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oh, great. expectations.
take it down a notch
by mike julianelle

[Preemptive disclaimer: Calm down, everyone. This column isn't about babies.]

Expectations are a bitch.

About two weeks ago, my wife and I went to the doctor to check on the progress of our fetus. He’s not due to be born for another week or so, but on this day – still three weeks before the scheduled due date – our doctor decided to whip my wife into a frenzy by announcing that labor might very well happen that coming weekend.

Here we are, two weeks later, and nothing; Not a Cabbage Patch Doll or Garbage Pail Kid in sight. Our doctor blew it.

Needless to say: Nostradamus she ain’t. Then again, neither was Nostradamus.

Nothing ruins life more than expectations. And babies. Nothing ruins a person's life more than having expectations and having babies. But again – this is about the former. For more on the latter, see my blog.

"Anticipation of ____ is worse/better than _____ itself." Fill in those blanks with almost anything - a movie, a book, your wedding, the Super Bowl, your first time trying anal - and it rings true almost every time. Just ask Senator Vernon Trent.

And, ultimately, the anticipation itself ends up devaluing the actual experience.

For about 10 years or so, I enjoyed reviewing movies on a fairly regular basis - for my college newspaper, for a variety of online sites, for a print outlet or two, etc. One of the most difficult aspects about reviewing a movie - or an album or whatever - is that you're forced to lay out your first impressions immediately, without having any time at all to digest what you've just seen. These days, when it comes to movies, I have tried to adopt the strategy of withholding a firm opinion until I've seen a film more than once. The first time you see something you are just too influenced by outside factors to give an objective opinion.

Maybe you go in expecting it to suck and it ends up being much better than you thought. Maybe you expect it to be the best movie you've ever seen and, like every movie, it falls short. Maybe you know something about it that you shouldn't, maybe you've heard about something stupid the lead actor has done in real life that you can't shake, etc. There are countless reasons to go in with inflated hopes or anticipation stoked to unhealthy levels and it changes the experience. It clouds your judgment.

A few years back, a friend of mine was on his way to see a movie he was really excited about. I had already seen it, and loved it, but I knew it was smothered in hype and no matter how good a movie it was, it was tough to live up to that kind of advance praise. So when he called me before going, I told him I wasn't sure if he would like it - which was a total lie, a ploy designed to shrink his expectations back down to a more manageable level before he walked into the theater. After seeing the flick, he called me back, said he'd loved it and asked why I'd thought he wouldn't. I explained my intentions and he laughed and told me it had worked. His hopes for the movie had been diminished and thus allowed him to enjoy the movie even more.

The point of this story is obvious: I'm a genius. But even though I deflated some of the hype, I ended up being an external influencer in my own way. See how hard it is to avoid?

Divorcing external variables from the experience itself is nearly impossible; it's like pissing with an erection, you make a mess of everything and just have to revisit things later. You almost need to see the movie once to wash all those associations away, and then you need to see it a second time, on its own terms, to figure out what you really think.

Despite our awareness of the poison of expectations, it's impossible to modulate your own. I still get hyped up over upcoming movies and albums and TV shows. against my better judgment. Some deliver (Inception, "The Suburbs") and some don't (the "Lost" finale). That's just the way it is; it's incredibly difficult to control your own anticipation and it often result in some faulty perceptions.

Look back on some of the things you were disappointed in, or surprised by, and ask yourself if you felt that way because of the attendant hype, or your own preconceptions. And then give them another shot. You might be surprised that they aren't as good, or as bad, as you originally thought.

Especially if you were totally smashed when you saw The Big Hit.


Let's get real here. You don't want to know about me. You want to know about "me".

more about mike julianelle


jukebox zero
putting a ceiling on the dancing
by mike julianelle
topic: humor
published: 9.7.07

office face
keeping yourself to yourself
by mike julianelle
topic: humor
published: 9.11.09


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