I Oughta Know What? The Standard Theory of Universal Pining Difference (STUPiD)
I listen to a set of six radio stations in my car, each a SiriusXM offering: 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, CNN, MSNBC, and CNBC. When you listen mostly to music you’ve heard so many times before, your mind can drift more easily to the lyrics and the stories they tell. It’s like re-reading a favorite book over and over and noticing little things here or there you didn’t notice before.
It wasn’t too long ago that I heard — for maybe the 200th time in my life — that great song by Alanis Morissette, You Oughta Know. You know the one. It’s creepy and stalker-like and has the singer raging about how her life has been left in emotional shambles by her lover moving on to another. It is surely one of the best odes to the bitterness of the jilted lover ever written.
But it struck me not that long ago that the song is also sadly comedic in the sense that it bears truth to what I’ve decided to call the Standard Theory of Universal Pining Difference, or STUPiD for short. STUPiD holds that it is always the case that the person for whom you are pining away is not the person pining away for you. Oh sure, the person you pine for is almost surely pining for someone. It’s just not you. And if it makes you feel any better (it won’t though), the person your person is pining for is also not pining for your person. That person is pining for someone else entirely. And in a regenerating population, the loop never needs to close. No one is pining away for the one pining away for them. This, I claim without proof except for all our joint life experiences, is a universal law.
We need to be clear on terms, of course. To pine away in the relationship-sense is to long for that one who got away, or, as is often the case, ran away without looking back at you and hoping to God you weren’t following. One doesn’t pine away for one’s boyfriend or girlfriend or husband or wife who is the person of their dreams. That lucky set of people has it made, at least as long as the person they’re with feels the same. Otherwise, it is just the set-up for STUPiD to arise when the other leaves for his or her own true love.
The real trouble with STUPiD is that it causes us to think of ourselves as having been well-matched with a person we just weren’t that well-matched with in the first place. When Alanis asks, “Would she go down on you in a theater?” the answer — were the person even to enter that conversation — might very well be, “Well, No, Alanis. She doesn’t. And to be honest, that always weirded me out anyway. I mean, it was Frozen, for God’s sake. There were children two rows over. What exactly got into you?”
Why STUPiD exists is something of a mystery, but it may not be that hard after all. Most of us are carrying around so much baggage from childhood that we can’t help but turn someone else into the missing piece of our lives and the answer to any voids we find within. But the probability that a person who fills that void is also a good real-deal romantic partner is vanishingly small. And that person has their own weird needs even less likely to be filled by you and your own unique blend of crazy.
Nevertheless, STUPiD ensures that almost all of us — particularly those with some damage from childhood, and who doesn’t have at least a little of that — will act, at times, well, stupid. Back to Alanis. When she shrieks out, “And every time I scratch my nails down someone else’s back I hope you feel it. Well, can you feel it?” the answer is almost surely, “No, Alanis. I can’t. I really want you to be happy. I mean, we only dated for a month and that was five years ago. Are you seeing anyone? I really don’t understand what you’re yelling about. I oughta know what?”