Pedant Meet Philistine

By Mitchell Kooh


“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!”

I didn’t think it’d make him this angry. Walking lockstep it’s hard to keep up with him when he gets in a mood.

“Honestly it’s not that bad. You’re blowing this way out of proportion.” I try my best to be reassuring. It’s really nothing. At least not for a normal person.

“This is the third time in four fucking years, did you know that?” The venom of frustration leaks into his loaded question.

“Grade twelve and this will be the third fucking masquerade theme at fucking Semi.”

“Why does it matter?” I ask. I’ve got rhetorical questions too. “You never go to them. All you do is whine about how shallow dances are, how they’re so tedious and elitist and blah blah blah.”

“Do you think I enjoy this? This is my last year in this fucking hell-hole of a high school and I want to fucking spend it right. Not ranting about the same old shit. Not proselytizing to the fucking sheeple. Not fucking talking to you either, no offence. The only thing that fucking sustains me is the knowledge that in six fucking months I can leave this bullshit bourgeois, lame-ass shit-hole of a-”

“Christ Tom, could you lay off on the swearing? Just a bit? I mean, it’s getting kind of ridiculous.” Eyes ablaze and thoughts smouldering, seething, he says nothing. “I mean, I know it’s just how you talk and all but I can’t take you seriously when every second word out of your mouth is ‘fuck.’. After a certain point it’s almost comical.”  He sighs, losing steam, then smirks and seems to cool off. “And,” I say “offence taken.”

Our pace slows as we approach the bus stop, but I know Tom’s not done yet.

“Philistine.” He mutters as he takes a seat on the bench by the stop.

“Pedant” I offer, sitting next to him. For a while we chatter idly, thrust and topic flitting from movies to school, school to books, books to music, and always somehow circling back to the Leafs. A final discussion of the comparative merits of deltaCorsi and zone entry percentages, one last Carlyle joke, and finally the lazy stream of words falters. He senses the moment. He’s had time to think, prepare a speech, choose his big words of small import: it’s time to rant.

“I think the thing that really bothers me,” he begins, “is the hypocrisy. The people who vote for the masquerade are almost like… well, like societal constructs made flesh; they’re meticulously deceptive in all aspects of life. I’m not entirely innocent of it myself. We all present such a manicured facade to some extent I suppose, live such artificial lives, and yet we choose to hide even further through a masquerade theme. We present a particular lie to our parents, a lie to our friends, a lie to our teachers, and what’s the truth? I don’t know. Nobody does. But these people who chose this particular theme, they hide behind masks, masks of their own devising, and they feel trapped. Why? The trap is society: rules and pressures, expectations, arbitrary distinctions of race, gender, all that shit. But it’s us. We made it. And we make it worse by perpetuating the status quo, and without even realizing it we become part of the system.” For a while there is uneasy quiet, but soon noise punctuates the still.

I can’t help it. I laugh. Hard. “Man,” I squeeze between fits of laughter, “that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. You are so pretentious sometimes it’s hilarious.” I can barely squeeze the words in between chuckles. “Who the hell talks like that anyways? ‘They hide behind the masks of their own devising?’ Oh man, you should tape yourself sometime!” He snorts a decisive and dismissive ‘hmph.’

“You’re just like them. You lack vision.. You don’t appreciate the thing that’s being destroyed here. Somehow you just don’t see how grotesquely demeaning it is to contort the historically and culturally rich tradition of masquerade into a childish party. Hundreds of years of tradition is lost on them. The dignity, the true class and spirit of the thing, means nothing. I blame fucking Jane Austen and those God damn Disney princesses. People only like masquerade because, like, OMG it’s totally a big princess ball with costumes and dresses! Fucking embarrassing. I think the only thing they know less about than masquerade is Jane Austen, but that’s another issue entirely. They choose this same theme every year because they’ve seen misshapen bastards of the grand tradition in their pop culture trash. Anachronistic, incredibly inaccurate depictions pop up all over the place in whatever crap constitutes art today. Five hundred years ago we had Shakespeare, the Bard of fucking Avon, playwright of all times. High culture was popular culture. Now we have stupid kids who only chose a masquerade theme because they saw one in some blockbuster movie.”

I’m quiet for some time, thinking.

“Hey, wasn’t there a masquerade or something in Romeo and Juliet?” I ask, knowing full well the answer. “Yeah, I saw it in the movie with Leonardo DeCaprio and that girl from Homeland!”

He is quiet for a longer time, thinking.

“Ok I guess it’s an alright theme.”