In October of 2012, I helped produce a benefit show called Thirst: The No Round. The event was an evening of short plays performed in a bar. All profits went to Minnesotans United for All Families to help fight the marriage amendment that would change the state constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. (The amendment was defeated in November of 2012.) A lot of people believe marriage equality is a political issue. In my opinion, many of America’s current political issues are matters of simple human decency. This two-part monologue was my attempt to sum up some of my feelings about political activism, romantic relationships, and also Harry Potter. Enjoy.
CURSE OF KINDNESS: PART ONE
Excuse me! Hello! May I have your attention? My apologies for interrupting your meals and drinks. I realize you don’t know me. I’m just some guy in a bar. My name is James. There. Now I’m not some guy in a bar, I’m some guy named James in a bar.
Anyway, I was wondering if you would all be willing to join me in a toast? I would like to toast the concept of kindness. If you think kindness is a good thing, please lift your glasses and on the count of three join me in a toast. One, two, three–bullshit!
Kindness is bullshit! That’s right, I said it. I used a swear word right out loud in a bar. And I will do it again if I have to.
I’m sorry to be so edgy, but I’m a little out of control right now. I’m supposed to be getting married next week and I just had a horrible fight with the woman who may or may not still be my fiancée.
We’ve been together for a few years and we’ve never had a real fight. And it was starting to make me nervous, so I said, “Hey, sweetie, before we get married, I think we should have, like, a practice fight.”
She thought that was ridiculous. When I asked her why she called me a name. A horrible name. A vile, cultural epithet.
She called me a Hufflepuff.
By a show of hands, how many people here know what a Hufflepuff is?
It sounds horrible doesn’t it? Hufflepuff. It sounds like a noise an old British man would make when he’s choking on a crumpet. Hufflepuff. Or like a really lame drug addict. Like someone who tries to get high by sniffing Play-Doh or something.
But the true meaning of Hufflepuff is even more insulting.
For those of you who don’t know, a Hufflepuff is one of the four houses at Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as featured in the Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling.
People who are in the Gryffindor house are brave. People in Ravenclaw are smart. People in Slytherin are evil. Hufflepuff is for EVERYBODY ELSE.
If Hufflepuff were real that’s where they would put the stoners and the dumb kids who try hard. Hufflepuff is the AV club of the Harry Potter world.
But the most common virtue of Hufflepuffs is that we’re supposed to be kind. Not surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of Hufflepuff characters featured in the Harry Potter story. Just Cedric Diggory. And do you know what he does? He spends about six hundred pages standing around being nice and then he dies.
That’s who my fiancée thinks I am. That’s what she thinks should go on my tombstone: “He was nice until he died.”
Do you know why that’s an insult? Because nice is a codeword for cute. When someone crinkles up their nose and says, “Oh, isn’t he nice?” what they’re actually saying is, “He reminds me of that puppy I had on my trapper keeper in seventh grade.”
Even worse, nice is a codeword for harmless.
No one respects nice people because kindness is a passive virtue. And I am done with that. I am done being a Hufflepuff. I told my fiancée that I was going to show her. I told her I was going to go out to a bar, get drunk, and go nuts in front of strangers.
Which is exactly what I have done!
Except for the drunk part. This is an O’Douls, so I’m not really drunk. But I do feel bloated and I have to pee. So, brace yourselves– because this Trapper Keeper puppy is about to urinate all over your minds!
Who wants it first?
Hey, you! Yes, you! I would like to confront you about an important, divisive issue that a lot of people feel pretty strongly about. I personally do not think that the Harry Potter films are as good as the books. What do you have to say about that?
DON’T ANSWER! I am going to tell you what I think! I think the movies are emotionless, tarted-up turds with too many special effects and not enough Dobby the House Elf. Saying you know the story of Harry Potter because you saw the films is like saying you know about current events because you watch Fox News.
That’s right, I just attacked Fox News. Does anyone here want to defend Fox News?
Wow! No one? Okay, that makes me feel a little better.
But how about this? I think people who hang their toilet paper under-handed are sick. They’re terrible, manipulative people. I believe strongly in an over-handed toilet paper hanging approach and I’m willing to stand up and fight for what I believe in. I will stand up and fight like a Gryffindor for people’s right to hang toilet paper over-handed!
And I will tell you something else–now that I hear myself say that out loud in a bar full of strangers, I’m realizing that perhaps my issue is not with you people but rather with my fiancée. My cruel, name-calling, underhanded toilet paper hanging fiancée.
So, here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to go use the bathroom. Then I’m going to leave an inadequate tip at the bar to prove I can be as evil as a Slytherin. Then I’m going to go home and face my issues with my fiancée head on.
But before I go, I want to leave you with a good toast. I’m sure many of you here tonight are in relationships. It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out or celebrating your 50th anniversary, relationships are hell. So, I propose a toast not to kindness, but to something I believe is really universal in all relationships. I offer a toast….to bravery!
Now, where the hell is the bathroom?
CURSE OF KINDNESS: PART TWO
Excuse me! Excuse me! May I have your attention again? It’s me, James. You might remember me from earlier as the guy who was yelling about Harry Potter and the toilet paper.
Look, I just came back to the bar to apologize. I brought you guys a flower. It’s just one so you’ll have to share.
Feel free to pass it around or keep it for yourself depending on where your moral compass points. I’m not here to judge.
Anyway, I wanted to say I’m sorry for freaking out and yelling at you earlier. Also, I figure you guys have a right to know what happened when I confronted my fiancée.
So, I went home to yell at her about being so cruel as to call me nice. When I got home, she was sitting on the couch watching a movie. She was crying and eating ice cream out of a tub with a soup ladle because she couldn’t find any clean spoons.
And I was really angry. I was riled up from all that O’Douls I slammed and the movie she was watching was Prisoner of Azkaban—which is the worst Harry Potter film because they don’t even tell you why Harry’s patronus is a stag. And you just have to infer who Padfoot, Prongs, Wormtail, and Moony are, and the Whomping Willow just moves locations. It’s so stupid!
I wanted to just scream and smash the TV, but I didn’t.
I went full Hufflepuff.
I sat down and I hugged her. I made the active choice to be kind. And I realized I’m not sick of being nice, I’m sick of the world acting like being nice doesn’t make a difference.
So, excuse my language, but dammit all to hell I am going to be kind. I am going to be actively, almost aggressively kind.
For example, on the way here, I tried to do as many kind things as I possibly could. I bought you guys the flower, I picked up some litter, I helped an old lady cross the street.
Technically, I tried to help an old lady cross the street. She was moving really slow so I came up from behind and took her arm and she hit me with her cane and blew this whistle she was wearing around her neck.
But! I apologized and clarified what I was trying to do. And she said thanks and gave me a piece of butterscotch candy. The kind of candy that I think just naturally grows in the purses of old women.
Anyway, I’m not here to stereotype people. I’m here to celebrate. Because I don’t want to spend my life being angry about what makes us different, I want to make the choice to celebrate the things that unite us.
Whether it’s over-handed or under-handed, we all use toilet paper. Whether you like the movies or the books, we all like Harry Potter. I accept that there are some people who just plain don’t like Harry Potter. Probably the same kind of people who like Fox News. But that’s not the point.
The point is—I would like to offer a toast. May I borrow someone’s drink? Thank you. Is there alcohol in this? Whatever, it doesn’t matter, I’ll deal.
Earlier tonight, I toasted the concept of kindness with sarcasm. Now, I would like to offer a sincere toast to all that kindness entails—empathy, understanding, love, and just general Hufflepuffery.
After all, what is the point of bravery if it’s not coming from a place of kindness? And so, you nice strangers in a bar, I offer a toast to the power of kindness. Cheers!
Now, I have to get home to my fiancee before she starts watching that piece of crap movie about dragons and formal dances that the producers have the audacity to call Goblet of Fire.
Thank you all and goodnight!
Thank you for reading. If you enjoy my writing, check out other stories like this in my book Comedy of Doom.