I Feel Very Strongly About This Strange Position I Am Taking Right Now

My sister Andrea was telling us the other day that she’s heard that whatever bothers you most about your spouse is usually the downside of the same attributes that first attracted you to them. I.e., if you were drawn to your mate because she’s amazingly tidy, you’re probably really bothered by how perfect she needs everything to be around the house. If you fell for your husband because of how aloof he was when you dated, you are probably getting sick of him forgetting your name now.

One of the things Macy always liked about me from the beginning was that I often take bold, uncompromising stands on controversial issues. That is another way of saying that since we’ve been married, Macy really hates when I take bold, uncompromising stands on controversial issues. When some random debate comes up in a group discussion, I tend to get carried away; I argue just because I enjoy bashing concepts together. It’s fun. Often, these discussions end with me making sweeping, dramatic pronouncements of an opinion which, in the light of day, might end up being a teensy bit . . . indefensible. I am vaguely aware, even at the time I am standing on someone’s couch proudly opining on how the constitution requires reparations for slavery, that many of my friends find this trait mildly irritating. This becomes clear when certain people start to react defensively even when I render a very mild conclusion on a bland topic. When I see those worried looks, I always glance at Macy, just to make sure I’m still in what we call my “safe zone.” Because, you know, I actually have no idea what kind of things are acceptable to say in polite conversation.

My buddy Wade and I used to have a huge, long-running debate about what exactly it is on the pizza that burns the top of your mouth when you bite it. Wade had some cockamamie theory that the sauce actually burns your mouth, based on some “physics” he said he learned somewhere. I staked my reputation on the cheese, which, after all, is the thing that touches the top of your mouth.


I derided him for his sauce argument, so assured was I of my position re: the burning cheese. That debate hung in the air for probably ten years. Then one day I bit into a slice and had the very distinct sensation that the sauce, perfectly insulated under all that heat-trapping cheese, was scalding the skin off of the roof of my mouth. Finally, I had hit rock bottom. I knew I had to make amends or I’d be living a lie about pizza for the rest of my life.

That was the first time I learned how to back off of a bold, uncompromising position. But that’s the problem with bold, uncompromising positions– they’re so much harder to back off of than mild, flexible positions. The more one has to back off the bold, uncompromising positions, the more one learns to moderate one’s public statements, or in my case, learns to maintain eye contact with Macy at all times when speaking in a social setting.

So anyway, a year or two ago, I might have come out and told my family that dancing is not an art form, and cannot even be considered a mode of expression. It was late, the air was thick with the smell of potpourri and bombast, and I got carried away. Macy was mortified. But the intoxicating feeling of defending an irrational position that just felt right led me right back down that sink hole, maybe farther than I’d ever gone before. Someone mentioned the beauty of dance a few months later at the in-laws’ family vacation, and I trotted out my new toy argument, with renewed vehemence. A sister in law told Macy the next morning that she “had never realized that Ryan can be such an idiot.” On a vacation with some friends, the value of dance came up again, and this time Macy firmly steered the conversation elsewhere, but not before I could casually mention that there is no value in dance, nay, not one whit of value.


No, you guys are totally right.  Definitely art.

But the stance came out different then. It seemed a little threadbare. While Macy fumed, I found myself stammering backwards, becoming more aware of the uselessness of the idea. By the end of the night I had met defeat yet again, or, viewed another way, found relief from the burden of carrying really a pretty stupid idea around with me. It was hard to finally admit that maybe So You Think You Can Dance is more than just a bunch of repetitions of the same movement over and over. But I was glad I did. Like the pizza argument, that debate had imprisoned me, and now I was free.

Free to argue to everyone I know that college football would be safer without the helmets. Honestly, I’ll defend that one til I die.

This entry was posted in Arguments. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to I Feel Very Strongly About This Strange Position I Am Taking Right Now

  1. Candice says:

    What is life without bold statements. I’m just glad to know I’m not the only person with this problem. Bold statements that I have to defend for years:

    1) Boxer vs. Martial Artist – Boxer wins every time.
    2) Leonardo Dicaprio is the greatest actor of our time.

    These may seem like trivial issues, but they mean the world to me.

    Loved this post.

  2. Rob says:

    For some reason, the mental image of this:

    “or in my case, learns to maintain eye contact with Macy at all times when speaking in a social setting”

    made me laugh really hard.

  3. Braden says:

    Wow, Ry. Wow. First of all, I was glad to see a post. I kept checking this am and was worried maybe it was Kook’s turn again and so it would be another 24 hour dry period. Anyway, this is fascinating. Since you are the logical, dispassionate one in the family, I always assumed that everything you said was almost always unassailable. I know better now.

  4. Skewquest says:

    My wife never liked hanging out at the Bell home for this very reason. All the passionate debates about nothing drove her crazy. I must admit however that I’ve held some bold stances on a few issues that I knew I was totally wrong about. One thing I learned from High School Debate is that believing in your position is irrelevant to arguing it well. But, look who I’m talking to your a lawyer right? Isn’t it your profession to make bold stances on things you would otherwise care little about? (That kind of sounds like a dis, Ryan I don’t mean it like a dis.)

  5. Eliza says:

    Whoa, this is too much, you just rocked my world on two different levels. 1)I’m with braden, I have totally bought into it! Dis. Reasonable, logical, level headed ry was just a facade, all this time you’ve really been a crazy ranting lunatic. ; ) I am now resolved to take you on in an argument and find a fallacy, now that I know its possible.
    2) that you admit dancing is an art form? what happened? HOw on earth did you change your mind? Someone’s argument? a moving dance performance? I am very intrigued by this change of heart.

  6. Wade says:

    By ‘some “physics” he learned somewhere’ Ryan actually means the Specific Heat of water.

    Speaking of rational and highly defensible positions, I think you should all know that ice cream is the result of a USDA conspiracy to increase demand for a government price-subsidized commodity (dairy products).

  7. Danica says:

    Great post. Laughing that people actually stayed away from the Bell house because of this.

  8. Davis says:

    Man, you can take the kid out of high school debate . . .

  9. Rebecca Bell says:

    Wow, Logan- major dis. i actually used to feel the same way about the discussions at the Bells, but then, somehow, some discussion grabs your attention and once you go there, there’ no going back- you’re a lifer.

  10. shannon says:

    I’m surprised you even made an attempt to argue that dance has no artistic value when Macy was within earshot. And good for you for finally admitting to seeing the light. I’ll assume you’ll now be a captive audience member to SYTYCD (and that you now know what that acronym means).

    This drives Cameron crazy about me as well. I’m pretty sure I’ve embarrassed him in a group of people a time or two or ten. Fortunately for him, my debating skills are sadly contained to only a few topics that I actually know something about. Speech therapy, gymnastics, and…that’s pretty much it. And unfortunately for me, those topics aren’t real debatable.

    Following Candices lead, the one thing I’ll defend until I die is that gymnastics takes more coordination than wrestling. Are you with me?

  11. Ryan says:

    Candice and Shannon, I am so glad to hear there are others like me. People who can enjoy the sound of a good argument. ( I don’t think we mean ‘good’ here as in “precisely sound in the real world.” I’m using it more in the sense of “in the right hands, an enjoyable bit of sophistry.”)

    As it happens, my takes on your harebrained arguments: Martial artist kills a boxer, no question. Leo as best actor of our time- hmmm . . . debatable (For now I’m sticking with Jorge Garcia). Gymnasts more coordinated than wrestlers- does someone actually disagree with that? Weird.

  12. Ryan says:

    Braden, and Eliza: You can bet I’ll come prepared at our next family gathering, ready to fend off those who might mistakenly think my opinions are now subject to questioning in family debate. That’s not what this post was intended to say. Only that my opinions are subject to me secretly realizing they’re foolish, after the fact. This process does not require assistance from others, just so you know.

  13. Ryan says:

    Skew and Danica and Reba: I have actually never considered whether these types of discussions have a deterring effect on outsiders. I’ll have to ponder that one. All I know is that if a person doesn’t like these kinds of discussions . . . what are they doing hanging around with the Bells in the first place?

    And Wade, this was a post about debatable debates. Obviously, the assertion that ice cream is not “yummy” does not fall into that category. Sorry. Do you have a slightly less indefensible position you’d like to share with us?

  14. Shannon says:

    Ya- is there any question that gymnasts are more coordinated? Not even I want to argue that but ask any wrestler ( ie. my husband) and suddenly they turn into a world- class debator.

  15. Erin says:

    Really? I can’t believe my ears. I think this is one of the most heated debates I have ever been in on. I am pretty sure it was the mere mention of a certain “skittles” performance that changed your mind. Coincidence? I think not!

    BTW that is a low-blow to include that pic of Kate G. when referring to this argument. Below the belt, really. But still glad to see you finally came to your senses. Apololgy accepted.

  16. Norm says:

    Brlliant post!

    Ryan, your proclivity toward extreme, uncompromising and bold stands on issues is one of my favorite things about you. Indeed, I admire it to the degree that I think I learned that trait from you.

    Living in “the Safe Zone” is just boring. I spit on “The Safe Zone.” If you are luke warm I will spit thee out! I never say “I have a tepid inclination toward such and such actor.” No! I either “Love” or “Hate” something or someone. Do I really “hate”? C’mon. It’s up to the listener to temper my arguments not me. Right?

    I think life should be lived like I drive a golf cart: If I am moving the pedal is all the way down. If I am stopping the tires are skidding across the grass.

  17. Ryan says:

    Norm, I just want to tell you that that might be my favorite of all the comments that have appeared on this blog. Is that just a strong position I took just for fun? No, actually, I believe that one to my core.

    And I’ve always known you and I had a kinship on this issue. So glad you’ve got my back. Your golf cart analogy is one I will always keep with me, by the way.

  18. ron says:

    lolol. such a funny post.

    i once got in a debate with a girl over the relevance of cheerleaders. i argued that they were generally pointless. but i’ve since learned i was wrong. they’re totally pointless.

  19. Troy says:

    Davis what are your feelings about dancers…particularly high school dance squads? I can’t remember what your opinion is on that. Maybe I’ll ask my Homecoming date who happened to be a member of such a squad and also happened to be in the same room when you took an extreme and uncompromising stand.

    I’m disappointed that despite the strong upbringing in all the other Humanities such as history, literature, law, and religion, that G and J failed to instill in you both an appreciation for the performing art of dance.

    Maybe you and Ryan should have a private stomp. You two need to discover yourselves through the expressive form of art that is dance. Just lock yourselves in a studio with some candles and an Enya CD on repeat and work it out. Don’t emerge until your soul feels it.

    Now on the other hand, let’s talk about the merits of Cheerleading. . .

  20. Troy says:

    Ron, I just saw your post right after I submitted mine. Jinx.

    I had a girlfriend in high school that was a cheerleader. She once, with a straight face, told me that “cheerleading is harder than football”. Despite all the other factors that could have easily doomed our relationship, this is the one it all came down to for me. I just couldn’t see myself being with someone who was, um, insane. For what it’s worth, Ryan, I remember conducting a survey of some of the other cheerleaders as I prepared some due diligence for another round of heated debate. Macy’s responses were, as I remember, very reasonable.

  21. Molly P says:

    I really am sorry for calling you an Idiot. That was just uncalled for…I can say that now that I realize you have retracted your idiocy.

    I wish you would have included in that story the part about Macy bearing her testimony through dance…or even a video would have been great!

  22. Ali says:

    I love how everyone calls everyone idiots in our family, usually for no “idiotic” reason. reedo is to blame.

  23. Bryan H. says:

    I haven’t finished reading the post yet. Nor any of the comments. But I have to wonder: Who gets drawn to a person because they’re “amazingly tidy”? Who? And don’t say a germophobic, because they’ll never trust someone else’s judgment.

    “You know, she’s not much to look at … and she doesn’t really get my jokes … but, man, she is amazingly tidy. I just find myself drawn to her tidiness. If I married that gal, I could eat off the floor whenever I wanted … and that’s just so important to me.”

  24. Ryan says:

    Bry, I know it’s hard for good-hearted people like us to understand, but there are those out there who like this sort of thing. Just be grateful you don’t suffer from this sort of perversion.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s