Friday, September 30, 2011

Pleasure Can Be Perverse

Back in the 40s, when radio was the only source of live audible information and entertainment, my mother would listen to a program called "Breakfast with Dorothy and Dick."

The "Dorothy" was a gossip reporter and columnist named Kilgallen who became more famous a few years later as a panelist on what seems now to have been a delightfully innocent example of programming called, "What's My Line."

Kilgallen coined the question, "Is it bigger than a breadbox?" when trying to elicit from a guest what it was they did or produced for a living.

At night, over dinner,  mother frequently scoffed at some inane bit of radio intelligence she had received earlier in the day, such as: Dorothy Kilgallen uses only candles to light her bedroom to keep romance alive in her marriage. 

The impracticality of such a daily time-wasting, and possibly hazardous  routine for a busy woman, and the likelihood that it was all hogwash designed to impress suburban housewives with her sophistication, was not lost on my mother.

When I asked her why she listened to someone she obviously disliked, she said, it was for the pleasure of the irritation.

I suppose that doesn't make much sense to most people, but I have come to understand it. And I am my mother's daughter. I watch at least a part of Morning Joe every day just to delight in the irritation produced by watching Mika Brzezinski's constant, embarrassingly narcissistic, mugging for the camera. She never fails to produce!

Are there any psychologists out there who can explain why it can feel good to be annoyed?

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(According to a story titled Who Killed Dorothy Kilgallen by journalist Sara Jordan, Frank Sinatra loathed her, too, and called her "the chinless wonder." Maybe the candlelight was more effective than a paper bag over her head.) 


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