Verbal defense mechanisms will never exit the vernacular, the vestigial shame manifestations of the colloquial realm. Sorry I was late, my car wouldn’t start. Sorry for the glaring typo on the corporate newsletter, I was really tired from a long weekend at my girlfriend’s parents’ house. But, in these instances, the infraction outweighs the excuse, no matter how plausible. Can we really settle for this inequality?

Of course not. Given a little bit of creativity and a careful pocketing of anxiety, the defender can easily gain the advantage and win the day. How? Why, the spin, of course!

The concept of the spin is as old as time. History’s greatest figures mastered it (there’s a lot modern adulterers could learn from Benjamin Franklin). Basically, an effective spin is any deft rationale that turns the objection or negative criticism into an asset.

Here’s an example. A couple of days ago, I ran across a guitarist’s tumblr page where he responded to commentary about his performance on a late night TV program. The critics said he sang too softly, sang wrongly, couldn’t sing period. His defense was, well, maybe I can’t sing, or maybe you, pundits, haven’t listened to enough John Maus.

You see what happened there? The guitarist completely turned it. By comparing his spare, unconventional singing style to an undeniable underground legend and prodigy, he’s framed himself favorably. And indeed, yeah, it’s a Maus-like style and he’s not totally off the grid; if he was, then the pundit could easily deflect that comment, slapping it back as if it were a winning forehand stroke at the US Open.

But some spins are greater than others, and legendary spinners are born, not made. Most of these people are smattered across the front page of every newspaper, so I don’t need to go into much greater detail regarding who these people are, what “creative” truths they spout, or what oils their internal mechanisms. What I can identify, however, is the mother of all spins, the single impervious excuse that exists in contemporary excuse-making and verbal defense.

“Sorry for partying.”

Think about it. Our generation, or at least those who’ve graduated in the past couple years, finds themselves amidst a stifling amount of economic turmoil in terms of finding meaningful and supportive work. If we want to keep chasing our dreams like everyone keeps telling us to, it often means lengthy stints in the basements of our progenitors or submission into soulless labor situations. The thing we’ve really thrown our stress-induced energy and anxiety into is partying, an outlet just as much as an escape.

I feel that “sorry for partying” represents a timeless ideal but it’s particularly pliant now (if I ever go to law school, my main objective would certainly be to get “sorry for partying” into the legislation).

Here’s an example of “sorry for partying” in a real life situation. Once, my little brother took his girlfriend on a date to a neighborhood Mexican restaurant where a handful of my friends had congregated after an afternoon football game. So, loud and boorish suggesting the influence of a long day of emptying beer cups in the parking lot, they began to tease my brother. As they gradually attracted the attention of several restaurant patrons who became increasingly irked, my friend Will simply turned around and dropped the bombshell; “Sorry for partying.”

How dare you, fine gallery of diners, deny my friend this right? In this harsh economic landscape, must you take away my friend’s revelry, perhaps his predominate crutch of existence?

“Sorry for partying.” as a device, teems with distinct levels of understanding. First, there’s the whole notion of an outside force disrupting personal satisfaction, which just isn’t cool, no need to explain that further. Also, it displays undertones of youth and carelessness and the necessity of their constant public exhibition.  

And, perhaps most important is this notion—does my friend have anything to be sorry about? Of course not. He’s just asserting his own liberty. And, if I remember my American history correctly, America’s definitely down with liberty. Just Google it.

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© 2009

Meditations on the Mundane: Defense Mechanisms

Corban Goble