The Subway Diary Guide to Self-Loathing

A guide for getting through those bad days.

The Offical Subway Diary Guide to Self-Loathing
ONE OF THE THINGS I HATE MOST ABOUT MYSELF is my self-loathing. (A beat.) Sometimes, though, I get rusty, and start to think sloppy, self-congratulating thoughts like "maybe I'm not such a bad person," or "what does guilt accomplish, really?"

I'm strong-willed, and can usually drive that giddy foolishness from my head, but it's not always easy. Over the past few years, I've perfected a system of self-loathing that I'd like to share with the world. It's a simple, four-tiered system: Enjoy unfullfilling relationships, compete with others, set ridiculous goals for yourself, and live somewhere hateful. Let's start with personal relationships.

The Key Component: Sexual Relationships
Being single may make you lonely and sad, but if you want to hit the depths of despair, dating the wrong person can make you an unbearable wretch. To maximize your misery, it's important not to love your significant other, or better yet, to not be certain if you love them or not. While you're trying to decide on the nature of your amore, focus on the little warts and peculiarities of your partner. Do they have a loud laugh? Whenever they begin to giggle, picture fingernails coming down a blackboard. If they have hair in uncomfortable places, like on the nipples or in the nose, imagine that each hair is a quivering worm. Soon, every time you make love, you'll hate both them and yourself for succumbing to the filthy call of pleasure.

Best of all, your friends will commiserate with your romantic plight, making you out to be miserable, martyred, placid, and bored all at once. Every orgasm will be a shameful kick of dirt over your coffin.

After a while you might set into contented pattern of self-disgust, and need a little something to remind you of what a piece of utter dross you actually are. That's why you need to compare yourself with other people. Don't go for the easy targets, like Mozart or Einstein. Look for celebrities your age.

Self-loathing by the Numbers: the Age Comparison Test
For example, the author of this guide is 23. Kate Winslet, age 22, has starred in Titanic, Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet, and Sense and Sensibility. She's worth millions of dollars. My Dime Bank checking account currently holds $2,695, and the closest I've come to notoriety was when I narrated a dramatization of "The Velveteen Rabbit" in eighth grade.

Sure, this makes me feel stupid, ugly, and unimportant. But let's put a number on it: assume, very conservatively, that Kate has a million dollars in handy cash. That still makes her 371.05 times more successful than me. I've reached 1/371 of my potential. Pretty awful, huh?

On the other hand, Claire Danes is 18 years old. She just spent one million dollars on a penthouse in New York, and has starred in six or seven movies. Unlike you, she just showed up on the cover of Vanity Fair. Her biggest problem: people don't take her seriously as an artist because she's 18.

Or take my friend Geoff, a year older, who just got knocked out of the running for a play at the Public Theater. The playwrite, "the hottest young writer in the world," in from Ireland, is 26. He's considered a prime world literary figure, and he's only three years older than I am.

Actors like Geoff have it especially lucky when it comes to self-loathing: at every failed audition, they're judged on how they look, their range of talent, and then usually rejected on those criteria. It's a recipe for feelings of inadequacy and self-dislike, and ultimately, suicide.

If all of this failure-illuminating comparison still doesn't make you hate yourself, think about the people at work making more money than you make. I know for a fact that several people only a few years older than myself make two times my salary. They're worth two times what I'm worth! Or rather, I'm worth only half of each of them.

That's just my comparative self-loathing. Can you think of any examples for yourself? If you could be any celebrity or public figure, who would you be? Remember, of course, that no matter how hard you try, the odds against you ever attaining one one-hundredth of what they've achieved are worse than the odds on the lottery.

The Geography of Angst: New York, New York
When it comes to absolute self-disgust, and then disgust for feeling self-disgust that makes you more disgusted still, try New York City. Consider these points:

In the Mirror We Trust: Hating the Way You Look
Hating the way you look, while easier for women than men, works for everyone. Just try these simple steps:

  1. Look in the mirror.
  2. Think about all your ex-lovers, and realize that the real reason they left you is because you're so unattractive.
  3. With a soup spoon, eat a half-gallon of ice cream straight from the carton.
  4. Look in the mirror again, realizing you've just gained around eleven pounds.
  5. Promise yourself you'll do better tomorrow, somehow.
  6. Repeat daily.
  7. Think about all your ex-lovers, and realize that the real reason they left you is because you're so unattractive.
  8. With a soup spoon, eat a half-gallon of ice cream straight from the carton.
  9. Look in the mirror again, realizing you've just gained around eleven pounds.
  10. Promise yourself you'll do better tomorrow, somehow.
  11. Repeat daily.

Scheduling Everything for Tonight
There's nothing like not meeting a plan for knocking your ego to the ground, so make sure you set unrealistic goals for yourself every day. When you leave work, say, "Tonight I will work on writing my play, then do my laundry, and finally, clean my apartment. And do 100 situps." Chances are, you'll play Tetris or watch TV until 2 AM, with your hand down your jeans. It only goes to show you're too useless to get anything done.

If All Else Fails
If all else fails, try one of the Big Three Misery-Making Options:

  1. Call your parents,
  2. Go to graduate school,
  3. Become a conceptual artist.

Also, if New York is prohibitive, give Los Angeles a shot. And when you're finally ready to slash your wrists, leaving behind a long verse poem about the world and how it cheated you as your suicide note, sources tell me there's nothing like Vegas.

Happy hating (yourself) from the Subway Diary!




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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.


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