Cringe and Repeat

Carlyn Lynch
It was during a ridiculously long phone conversation with my best friend that she asked me the question best friends so often ask one another, “God, why did we do that to ourselves?”

When asking this question, some friends may be referring to the matching thorny roses tattooed just above their ankle or laughing as they recall the time they shaved their arms in middle school. There is a myriad of life experiences that best friends share to later remember…or remember and regret. My friend was talking about our past choices in men.

What is my answer to this notorious best friend question? “Because we see clichés, we want clichés and we become cliché. Once it gets old, we move to a different stage in life to seek out yet another cliché and look back disdainfully on the clichés we used to embrace.”

I think back to the cliché things I’ve done that I now cringe to think about, starting with the diary I kept during my elementary years. The thing is, most of the cliché happenings in my diary didn’t actually happen. I record a suspicious number of school-sponsored ice cream socials and tout my badassery. At one point I write, “I turned up the rock as loud as it could go when mom picked me up from piano lessons…She was so mad.” This never happened. We sang along to Christine’s solos from The Phantom of the Opera…every day.

When my life didn’t fit the cliché ideal I had about what it meant to be an awesome 10-year-old, I just pretended it did. The writing in those pages is so saccharin, so glaringly cliché, that it takes every bit of strained laughter and silent repetition of the phrase, “Man, I was so young and deluded” to convince myself that my inner child has now matured into my inner wise old medicine woman. It’s not true. My yearning for clichés hasn’t disappeared…it’s continuously evolving.

Take college for instance; a time when everyone is figuring out what sets them apart from everyone else. To some extent, each of us reaches out to varying clichés we don’t recognize as cliché while simultaneously criticizing others who’ve chosen the clichés less attractive to us. Think about the epic battle between hipsters and frat boys. It’s as intense as a dance-off between the Sharks and the Jets (West Side Story reference…Damn all those car rides set to musical soundtracks!)

Personally, I chose to date my cliché…in the form of the ‘brilliant but unmotivated rebel’. I dated two of him. It shames me to admit that I am swiping the description in quotes from the back cover of a “Reality Bites” DVD, the coming-of-age ‘classic’ 90s film.

When I watch the film’s cool hero captivate the cute heroine, I get the same cringe feeling I get when I open my old diary. He’s confident but also lost. He’s contemplative and brooding. He’s in a band. Basically, he’s pretentious, insecure and belittles anyone who challenges him…and chicks totally dig him.

I kissed him at a party and fought with him for months. My best friend fell for a slightly different version of him and dolled out a string of unreturned favors. Another friend thought she was the luckiest girl in the world until one of him just fell off the face of the earth. Our cute clichés got under our skin…but they didn’t stay there.

Everyone can look back at some of the people they’ve dated, clothes they’ve worn or mistakes they’ve made and feel embarrassed or ashamed but it’s better to just laugh at yourself or even feel some cliché nostalgia. That person who was all wrong for you is a marker for a certain time in your life, just like the Phoenix Suns jersey you so foolishly paired with a turtleneck marks another equally precious time.

Clichés, like people, aren’t all bad. On the contrary, many clichés exist because lots of people love them…like sunsets, long walks on the beach or silver white Winters that melt into Springs (Sorry, that’s from The Sound of Music…I can’t help myself).

Most of us will acquire, shed and seek anew many clichés throughout our lifetime and I think that’s okay…as long as our identity remains intact. Besides, when things get tough, we can always drown out the world and turn up the rock as loud as it can go.