When I really want to get everyone around me up in arms, I’ll talk about going back to school. You see, I have this thing where I love going to school. Most people hate it but I’ve always loved it- I’ve loved buying the books, reading them, taking notes, learning random useless things I’d then get tested on.
In college, I studied everything I could, working my way through departments. While I graduated University of Michigan with an English degree (Dad: “Why English? We know you speak English!”), I racked up courses in Medieval French Literature, Congolese dance, and the statistics of statistics. Then I went to law school. Then, for good measure, I went to business school (I did not just walk to the buildings, I attended and graduated. Thanks for asking, with a moment of silence for the guy who ended our first date when he found out I was educated.)
Now let me tell you about the degree I am most proud of, which is interesting because I never “got” it. It is my self-study degree in pop culture. Because, let’s be honest, more than asking me for marketing advice or help negotiating a tricky contract, my friends call upon me for crucial lifeline-style pop culture answers. I always enjoy getting a call when a friend is at a bookstore and needs a recommendation, or when there is an item on the news and they ask for my commentary because surely I know the trivia behind it. But it really hit home on IM last week.
Jon popped up on my IM nonchalantly:
Sent at 4:34 PM on Thursday
jon: what is nelson's biggest hit?
me: I LOVE THAT YOU ASKED ME THAT!
well jon, they had TWO
"after the rain" is probably numero uno
and love and affection was another.
now, fun fact- their sister (tracy?) was the nun on father dowling's mysteries.
i'm so glad i could play that piece of useless knowledge.
wow. i think you just gave me my next blog post.
(To be clear, I knew from the instinctive quickening of my heart as I prepared to answer that I was being a loser, which is why I answered his question like that)
It’s actually compulsive, this sharing of information. It’s a bit Rain Man of me, but I like to think it’s somewhat charming in that at least I recognize that I’m a dork and that this behavior is in no way normal.
The question is, what do you do with this sort of knowledge? Some have found great journalistic careers and have channeled their information into witty commentary. I’m thinking specifically of Cintra Wilson and Chuck Klosterman. My problem, however, is that I can’t envision making this my life and feeling fulfilled. Ok, let’s be honest, I could totally be fulfilled, I just can’t envision someone would want to pay to hear my thoughts on what really went on between Rick James and Prince or to hear me explain the history of the band Heart.
My bigger problem is that a lot of $ (not always mine) has been sunken (sunk?) into my education (love that I got an English degree and don’t know the right verb tense to use). So when I pause on a legal question but can readily rap It’s Tricky by Run DMC to you, there may be a problem.
I fear that I’m at “Memory Almost Full” (like the Paul McCartney album. He just got engaged for the third time. And yes, this is how my train of thought works.) Something about pop culture factoids stick with me in a way the finer points of due process case law never did. I don’t even remember passages from books I loved as well. The dumber the information, the more likely it is to be stored in my memory bank. See also: lyrics of every Madonna song ever written. When you know the lyrics of her song “I’m Going Bananas” by heart, you have really and truly hit rock bottom.
To be clear, I realize that this habit of mine is highly annoying (I assume) to those around me. I can’t help but pipe in with a factoid (and I hate the word factoid) about a movie or while we’re at a concert. My mind works on a constant cycle of six degrees of useless pop information, and then I say it. I’m like human pop-up video but for everything around me. I mean, I get annoyed just describing my behavior to you.
But what else can I do with this collection of information? I mean, should I really keep it to myself when I know that Kathy Griffin supposedly hooked up with Jack Black back in the day? Or when I know that Rosanna by Toto is named after Rosanna Arquette (who lived with Peter Gabriel as well)? Should I assume you don’t want to know that Lenny Kravitz later produced a really good song for an actress who had been on his ex-wife Lisa Bonet’s show A Different World?
I know what you’re thinking- I really need to just apply for a job with E! and call it a day. And maybe I would, but I think I’d be ostracized by my colleagues for being too into it. And no one wants turf war with Ryan Seacrest (Who is dating Julianne Hough. Who followed her dance career on DWTS with a country singing career. Ryan is exec producer of the Kardashians… You see what I mean? SERIOUSLY. GET ME HELP.)
It would be scary if someone could ever see inside my mind. The other day I was watching Community and laughing at Abed, a character so consumed with pop culture that he’s almost cartoonish. But then I realized there was nothing to laugh at, what I was looking at him with was sheer admiration because his movie knowledge was on lock in a way mine isn’t… yet.
I’m realizing this is just my blessing and my curse, this talent for knowing and retaining, often against my own will, the completely useless. For now, I will continue to collect this information subconsciously (and, through Celebrity Trash Book Club, consciously) just in case any friends end up on a quiz show and need a lifeline, and to establish first draft pick status for 80’s Trivial Pursuit or bar trivia.
I may not know what to do with it yet, but I will find a good use for this superpower.