Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Stuck in the Middle of the Pile...

It's come to my attention that I am what I've started to refer to as a "Middling." I'm not rich and I'm not poor....I'm in the middle. I'm usually in the middle when it comes to most things.

I'm not saying it's a bad thing; I'm very fortunate when I think about the people who don't have what I have: A job, a house, a family, security....the list can go on.

It's just that being a middling, you tend to get passed over for almost everything.

Take, for example, the show I watched tonight. I've been DVR'ing "The Worst Cooks in America" and I finally watched the first episode. The show takes twelve of the worst cooks in America and will put them through a ten-day boot camp where they get to learn how to cook from Anne Burrell (who, by the way, was Mario Batali's sous chef on Iron Chef America") and Beau MacMillen who....well, I'm not sure who he is but he sounds like he's from Boston.

Now, while I'm sure these people are the worst cooks in America because based on their sample dish, they certainly don't seem to know how to cook but...well...there's a little voice in my head saying, 'hey, that's not fair!'.

I'm ashamed to admit I hear that voice more often than I'd like. These people get to learn from professional chefs and have the chance to win $25,000 because they are terrible cooks.

On the flip-side, there are the shows like Chopped, Top Chef and The Next Food Network Star that reward the best cooks, professional chefs who want the chance to move further in their career. I salute the contestants on these shows but they're picked because they're professionals.

So, you have shows for the best and shows for the worst. What about us humble cooks who'd like the chance to compete, to win money because we can cook, we just haven't been to culinary school?

I know...I'm whining. Yet I can't help but get frustrated when I see shows like Clean House on the HGTV network that reward people for being huge, giant slobs by having professionals go in, clean their house and buy them all new stuff. Or shows like "What Not to Wear," that give terrible dressers $5000 to improve their wardrobe.

I'd like $5,000 to improve my wardrobe. Unfortunately, with the exception of the giant gold blob incident, for the most part, I'm a safe dresser. I know what works for me and I stick with that. My biggest wardrobe crime is that I'm boring. I'd like to be more daring but, unfortunately, no one has give me $5,000 to try being more daring with my wardrobe.

I'm not begrudging people who really deserve it but once in a while, I feel like I want to quote Ben Linus from Lost and just say, "What about ME????"

But I'm a Middling like so many other people I know. I make too much to be poor but not enough to have enough money to be frivoulous. We slip through the cracks because we're not worthy of aid or help. I looked into going back to school and filled out a financial aid form. I got it back to discover I'm not eligible because I have a full-time job. Which is true except I need the full time job to pay my mortgage, pay my bills and support myself. There's nothing left for school. Since I'm still paying off my undergrad loans even though I graduated 12 years ago, there's no way I can take on more loans.

So, I won't be going back to school. It's not that I had my heart set on it but I would like the chance to actually think about it and at the moment, it's just not financially possible. On the other hand, my brother and sister-in-law who are both unemployed and have three children are both going to a private university and not having to pay anything.

I can't begrudge my brother that. He was laid off and I'm proud he's trying to get an education. He's lacking direction and I hope he can find it.

I do admit, I'm a little bitter. The devil on my shoulder whispers in my ear that I work and pay taxes while they don't work and therefore don't pay taxes. Yet somehow they get to go to school for free and live off government aid while I go to work at a job I really don't like.

The angel on my other shoulder tells me that I wouldn't want to be in their situation and at least they're trying to improve their lives.

I agree with the angel but that devil certainly can be loud sometimes.

The problem I'm finding is that since I can't go back to school, it's going to be hard to move up into a job that pays much more than I'm earning now. Which means for better or worse, this is my standard of living and short of winning the lottery, miraculously landing a lucrative publishing deal or marrying someone wealthy....I'm stuck treading financial water.

Thus...I'm a Middling. We Middlings tread water, making ends meet, sometimes a little too creatively but we manage. We don't need help so we don't get any. When it comes to pride, that's a pretty good boost. Yet it does occasionally lead us to wonder why, exactly, that's always the case. Can't there be something, some reward for those of us that work each day, doing too well to be bad, yet never truly great because that's beyond our reach?

I'm not intending to be political at all although I'm sure this could easily turn political if I let it. I don't want to though. It's no one's fault- it's the way things are. If I really, really wanted, I'm sure I could do something about it. After all, I'm a dreamer and I believe that if I want anything badly enough, I can get it in some form or another. It's just that once in a while, I admit...I want to be lazy. I want someone to notice me, to remember that there is something in between rich and poor and while it's nice not to be at the bottom, the middle can be awfully dreary sometimes.

It's just that between the best cooks and the worst cooks, the biggest losers and America's Next Top Models, there are those average folk...the ones who aren't really anything enough to rank on a scale of goodness or badness...we just are. We're the steady ones, keeping everything going. I guess there's something to be said for that.

I apologize if I've got too heavy. Trust me to get philosophical after watching The Food Network. Don't get me wrong, I'm not at all unhappy with my life. I may not like my job but I'm not in the dark place I was a few weeks ago. It's my job, for better or worse. It's just that sometimes, I think everyone wants to be Cinderella, to have a fairy godmother make things better, even for a little while. It doesn't matter what form the fairy godmother takes: government, TV network, Simon Cowell, Ty Pennington....it's just that sometimes I worry that the fairy godmothers forget that sometimes life can always be a little better for everyone, regardless of how good, how bad, how rich or how poor they are.

In the meantime, I'll enjoy the fact that I'm NOT one of the Worst Cooks in America or, at least, I don't think so. I'll enjoy the fact that I'm not deluded enough to go on American Idol. And I"ll enjoy the fact that my house is clean because I want it to be. I suppose in a way, I am rich...I'm independent and have power over my life....I'm also free to make choices.

That's not such a bad thing.

Thanks, as always, for reading. Happy Wednesday.


Sophia Ayala said...

Gordon Ramsey has a show casting right now for good cooks with out professional expirience or schooling:) It's called Master Chef

Let me know if you apply!

Worst Cook;)
Sophia Gettys

Sarah said...

This is a great blog, Captain Monkeypants! I think you capture the frustration of "the middle" so well. And here's another one - you live in the middle of the USA, largely ignored by politicians and the middle who curry favor with the coasts.

And you could never be average to me.

Captain Monkeypants said...

Sophia- thanks for the suggestion. I actually looked into it- the auditions closest were in Chicago. Then I realized it would be with Gordon Ramsey who would scare the crap out of me- I appreciate the suggestion but I think I better work on my cooking before I let Chef Ramsey start spouting the F-word at me :)