I am not a big fan of fancy words, long-winded compliments and absurd verbal conflicts. Nevertheless I’ve found myself arguing away in the land of all Armenians for trivial reasons like water dripping out of a flower pot perched on a balcony onto the hood of a car parked below, or paying a parking assistant less than I should have (or what he expected) although there is no official posted rate per hour anywhere in the city on public streets. The amount of tragic dismay I’ve had to endure with bureaucracy and blatant bullshit surpasses my own comprehension of logic, namely that conceived by the modern western world. Armenians endorse their own system of logic, which is laden with paradoxical loopholes and grandiose explanations for refraining from taking personal responsibility. Found to be faulty to the outsider or not, you better be playing along or else you be duped.
Unfortunately bullshitting is not my specialty. It’s unfortunate because I have no defenses against being dealt condescending or else haughty rhetoric. My response is often a perverted combination of outrage, scorn and black humor. I can never take people blabbering away very seriously, no matter if they’re on stage for five minutes introducing a local rock band to a crowd of oblivious teenagers in an excruciatingly annoying manner or making a long-winded toast that lasts 10 minutes longer than the 30 seconds it really should at the most.
I’m getting married again in less than two weeks, an event I am looking forward to since I love good parties and reveling. A few people have encouraged me to hire a “tamada” for the reception, who is reminiscent of a late-night talk show host or perhaps one from the 1970s, like Mike Douglas or someone similar who could tell jokes, sing some silly songs, jovially interview guests, and so forth. The tamada praises a bride and groom with such graceful eloquence as if he had known both of them since the day they emerged from their respective mother’s womb. He is an astute expert in the art of bullshitting. He can do it all—tell lame jokes, recite depressing poetry, make some sugary toasts to parenthood and the vital importance of the family, all with a wide Cheshire cat grin on his face with an obtuse outlook on life that he pawns off as having merit and importance. I reject the idea of having a complete stranger take the reins of the celebration of marriage. Instead I will leave the speechmaking, toasting and joking to relatives and loved ones, since I know it’s coming from the heart instead of the asshole.
I live in a society where men, all with a machismo complex, even the homosexual ones, call each other “brother” and “dude,” regardless if whether they are addressing friends or total strangers. They refer to each other in these terms while drinking beers or arguing over a parking space. You’re a dude in instances when you are showing contempt for someone close to you or are passing a few moments of hilarity with your buddy. And you’re a brother when you’re approached by someone lost looking for directions or preparing for a futile argument with the hidden agenda of who has bigger balls.
Similarly, you can take away the pain. Armenians use this term literally, when they are showing sympathy for someone’s woe, but more often than not, someone uses the expression in the context of “give me a break” or “I’m giving you a break.” You could be buying a kilo of tomatoes and hear this from the vendor. You can even start a conversation this way, right after saying hello. Both cases are totally acceptable. But they are not terms of endearment, rather perfect examples of bullshitting by distorting words meant to be sincere that instead can be interpreted as demonstrating condescension, depending on the context.
The entire society is founded on the premise of bullshit and pulling the wool over someone’s eyes by lying and cheating. Bullshit’s the name of the game, but I’m not a player. I want them to shovel and bury it.