Narrative seems to be the word of the week. Everyone has one. Everyone is promoting one. The term “Talking Points” has become passé. Now, everyone has abandoned their talking points in favor of a narrative. I think I’ll get me a narrative, too. I’d prefer a well established, reputable one, perhaps one formulated by a big, compounding apothecary-esque manufacturer, and offered by a major retailer with a liberal returned goods policy. Homemade narratives are just too risky, prone as we are to embellish. An unassailable narrative backed by government or think-tank research is the best kind.
Maybe the Goodyear or Firestone stores will start selling narratives, allowing us to pick from several that suit our personal tastes. They could run a buy-three-get-one-free sale allowing us to pick specific mini-narratives that are melded into one that will perhaps produce a winning hand, and get a 25% discount at the same time. Goodyear narratives would perhaps come with a road hazard warranty, which could be used in case the road we are traveling reveals defects in our narrative. The Firestone narrative may come with free computerized balancing which would ensure that our narrative, itself, did not cause us problems once it was mounted and put into service, but run smoothly and jitter free.
Maybe men’s wear in a first-rate department store could best help me find a fitting narrative and perhaps offer custom tailoring to take it up a bit here, let it out a bit there, ensuring a proper fit for all my personal idiosyncrasies. An off-the-rack narrative may not serve well. I might look silly in one since I might be persuaded to acquire one that is ill-fitting, or in a style that does not become one of my years, and I wind up looking like some of the shoppers of Wal-Mart that we see so many photos of. I wonder what narrative some of those people are trying to forward? An experienced sales-person may help me to avoid the false narrative going on in my mind.
“What size narrative do you wear?” asked the experienced sales clerk knowing the answer before I gave it.
“42 long,” I said.
A frown clouded the clerk’s face, even though it was a fleeting frown. I frowned back immediately at the first sign of his frown. We exchanged fleeting frowns. The smile returned as he reached into the rack and pulled out a narrative that was labeled 48 Stout. He pulled the narrative off the hanger and held it up to me, eying it and me at the same time, saying, “This looks like it will fit.”
“Too big,” I said with a shake of my head. “Too big. I’ve always worn a 42 Long narrative.”
“Sir, when was the last time you tried one on?” the clerk asked.
“Well, it’s been a while, but my narrative hasn’t changed, really, or at least not that much. At least I don’t think so.”
The clerk got a 42L off the rack. I slipped the narrative on, having some difficulty getting my arms in it, It seemed a bit tight across the back, well perhaps a bit tight is a false narrative since I looked like a Mr. Potatohead inflated to 100PSI with it stretched across my back, my arms sticking straight out in a sort of cantilevered suspension borne by the tautness of the fabric like cables on a long bridge span. The clerk stood there watching me struggle without saying a word, his hand on his chin, perhaps waiting for me to come to my own realization that the narrative I selected for myself did not really fit. I kept fidgeting about, as if my movements would make it settle in like bran flakes in the box, the label saying “This package sold by weight, not volume.” Well, weight may be how products are sold, but there is a correlation between weight and volume, and my greater weight certainly gave rise to greater volume. Still reminding myself that liquid always takes the shape of its vessel, my illiquid self was still refusing to give in to the inevitable. I took a deep breath and straightened up as much as I could and reached for the narrative’s buttons. I pulled the narrative tight across my chest and breathed in even deeper still. I had about two inches to go before the narrative button could caress the button-hole which seemed now as far as a quasar on the edge of the infinite universe. The 42L narrative would no longer fit me. My former narrative was a false hope, an ostrich’s head stuck in the sand as it were, visible to everyone else but me. Having pulled my head out of the sand, the sales clerk directed my gaze towards the mirror. The narrative I had chosen for myself revealed what I’d rather have hidden and said nothing that I’d rather have said. This is how false narratives work to discerning observers.
A wise sales clerk never lets us see a smile of victory. A wise sales clerk realizes that he is trying to sell something while simultaneously helping us if we can be helped. From the obvious disappointment on my face, the clerk knew that he had gotten me to see my own foolishness at the narrative I had chosen for myself. I struggled to remove the volume-challenged narrative and handed it back to him. He handed me the 48 Stout. I put it on, slipping in to it like butter slips onto a hot piece of cornbread. I reached for the buttons and buttoned it up without having to draw in air enough to cause a drop in the barometric pressure as I did before. I sighed at the new narrative I would not have chosen for myself, but nevertheless the one that fits. I turned in around in front of the mirror, gazing over my shoulder to see if this narrative made my butt look too big. It was all rather depressing.
“Isn’t that better?” the clerk asked with not so much as a hint of smugness.
“I suppose so,” I said with a sigh, adding, as if to get in the last word, “But I don’t think the color suits me.”
“You might want to look in the mirror again. It really accents the green in your hazel eyes,” he replied. I peered into the mirror. I like the green in my eyes, wishing they were just green rather than hazel. But I could see, it….or perhaps more accurately, I could buy in to the flattering narrative the clerk advanced on my behalf. Now it seemed my eyes were indeed greener, which made the narrative I was wearing much more attractive, even if it were required in several sizes bigger than my previous narrative. Narratives, it seems, were always evolving, like my waistline: never static, but always dynamic.
“You are good at what you do,” I said to the clerk with a smile.
“I’ve been helping people find proper fitting narratives for over 30 years,” he said. “One learns a few tricks along the way.”
I paid for the new narrative with my credit card, advancing an old narrative that I’d pay it off at the end of the month, knowing that in spite of that public narrative I’d be more likely to succumb to my private narrative and pay it off over time, taking me every bit of twelve years to fully pay for the new narrative, in turn supporting the card-issuer’s narrative of the convenience of getting the benefits now and paying later,even at a 21% APR, finding myself in need of a replacement narrative before the debt for this new narrative was even retired.
Narratives should come in twelve packs like beer. A six-pack is not enough, and a whole case lets us be too flighty. A twelve-pack narrative is just about right since if we are judicious with their consumption, we can perhaps get by for our entire narrative-strewn lives. But maybe that is no good. No…no good, since all twelve narratives would be the same. If we were to use the same narrative all the time, then one would do, except for the occasional replacement when the old one became a bit threadbare, or got soiled when changing a flat narrative on a dark, muddy, rainy night.
Perhaps a Whitman’s Sampler-type narrative package might work better, though there are some unpleasant surprises mixed in with the delightfully sweet narratives in the box. Sometimes, just like candies from the box, we get the one we are looking for, and other times, we spit the candy out as soon as its chocolate shell is pierced.
“Bleeeehhhch,” I cried, spitting out the dark chocolate covered sardine-filled narrative, missing the intended mark in my rush to expectorate and instead having it dribble down the front of my brand new as-yet-unpaid-for-48-stout-hazel-eye-accentuating narrative.
“Dammit!” I cried, in disgust at myself, looking around to see if anyone may be developing their own narrative about what they might have just witnessed. I sighed in relief as no one seemed to be watching. Now I had to attend a meeting with a narrative I had soiled myself, which would render ineffective the narrative I had hoped to use, instead causing those I was hoping to influence with my new narrative to build narratives of their own about the nature of the ugly brown footpath from my collar to my belly.
The most diligent efforts of the dry-cleaners could not remove the brown stain from my new narrative. I called the store where I bought it and asked to speak to the sales clerk, complaining about the various and sundry narratives he had used to sell me the new narrative, the purchase of which had not even had time to show up on my credit card statement. He seemed unimpressed with all my arguments about a free-replacement narrative.
“It’s not like our narratives come with a road-hazard warranty similar to the narratives on your car, sir” he said. “I can give you a ten percent discount on the purchase of a similar narrative.”
I thought this was an odd accommodation since the store’s new sale flyer on my kitchen counter had a 25% discount on select men’s narratives. I inquired about that.
“The sale prices are good for all narratives up to size 46R. Please read the fine print in your flyer, sir,” then he asked, “Will here be anything else?”
I just hung up, now lost in my own narrative which were actually the narratives of others suggested to me which had become my own, being immediately embellished by my own narrations that may or may not have been connected to real narratives or the narratives that may have been observed by others. The narrative business is tricky. The personal narrative business is a baleful morass of treachery. My only hope for a complete recovery from this self-induced other-exacerbated narrativosis is a return to political discussion where narrative never prevails over truth, at least in certain parties.
The others? The parties I am not affiliated with? Well, why on earth would anyone expect their narratives to have any veracity? If you thought so, you are too naive. That is the new narrative I am advancing; unfortunately, it seems to be a bit overexposed, sort of like teen-age pop stars.
Maybe they are overexposed like me in a 42R narrative that used to fit so well. Everyone can plainly now see that it fails to cover what it once so graciously concealed, though, when it fit, there was nothing to conceal. Maybe that’s the secret of good narratives…they reveal rather than conceal. That’s what I always thought about good language, and language is how we construct narratives. When we purpose it to conceal, maybe we need a new, wise sales clerk that can see we need a narrative that fits better.
Or, we could walk about in split britches.
You can build your own narrative from here.