Sorry to “gatekeep," but it’s actually not possible for me to Just Let People Enjoy Things. That’s not how it works. When I see someone ostentatiously taking pleasure in something that I think is stupid or obvious or for children, what happens is I put my special siren on my car and I drive over to their house and do a citizen’s arrest on them in front of their aging parents, who are visiting and who never recover from the scare. I throw their computers out the window and set fire to their YA novels and their weird toys, and then I give them a laminated sheet that says “Your Taste is My Business,” with a phone number they have to call whenever they feel themselves wondering if it’s okay to Just Enjoy Things. The answer is always no. Everyone is so scared of me, all the time, and their fears are well-founded. More than once, I have gone over to someone’s house in my capacity as a civilian, and caught them trying to flush their Harry Potter books down the toilet before I see them, shrieking uncontrollably with terror. They always beg for a second chance, and I never give them one.
Kidding! Even if there was some sort of supranational organization dedicated to terrorizing people into renouncing their enjoyment of embarrassing or obvious things, I would never be appointed to a leadership position. I would submit my application, certainly, but the hiring board would see at once that I was driven by envy rather than a genuine belief in the cause, and thus unsuitable for the role. They would see that deep down I would actually love to be able to take unabashed and unselfconscious pleasure in The Lion King or musicals or “badass women” or whatever, and that I was motivated purely by the urge to stamp out in others what I was unable to cultivate in myself. Unfortunately for me, I was born embarrassed. When I was little I used to deliberately distress myself by imagining that this one popular hypnotist for schoolchildren, “Andre the Hilarious Hypnotist," was going to visit my own school, and he would call me on stage and try to hypnotize me, and I would get so flustered that it wouldn’t work, and then everyone would know what they already intuitively understood: that I was not cool or relaxed or “in the moment” enough to get hypnotized.
There is nothing good about being like this. There is never a moment’s rest. This morning I made the soles of my feet get all hot and prickly by picturing how I would feel if someone proposed to me on a hot air balloon. Tiring! Counter-productive! It is ultimately weird to be the kind of person who cringes and buckles with shame at the idea of having to watch someone they know do roller derby or very expressive ballroom dancing. No point! Mean-spirited and emotionally stunted! I can’t change it, however, and over the years I have gotten very good at making a virtue out of this absolutely pathetic necessity. “Taking a Dim View of Corniness” is a constitutive feature of my personality, now, and I bullshit myself that it has served me well. I lie straight to my own face and tell myself that I am, if not actively cynical, at least “street smart.” That I will never wholeheartedly love the things that full-on basics love, or if I do love them, it will be in an interesting and prickly way that somehow reflects well on yours truly. I will remain one step ahead of my enemies by always refusing to do the gauche and obvious thing, such as, I don’t know, falling instantly and catastrophically in love with New York on my first visit there. Such as, for example, being moved to actual tears at the sight of the fog swirling around the top of the Empire State Building. Just for example.
Joke’s on me, obviously! Oh fuck, obviously! I recently fell totally and catastrophically in love with New York while I was still in the airport. I was quietly moaning to myself and whispering like what will become of this poor old gal by the time I stepped out into the wet fetid cloth of the heat, and actually red with humiliation by the time I saw the skyline, feeling a deep empathy with those psychos who get married to rollercoasters and the Eiffel Tower and stuff.
Sorry if this is embarrassing for you to read, but it is far more embarrassing to live. Just debilitated by a massive crush on a city. Walking around smiling and blushing all the time, heart pulverized, taking pictures of things that are not traditionally considered to be worth photographing (normal leaves on the ground, trash cans, the insides of elevators) and accidentally greeting inanimate objects. I said hello to a stack of magazines. I said thank you to a turnstile.
I should have anticipated at least some of it — New York is famous for provoking violent feelings. Its whole thing is that you go there once and then immediately embark on the costly and ruinous process of dismantling your own perfectly reasonable life in order to move there forever. It’s known for this, and as well as being embarrassed by how much I love New York, I am embarrassed by the hubris which allowed me to believe that I would not be felled by it. However, I truly did not see it coming, and it was bad. You can’t just walk around Central Park saying oh nooooooo under your breath over and over. You can’t just ride the subway for fun. You can’t just be thoroughly overcome with unearned nostalgia at all times. You can’t just feel like the entire city is going out of its way to please you specifically, every second. You can’t just cry in the library.
Except you can. You can and you will, to humbling effect. A long time ago, my best friend and I were talking about when people lose their minds at the beginning of relationships and become, even just briefly, a crazy animal. I said, hilariously, that I simply wasn’t That Kind Of Girl, that I couldn’t imagine losing my cool in that fashion. She laughed at me, nicely, and said that I just hadn’t met the right person yet. I didn’t believe her, and then I met the person who made me act like a goddamn unrecognizable maniac, as we all eventually do. It was humiliating, of course, but it was also very fun, and an all too timely reminder that I was not special. Cynicism is not extraordinary, and this life is but a series of confrontations with the knowledge that absolutely none of us are immune from turning into terrible corny losers at one time or another. It’s fine. Maybe you fall catastrophically in love with New York, like some kind of dipshit. Maybe you get proposed to and then married on a hot air balloon and you just laugh and smile the whole time. Maybe you love to do insanely expressive ballroom dancing, stamping your little shoes and making theatrical faces while you basically sprint around the hall to the song “Fix You” by Coldplay. It’s okay.
And take heart, if you are already a performative Enjoyer of Things. There is no need to tell anyone else not to "yuck your yum" or, worse, post that horrible cartoon in the replies of anyone you see being even slightly critical of a cultural product that has recently made five bazillion dollars. Just rest easy in the knowledge that the thrill and horror of being laid low by our own humiliating hearts will come for everyone eventually.