My new favorite writer: Edgar Allan ME. That's Charlie Sheen's latest nom de plume, in case you're some kind of troll.
Sure, Sheen's blazing self-confidence is probably the result of hypomania, but there's a reason it's so compelling. It's a word, it's a catchphrase, it's a movement, it's a T-shirt slogan, it's a way of life, it's an evolutionary necessity, it's even a new parenting philosophy. It's WINNING.
And that's where, from my new vantage point as a mother, I see Sheen colliding with another recent pop-culture phenomenon: Amy Chua. One is a Tiger Mom; one drinks Tiger Blood. But they both know how to WIN. Duh.
Chua sells us on the idea that we can help our kids win academically and win piano competitions, and ultimately, we'll win their abiding love for believing they were winners in the first place. Sheen, well, without making light of his situation, which may indeed be dire, I have to say I kind of understand his appeal.
I'd like to have the best plan in the room, lambaste my enemies and burn with the fire of my own excellence and superiority. We parents became obsessed with Tiger Mom's bold and badass dedication to her daughters' excellence, the way she focused on getting the all-important "W" for her kids. Turns out, we like that quality in our insane, downward-spiraling TV stars, too.
In a world filled with participation trophies and a cloying, bogus focus on "self-esteem" that isn't earned, there's something satiating about this warrior attitude. Winners take all, so do warlocks, so do little girls who play the crap out of the piano.
Not to get too deep when talking about Sheen and how he's kept the country spellbound, but there's almost nothing more primal than the need to win.
Evolutionarily, our lives depend on it. We need to win strong, fertile mates, berries to eat, battles against predators and prey. If our sole biological purpose is to keep our DNA afloat, on some level, we need our kids to be winners, too.
That's right, you may not even know why Tiger Mom and Tiger Blood have sunk their teeth into your world, but just think about the language. Blood. Tiger. This is brainstem stuff. It's primal, like my need to win the spelling bee back in fifth grade.
Let me take you back to my epic rivalry with a kid nicknamed Mookie.
Beating Mookie was everything. He took the states and capitals contest (I made one mistake, misspelling Austin, and I'll never forget it), but I snatched the spelling bee right out from under his prepubescent chin. I studied for hours, had my dad quiz me over burritos when he took us out for our weekly joint-custody-guilty-divorced-dad dinners. (Sheen may have some of those in his future.) I put Mookie in the ground. I destroyed him. What did I win? Our teacher took me to Baskin-Robbins. I know, but what did I really win? The experience of winning.
Say what you will about "doing your best," but it isn't winning. And anyone who has ever won anything, from a spelling bee to a sales contest to a spot on an all-star team, knows the difference. Winning is to self-esteem what nicotine is to Sheen's lungs: deliciously satisfying.
Thanks to Charlie (and Amy), not only can we admit to liking it, loving it and embracing it, but we can't stop saying it. Last week, I found beets at the salad bar of a Chuck E. Cheese's and un-ironically muttered to myself, "Winning." My standards are low. And seriously, when a vegetarian finds beets in a sea of pizza and chicken fingers, it's a win.
There's a timid, second-guessing, loser-like inner troll in me that responds deeply to the braggadocio of the tigers. Maybe I want a little of that swagger (possibly dangerous, stupid, bad for the Sheen kids, lacking in humility, I get it) to rub off on me. Just a little.
Yours, Louisa May ME.
Teresa Strasser is an Emmy-winning television writer, a two-time Los Angeles Press Club Columnist of the Year and a multimedia personality. She is the author of a new book, "Exploiting My Baby," the rights to which have been optioned by Sony Pictures. To find out more about Teresa Strasser, check out her blog, www.ExploitingMyBaby.com.
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