When I get really embarrassed or humiliated because people don’t think I’m as great as I want them to think I am, or when they think someone else, even themselves, is better than I am, I think about joining the Marines.
The Marines are good soldiers, and I want to be good at something. And I like to know that I can kill other people, not so that I can do it, but so that when I hate them I can imagine beating them up, making my hatred their truth. This stops me from having to do anything, but lets me hold on to the hatred. When I’m fantasizing and hating, I always imagine a conflict at the end of that fantasy. If I were to lose that imaginary conflict, I’d be left with a sour taste in my mouth, I’d feel bad about my hatred, I’d see it as something dangerous for me. If I win, I feel good, and even though I never want to push it and destroy the fantasy, I can at least feel that my enemies are at my mercy, that I am a good and powerful and merciful person. I can fantasize about winning a fight even if I’m not really able to win it, but I just think being a Marine would help me imagine this result more strongly and more confidently, and that would be good enough.
The Marines also are impressive. Even if the cause isn’t good, or the outcome, or the individual actions they have undeniable personal virtues far beyond what most of us have or need. I wish I could focus more, I wish I could endure more physical pain, I wish I could better withstand stressful situations, I wish I could easily muster the will to do things which I do not want to do, but which need to be done. My proficiency in all these skills is well short of what Marines have to do at a minimum. I can’t imagine being thrown into one of their situations. I’d freak out, break down, and suffer. But I can imagine having already gone through their situation and coming back into mine, and being almost embarrassed how overqualified I am in these areas. And most people know it. I like the idea of being able to say just one word that indicates an abundance of enviable virtue, barely needing to say anything about myself.
It’s not just the ability to withstand suffering, either. It’s having gone through the suffering itself. It’s something other people wouldn’t want to do. And better, something they’d want done. They fear going through it, but they wish for someone else to. You’ve fulfilled their wish. And there’s a gratitude that comes with having suffered that way. People give it a certain respect, provided it’s sanctioned and branded and revered the right way. They know they can’t tell you anything, can’t speak for your experience, that you’ve already lost something that they’re afraid to lose. They’re always below you in that way, even when they’re above you in so many others. Imagining having that kind of suffering makes me feel good, because some kinds of suffering just make people have less respect for you, for allowing it to happen, or being there for it to happen to you.
Another I like about Marines—Marines are interesting. Their lives have high stakes. Their stories do, too. I want to know what happens to them, and not even to find their embarrassing secrets. If I had been a Marine, everybody would want to know my stories. I could tell the stories or not, but I would have that feeling of control, of having no limit to how much people wanted to know about me. And I wouldn’t ever need to know their stories, because I’d have the stories in myself.
But the main reason I’d join is to be different from everybody else. Nobody who’s like me, or the people around me, would ever think of joining the Marines, or actually go through with it. Me neither. But if I would, it would make me different, it would take me out of that context, it would put some distance between me and whatever embarrassment I felt at the hands of my peers, and the old rules would not apply, and I would come back having transcended their world.
I want to join the Marines so that I can win a petty conflict in my mind with some people I shouldn’t care about. I’ll never go through with it. But I like to imagine. My motivation may be shitty, but if I did it people wouldn’t be able to say that I didn’t do it. I like to imagine that I did it even though I won’t.