Anna Wyn discusses why it is problematic to confuse destructive behaviour with comic character
Being in your early twenties, will most likely be a cavalcade of comedies. My life so far, has consisted of bad boys, bad booze and bad tumbles in public places. So many bad tumbles in public places. But when your early adulthood is pre-destined to play out like a millennial-comedy of errors, how can we possibly gage when our lives are taking a turn for the actual worst? Is the ‘human disaster’ label more than anything superficial? What does it even mean?
It was pretty much dually noted in my group of friends that I was indeed, the resident mess. My drunken persona had noble nicknames, and images of myself falling down stairs at house parties were so celebrated that Rembrandt should paint them in oils. The human disaster label was mine. That’s what I was known as, and it cemented a totemic place in the social circle for me. But after arduous dealings with anxiety and developing a self-destructive streak, the label became an itchy tattoo that just would not get rid. How could I tell my friends that their resident ‘human disaster’ was a really disastrous human making disastrous mistakes? That there was now more to me than accidentally tipping drinks on people’s laps?
Because everyone was so surprisingly impassioned about me being the IRL Bridget Jones, I managed to suppress all of my real issues and treated everything as frivolous and nonsensical. All the things and signs I should have taken seriously became a joke and I was the punchline. Somehow in the process of my total and abhorrent denial of being depressed or ignoring my bouts of anxiety, I would instead try to laugh at how self-destructive I had become. I was just being my “silly old tragic self”, and this blasé (and incredibly face-value) attitude towards being too scared to leave my room for several days, or joking about how I hadn’t turned up to a seminar in weeks, flourished.
The label was so ingrained on my persona that it was this shield I started to hide behind when things got too heavy. So, with friends, I would instead joke about how hilarious it was that I was buying bottles of wine for myself at 2:00pm. But, I wouldn’t tell them about how I would stop myself from drinking it straight from the bottle on the way home. I hadn’t asked for help when I was turned away from a club for being too trashed, or when I went to a lecture with my shirt inside out and the wrong way round…so why ask for help now? Where was the line between carefree and careless? The line between being self-destructive and living through one stupid mistake at a time like some sickly romantic comedy began to blur.
These romantic comedies exemplify this perpetuated image of the glamorous but somehow disastrous twenty-something woman. Take for example Amy Schumers’s Trainwreck; the story of a woman who is the epitome of this pseudo-human disaster that our generation seems to have constructed. If a self-actualized woman with a healthy sex-life, a creatively satisfying and high-paying job is a train wreck because she made promiscuity her credo then what was I?
This filmic induced aesthetic of living life one whimsical and twee fumble at a time is indeed irresistibly charming, and it’s no surprise that it’s a character we see time and time again. But deeming these women as the archetypes of the human disaster, jesting about their destructive behaviour, trivializes the women who actually suffer from issues that are far heavier than the state of their dating life.
The dimensions between faux-human disaster and the true epitome of wading through disaster are blatant to me now. We’re bound to make mistakes in our twenties. Whether they are menial or irrevocable, it’s our pre-destined role as young adults to make disastrous decisions. But using this new clumsy and comical millennial brand of trivialize true instances of destructive behavior, is something that I know I can’t do anymore.
Last week I was on my bedroom floor, mould killer in hand, scrubbing away at the wall in my six- year old pajamas at 3:00pm on a Tuesday. I caught myself saying, through bleach-induced hysterics, that “I am a literal human disaster”, not of the Jones variety. What I was doing was boring and oh so very real, but there I was combating an issue in my life, even if it was just some mould. We all have to start somewhere.
Follow Anna on twitter: @AnnaWDavies