I’m not keeping score, but in the last few months, I don’t know how many people have tiptoed up to me and quietly let go with a “It is what it is.” It’s like someone breaking wind and thinking it smells like perfume.
It causes me all kinds of consternation, which I looked up in the dictionary just to make sure and means worry. And I don’t like worrying because my worries tend to play games with me–they multiply, leap frog, play chicken and have a grand old time and all at my expense.
So when the 100th person I happened to pass by that day smiled boldly at me when I was at the supermarket reaching out for the ground turkey and said, “It is what it is,” I wondered what was wrong with this nincompoop that he thought he needed to comment on some dead turkey that had had his feathers plucked just to provide sustenance for my five dogs. I mean wasn’t it enough that my family were avowed meat eaters? Was he nuts or was I missing some deeply relevant, humongously profound double meaning?
And that’s quite possible since I nearly flunked philosophy in college when my professor spent a bit too long describing Plato’s or some other old Greek’s penchant for identifying 100 percent pure concepts while he was meditating in some cave near the Aegean. I couldn’t help being bored, and I yawned once–which is fair warning in Bayonne where I grew up. Of course then I nodded off before he could make it to Descartes and his well-known, If a tree falls in the forest and I’m not there to hear it, does it really count, shtick.
And another thing: I’m really good at missing the point in classical literature–the kind that makes it onto every educational reading list in the country. I don’t like to admit it because I managed to get all As and Bs in English while in school, but there were plenty of times when Literature definitely perplexed me. Buckets of metaphors and similes got past me, and I missed more than a symbol or two in D.H. Lawrence and Hawthorne. To be perfectly frank, Moby Dick and Ahab refused to communicate with my Inner Reader and I never could stay awake to find out if it was Queequeg or the whale that was the Big Problem.
So, back to the 21st century declarative comment: It is what it is. Rumination over its meaning has proved to be of little value. At least for me. Is it some careless phrase that someone coined after seeing La Cage Aux Folles? Was it conceived in desperation after someone flunked their driver’s test or bar exam for the nth time? What stirred the conception of this damned declaration of diffidence? Because it strikes me–if I take a psychological view of it–that this phrase gives permission for people to wax apathetic, to just lie back and accept their fate. Because if it is what it is, then nothing on the face of the earth is going to change it, right? Not getting five advanced college degrees or jogging around the block until I slip in my own sweat and break both knees, right?
Yes, it’s definitely a call for the status quo, to let it be, not to apply the concept of change to this situation because this person, place or thing is impervious to anything and everything. In effect “it” is a super “it.” It doesn’t have to go for yearly check-ups because no pills or probing could possibly affect it in any way, shape, or form. It also doesn’t have to clean the garage, walk the dog or ask the boss for a raise. In many ways, it ‘s an excuse to just fold your hands and veg out by the TV or computer. Your call.
And that makes me plain angry. How can people eyeball something and know just by looking or sniffing or using one of those God-given senses they have that “No way will I do this or that because it won’t make a scintilla of difference about anything”? How do they know that?
Because it’s like this: If I were to quit apologizing to certain people about my irritable behavior because I’m on these lousy anti-depressants that make me feel like killing the entire planet, then where would I be in the friends and family department? I’d be without. I’d be lonely and depressed and have to take more pills, which would just exacerbate an already tenuous situation. So I’ve had my say, and I guess it really is what it is.