The Mooch

One of the happiest men I know is a mooch. He lives in a beautiful home in the woods of Northern California. His wife is the one that keeps their proverbial economic boat afloat by working a high income grossing medical insurance job. She works from home and so does he. But his job is different from hers. Rather than sitting on a computer and making phone calls for ten hours a day his job is to keep the house clean, chop firewood, cook, make love to her regularly and as she says it “just be happy and healthy.” She loves him and does not mind that he is 43 and earning zero income. She makes enough for him to live like a mooch.

A mooch is defined as to ask for something or obtain something without paying for it. The noun form of mooch means beggar or scrounger. I can’t help but think that the Webster Dictionary holds a rather negative view of those who have found a way to live happily without paying for it. Maybe the authors of Websters Dictionary have to work hard at a job they don’t really love, day after day and they resent those who do no not have to do this? Maybe some of the definitions in Websters Dictionary are nothing but a form of passive aggressive revenge for a life they do not feel others deserve to live? A way for the authors to use language to strike back at aspects of the world they find contentious? I am sure that if my happy friend was to become aware of the definition for mooch he might become afflicted by some guilt or feelings of low self esteem but then he would probably get over it and go for a hike.

Last night I was watching a film in which the word mooch seemed to show up a few times. I felt my chest tighten and a negative feeling begin to brew inside of me. I went to sleep without giving it much thought. When I awoke this morning the word was still hovering around in my head in the same way that sheep do when you count them before falling asleep. So far today I have cleaned up dog poop, fed the dogs, ate breakfast and took care of some work related issues. I tried to sink my mind into a book about the indie band Yo La Tengo but was not able to concentrate. It is as if some incorporeal force has been trying to bring my attention towards something that I have been trying to ignore. Am I a mooch?

By the age of 40 should a man already be 100% self sustaining? Should he be paying for his own house, car, food, vacations, dogs and living rather comfortably off of the income that he earns through his well to do business ventures? Is this not what our society refers to as successful? And to not have attained this, to be living off of the assistance of others- what does this mean for a man over the age of 40 in our capitalistic, work obsessed culture? Well the authors at Websters Dictionary sure have an answer for me. It means that you are a mooch. Or even worse- a beggar and a scrounger.

So maybe it is this negative lexicon that has been pervading my consciousness today. Maybe hearing the word “mooch” repeated several times in the film I was watching last night triggered something deep within me. I mean after all by the time my father was my age he was a roaring economic success (but he was also a roaring emotional ball of anger and unhappiness). But maybe I have had his capitalistic flag waved over my head for so much of my life that a deeper part of me feels bad about myself for not having lived up to the responsibilities the flag implies. Who knows. I didn’t even know I felt this way before I watched that ridiculous film.

I will say this to those people who decided to define the word mooch with negative undertones. My friend who is the happiest man I know is without a doubt a mooch as those at Websters Dictionary define it. He mooches every time he enjoys a nice bottle of red wine and travels to the Hawaiian islands for a yearly month long vacation. And I myself probably fall into this category (I have always said that if I could just find a way to sit on my couch, read books and have checks show up in the mail I would be a happy man). If being a mooch is so bad then why are we often so happy? If I look back upon the history of famous moochers (scroungers) I only come up with those that I consider to have been generally happy people (Henry Miller, Bernard Glassman, William Saroyan and that black guy who walked around the world and did not talk for years to name a few). Yet the great majority of people that I know who work a lot, are not scroungers and make a good amount of money are some of the more unhappy people I have come across. Even though they work hard and have lived up to various societal expectations when I am around them they often feel very unpleasant. So if mooching is a negative thing then the opposite should be a positive, right? Then why are all those who don’t mooch so darned unhappy?

I realize I am going a bit off track here. All I am trying to imply is that mooching really is not so bad. In fact those who have found a way to make mooching work in their advantage are actually some of the more fortunate people on this planet. If they can just get over their cultural conditioning that wants to make them feel like a low life or failure for mooching they can then have lots of time to pursue various interests or happily sit on their couch and “just let the checks show up in the mail” so to speak. In fact my friend, who is the happiest man I know- loves to spend a few hours every afternoon sitting on his couch (while his wife works in the office downstairs) looking out a huge window which is filled in with nothing but mountain ridges and red wood trees. Maybe being a mooch is not as bad as those at Websters Dictionaries want you to believe? It is 10:43 am on a Friday morning and I should probably go get out of my pajamas now.

Youth and Missed Opportunities

I’m not complaining. At the moment, despite having to care for a German Shepherd who has just been neutered, my life is relatively easy and blessed. I have a wonderful home, a way to bring in an income and a loving wife. Domesticity has never been better for this 42 year old, unusually tall and oddly shaped male. For a lazy guy- I have done well enough (by lazy I mean an absence of inner motivation to commit myself to things that earn an income). I have always preferred the world of dreams- especially in my youth.

If I could be young again (by young I mean in my twenties and early thirties) I would wear more black leather, I would dye my hair more often, I would paint my nails various colors, I would explore more, I would challenge authority more, I would commit myself more to something strange and out of the box, I would madly pursue my dreams and nightmares- I would be much less fearful than I was. Youth is not a time for missed opportunities. If one is lucky they will have middle age and their elderly years for that.

Youth is a time of potential/opportunity/rebellion and instead of diving head first into these things, I stuck my feet in. Maybe this is what happens when an aspiring artist/writer is raised in the typical middle class, suburban, nuclear family paradigm. This often makes it more challenging to go against the grain because there is so much pressure to conform. When the kid who was raised in a middle class, suburban environment does try to go against the grain and do something unusual or unconventional with their life, they are seen as a failure. A confused soul. Someone given to reckless abandon. Irresponsible. These feelings of failure and judgement from others can often turn into disempowering anger and despair. At least it did for me.

I wanted to be as outlandish and unusual as possible when I was younger. I did not want to be like “them.” I wanted to tear down the world as it was and reconstruct it in strange, less mediocre ways. I never quite found the drive and courage to go all the way. Somehow my parents opinion slowed me down. I did not have their support to pursue my desire to be an artist and writer and somehow I allowed this lack of support to cause me to doubt my own capabilities and talents. Instead of spending my days trying to turn my youth filled dreams into a tangible reality, I kept them in the back of my mind as I spent all my time buried in novels, dead end jobs and sitting on street corners smoking cigarets and watching the world go by.

Now that I am older it is more difficult to pursue certain ambitions that really do require complete immersion and dedication. One thing that I did not factor into the getting older equation was a dwindling of energy. In youth energy is as electric as lightning. It is an energy that has the quality of an obsession. It can cut glass. It is pure and positively charged and it is this energy that has the potential to break the individual out of the societal box that our entire global culture is designed to keep people in.

In many ways my youth was a missed opportunity. My depression, self doubt, fear and rage kept me from fulfilling my potential. I had great times and have wonderful debauched and poetic memories- but I also have regrets. Youth is a time to not be tethered by other peoples expectations. It is a time of freedom, a place of potential where a person does not have to explain themselves to anyone. It is a time to break glass and not worry about cleaning it up. The difference between those who accomplish their youth-filled dreams and those who do not is simply a matter of confidence, dedication and courage. I myself never did wear all that black leather, I never did paint my nails various colors, I never did dye my hair, I never did madly pursue my dreams. I did not understand what I get now- the entire point of youth is to inhabit and pursue the world of dreams.