I will not be ignored

A great movie from 1987 accomplished several things at once. Fatal Attraction thrust the wonderful Glenn Close into the public consciousness, it introduced the term “bunny boiler” to the dating lexicon, and it scared the badoobies out of men who were contemplating an affair. A quick synopsis of the film: Glenn Close has sexy time with a married Michael Douglas, he rejects her, she loses her ever-loving-mind and corks the family rabbit all because she is “not going to be ignored.”

Ms. Close is not wrong in this sentiment (although what she does with these feelings cannot be endorsed by this blog). Being ignored is an awful feeling. I can attest to that: I’m ignored all the time, even in my own home. As the mother of teenagers, married for 20 years, I have become as interesting as my minivan, which is to say: not so much. The other day, I walked through the kitchen where my husband was reading the newspaper. I said “I’ll be right back, I just have to go to the bathroom,” and he responded: “Don’t worry, I’ll get it.” This seemed to be an odd thing to say to a potty-stop, so I just stared at him until he looked up at me and asked: “Didn’t you just say you were doing the dishes?” Yes, being ignored is enough to drive a woman to rabbiting (again, not condoning it, just understanding it) which is why politicos tap into that feeling of rage in order to motivate voting behavior.

As mentioned, we are in an angry age and our warring political factions all claim to corner the market on the fury. This anger comes from many places, but one major source is that feeling of being ignored. For centuries, groups of Americans were legally ignored by the American political system and the fight for civil rights has been an ongoing battle to be seen, heard, and valued. Then, globalization and a changing world made different groups feel alienated from prosperity, helpless because they were not seen by those in power.

This is where the partisan media pour buckets of gasoline on the political dumpster fire. Because we have so many media options from which to choose, political programming is now catered to self-selecting niche audiences. American anger continues to boil because our news and entertainment keep turning up the heat, telling their dedicated audiences that they have every right to be furious: for one thing, they are being ignored. Frequently, this feeling of being pushed aside is accompanied by finger pointing to other groups who seem to be getting all the attention. It’s an anger two-fer: not only are people pissed about being ignored, they’re also pissed at the other guy who appears to be getting all the cookies.

The kind of rage this inspires may motivate action, but it also provides a false comfort because righteous indignation is a powerfully fun kind of anger. Who doesn’t like the chest thumping that goes with being unerring? The problem, of course, is that no one is right all the time, which means that being incorrect takes away some of that delicious umbrage.

Also, by insisting that our specific ignoring is special, that these grievances are exclusively important above everything, we miss the chance to see someone else and be a part of something bigger than ourselves. And when the feeling of being overlooked is escorted by the companion sentiment of scorn, we get all wrapped in our own shtus (that’s Jewish for “nonsense”). At the end of the day, cocooning ourselves in our righteous indignation may feel rewarding but it’s awfully isolating. This leads to another source of our anger: the belief that we are all alone. We’re not alone, of course, but it can feel like that when we’re feeling ignored.

Our suspicions of existential isolation will be the topic of the next posting. Until then, think of the joke: “If at first you don’t succeed, blame someone else and seek counseling.” But remember that is only a joke and just do the therapy part alone. If Glenn Close’s character in Fatal Attraction would have done that, a rabbit would have been saved and a family would not have been terrorized. On the other hand, it wouldn’t have made for a great movie. Never mind.