” women and keep them in their basement lairs-
Point (Zion): Sexually-motivated murder is a topic of fascination for me, as there are quite a few shared characteristics between it and the pathology in which I specialize as a psychologist. The narcissism involved in determining that one human being should be rendered the tortured and subjugated plaything of another is the same narcissism you see in any human. We are all performing a balancing act between the id and superego, attempting to get what we want when we want it without being cast aside by society and sentenced to a lifetime of solitude. The only difference between our narcissism and the narcissism of these serial killers is that, for the serial killers, the intensity is far greater. They are no longer balancing the id and superego, but rather the id has become so heavy that its side of the scale has crashed to the ground and the powerful impulsiveness of the pleasure principle has been unleashed. That’s what makes it so terrifying. You sometimes even see it in children who have yet to be fully socialized. Small kids will brutally attack their new infant siblings in reaction to the perceived threat to their comfort and happiness. So, obviously, fueled by my fascination, I am pro-this topic. On a girl-power note, Angelina Jolie is a great casting choice to play the cop tracking the serial killer down. Though she is talented as an actress and has certainly used her celebrity in admirable ways, her continued fame seems due, in fact, to little else than her raging, enviable sexuality. And she brings this to her roles. In that our nature as animals is to lend value to a woman based on her sexuality and physical attractiveness, Angelina Jolie, the supernaturally sexy, serial killer-tracking cop, really represents a force to be reckoned with. She is the ultimate female superhero, tirelessly hunting the most frightening of male narcissists, and eventually, upon his capture, she has rescued all women from him and avenged those for whom she was too late. And though his talent is also unquestionable, I’m not sure what Morgan Freeman’s role is in such movies, other than perhaps Jolie’s professional superior and mentor (I thought it was Denzel Washington in the movie I’m remembering, but I’ll just pretend it was Morgan Freeman), but I would say this role exists only to pacify any male audience members who might be launched into a state of emotional distress by watching a woman take down the worst of male monsters without the assistance of a penis of her own.
I’ve always found Angelina Jolie terrifying enough as it is. She reminds me of a praying mantis. I’m scared she’d pretend to like me for twelve hours, and the second I relaxed, would eat my back legs and abandon me in the desert with an audiobook of Ogden Nash and bag of pistachio shells. On the other hand, there definitely was a crazy run of movies like Kiss The Girls and Silence of The Lambs and The Collector and Girl Hoarder and B-Actress Storage Wars and X-Treme Kidnap-Pen Makeover: Underground Dungeon Edition that seemed to speak to some deep and odd meme in the 90’s male psyche of which I am unqualified to analyze. Except to say that the apparently sublimated but extremely profitable fantasy of seeing women warehoused and helpless (before eventually being rescued by a white female cop with a reassuring black mentor) just might be an inverse reaction to the most transgressive scene in this generation’s cinematic/psychological upbringing: Ving Rhames and Bruce Willis in red gag balls.
Jack and Diane-
Point (Beaudoin): Here’s a little ditty about when I was fifteen and in the back seat of a very tan Impala station wagon crossing the bridge from the United States into Canada, near Niagara Falls. There was a lot of mist in the air and it was hard to see. I was in the back seat with the big red Coleman cooler. My job, at least as my parents saw it, was not to annoy my sister while also distributing sodas from the cooler when anyone got thirsty. The radio was cranked. My father usually listened to the classical station, but as we crossed the border, some guy in a truck cut us off and my dad took his hand off the dial to give the guy the finger. They started yelling at each other, racing side by side. And so, in that forty second interstices, my sister and I got to listen to Johnny Cougar singing “two kids growing up in the heartland” for the first time. It was like pure sugar-crack-truth. It was profound in a way that even my fifteen-year-old brain subconsciously knew was simplistic and manipulative. But so what? It was catchy as hell. Hand claps. Hooks galore. She’s the debutante of his back seat! They were both wearing worn jeans, just like me! I had a serious pubescent epiphany, suddenly understanding small towns just like mine in both a philosophic and visceral sense. And then my father spun the dial again, cutting off the future J.C. Mellencamp. Little did I know then that Mr. Cougar and I would be communing for many more years of unwilling classic rock. But for that moment, it seemed a tragedy. One thing you didn’t ever do was question my father’s musical choices. So my sister and I adopted our usual sullen quietude. Eventually, we crossed into Canada and stopped at the very first McDonalds on the other side.
Counter-point (Zion): I…I don’t know how to argue against Jack and Diane. I just don’t feel passionately about the song one way or the other. I guess the lyrics are a bit trite? I’m sorry, I can’t do it.
A total lack of interest in dead pets, even live pets being sort of meh-
Point (Zion): Of course, a part of me is very anti-the lack of interest in my book. It is hilarious, and honest and cool. I think that anyone with a healthy sense of humor would love it, but more importantly, I think that anyone who has any curiosity whatsoever about the way other people think would love it. To me, there are few things more captivating than the way another person’s mind works. I am genuinely surprised when others are not similarly intrigued. I suppose I have learned something new about the way people’s minds work when it comes to book-purchasing decisions. For this reason, I suppose I am also a bit pro-this topic. But I still think it’s really lame that no one I don’t know personally seems to be reading my book. I mean, it’s funny, dammit. Regarding actual pets, live or dead, I am pro-them. I like animals. When they are living, they are cute and soft and they tend to be great at accepting love when you are in the mood to distribute it. And when they die they look the same but they no longer move when you touch them. Touching a freshly dead pet is an unusual experience, and having done it twice before, I can honestly say I’ll never forget it. Think about it. You have a cat, and you pet it for years, and it feels a certain way. Then, the cat dies, and because the body is no longer sentient, it has become an entirely different object. The last breath of life leaving a body changes everything. It blows my mind.
Counter-point (Beaudoin): Well, I was mostly just trying to give you a chance to plug the book without being too obvious about it, but I also would like it on the record that I am very-anti lack of interest in your book, particular as it impacts a series of internet payments in order to acquire multiple copies of such. I am also, in general, against a lack of interest in your personal life, particularly your dating situation and, further, the location of your apartment complex and unit number. Where is your designated parking space again?
Point (Zion): I will never be a motorcycle person because I have already nearly died while attempting to drive a scooter, and it was even more embarrassing than it sounds. However, I am very pro-motorcycle. I’ve heard a person feels tremendously free while riding one, and I’m fond of the idea of freedom. There’s a seafood restaurant called Neptune’s Net along PCH in Malibu. They have great shrimp. There are always motorcycle people there. They’re relaxing, laughing, enjoying each other. They’re in company they love and I love to watch them. Once, when I was there, I saw a woman in leather pants sitting on a very stereotypical motorcycle guy’s lap. She fed him one shrimp after another and kissed him between each bite. It warmed my heart.
Counter-point (Beaudoin): I drove around on a friend’s motorcycle in college about a dozen times. It fell over once at a stop sign and was really heavy and there was a girl I barely knew on the back and I felt really stupid. But I picked it up and then we zoomed around with the wind in our absurdly long hair. Another time I was driving really fast in an attempt to appear wild and unpredictable with someone I knew a little better–and who should have known better herself–when some house dad not paying attention pulled right out in front of us and we were very nearly killed. Everything slowed way down and somehow I was able to intuitively–since I had zero driving skill–sort of slide sideways and then right the bike, but not before death seemed imminent. Eventually we pulled off onto the shoulder and stared at each other meaningfully. One of us probably said “I feel so alive!” It’s possible we made out. I don’t ride motorcycles any more.
The relativity of hating the rich-
Point (Beaudoin): Have you ever heard of Patrick Ewing? He was a center for the Knicks in the mid-80’s. At the time he’d just signed a contract for eighteen million a year. Some sportswriter asked him a question about his new-found wealth, and he answered, totally seriously, “Eighteen million doesn’t go as far as you’d think.” Of course, the media destroyed him. He lost a shoe contract and was belittled by the local pipe fitters union. It didn’t help that Patrick Ewing had an unusually tiny head for such a large man, and while being a totally dominant center for his era, was not quite dominant enough to ever lead his team to a championship. That was the kind of comment a dude with a ring or two could carry the water for, but not Patrick, even though I knew instantly what he meant. Essentially, we all spend our way up to our income. If you make thirty thousand a year, you live in a shitty apartment, eat Ramen, take the bus, and go to arty (free) openings. If you make a hundred thousand a year, you pay exorbitant rent on a three-room condo and put your kid in an alternative private school. If you make five hundred thousand, you buy a two-million dollar house, bleed the mortgage, and invest the rest. If you’re Patrick Ewing and make eighteen million a year, you’re both the envy and object of working class ridicule. But let’s look at Patrick Ewing’s likely assets in 1988: after taxes, he makes in the neighborhood of twelve million. Subtract his agent fee and he makes nine and a half. So he buys a killer new wardrobe, a Lear jet, and maybe houses for mom and dad. Not to mention various other family members. Now he’s down to eight million. He has to provide walk-around money for all the dudes he grew up with that are now on the security detail. There’s earrings to be custom made. Plus, he bought himself a four million dollar home in a gated community outside Orlando, right next to Howie Mandel. He also has a stylist, he funded his cousin’s production company, and he bought four Hummers. His accountant starts sending alarmist texts. Suddenly a guy richer than Mammon is sweating payments and waiting on his next check, just like the rest of us. Plus, he’s missing free throws. It’s totally true: eighteen mil doesn’t cut the mustard like it did in 1955. I always thought he got a bad shake.
Counter-point (Zion): This is another topic I don’t quite understand. I think I am supposed to argue that hating the rich is good, or maybe that those who defend the rich by invoking “relativity” are jerks. I won’t do that, though, because I think it’s foolish to hate anyone, especially those who have the money to pay you for stuff. I hope to become very rich one day, and I believe the vast majority of normally functioning people hope for the same. It’s ridiculous to hate those who have achieved what you wish to achieve. If you’re smart, you’ll look to them for ideas. There’s this misconception that all rich people have screwed people over in order to get where they are. That is cynical nonsense. Some have, some haven’t, but it’s absolutely silly and misguided to pretend there is something immoral about possessing wealth. People hating the rich, for whatever reason, are people who will likely never see success themselves, as they are wasting their precious energy hating others instead of funneling it toward something productive.
What Mitt Romney is doing right this second–
Point (Beaudoin): Mitt Romney is almost certainly in his basement rec room, drunk on straight Baileys, arguing with a fern, cutting open sofa cushions with a steak knife, weeping into the deep tan shag, and generally howling at the moon. Which is just as well. He stood for nothing, believed in nothing, had no real convictions, and spent six years campaigning on his only real issue: the disputable notion that he was a capable businessman. A discarded and dispirited Mitt is just the Mitt this country needs and deserves. It’s a rare case of justice and rectitude that Romney fils was forced to slink off to the back alleys of Aspen or Greenwich, tail curled under his belly, never to be heard from again—at least not until about eight years from now, where Mitt will probably surface in some sort of tabloid sex scandal. Despite having always given off all the sexual magnetism of half a roll of Certs, but I think he’s a closet kinkster. I am virtually certain his second act will be to get nailed like Marion Berry—caught in a sleazy hotel with a fifty-gallon bucket of worms, three hookers, enough leather to make Joan Jett blush, and a crate full of spent amyl nitrate capsules.
Counter-point (Zion): Politics exhaust and irritate me, and I am apparently one of the few remaining people who find it rude to discuss politics in mixed company. That said, I’m sure that right at this moment, Mitt Romney is enjoying disappearing from the harsh public eye. I personally do not believe he will pop up in a sex scandal. My psychological specialty being sexual pathology, I am generally not caught off guard by a person’s sexual behaviors. You can agree or disagree with him politically, but I would bet that Mitt Romney is not engaged in any sordid sexual behavior at the moment. As a side note, I wish people would stop demonizing those with differing political beliefs. It’s not helpful. It does nothing to help make our lives better. Good people can disagree, and everyone needs to remember that.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached the finish line of this week’s Point/Counter-point. Thank you once again for participating. The votes are being tallied and will be released to the public after they’ve been verified J.D. Powers and Associates, as well as the Washington State Attorney General.
Lenore Zion is the author of the novel “Stupid Children” (Emergency Press, 2013). Her first book, “My Dead Pets are Interesting,” was released on TNB Books in 2011, and she was an original contributor to The Nervous Breakdown. Zion is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of sexual pathology. Her dissertation focused on the paraphilias, sexual impulse disorders including sadism, masochism, pedophilia, frotteruism, and fetishism, among others. She lives in Los Angeles.