03/11/2013 10:15 am ET Updated May 11, 2013

The Five You Gang

Dear Waldo,

I go out to parties and sometimes I think I'm pretty hot stuff. Then I come home and I go over some of the things I did and said and I think what an asshole I am. And then I go to bed, and I lie there wondering, Am I an asshole or am I hot stuff? Which makes me a third guy thinking about two other guys who are me. And is that third guy lying in bed an asshole too or what for thinking these things? My question is, how many different types of assholes can one human be in a single lifetime?

Thank you,

Dear Everett,

You ask a terrific question and I'm delighted to tell you that the maximum number of assholes you can be is four. As I will soon point out, there are five Yous, but only four of them can be considered assholes. This is because being an asshole is always a matter of opinion and not an actual condition that can be diagnosed as fact. Here are the Five Main Yous that everybody, and I do mean everybody, is:

1. You You

2. Agent You

3. Stupid You

4. Smart You

5. Critic You

There you have it. The Five Yous. In hopes of shedding some light on the potential for all of us to be a wide variety of incredible assholes (or incredible saints), let's set out on a typical, ordinary day to see how each of The Five Yous operates.

Okay. It's morning. You're sound asleep. The sound-asleep-you is your You You. Your You You dreams. Your You You snores. But your You You cannot with any validity be considered an asshole because it is unaccountable for its behavior. That is, your You You is the thing that is you. The husk of you that you carry around. It may have freckles upon it, and it may be too fat, and it may have cancer, and it may be made to do assholish things by the other Yous, but the husk itself cannot be an asshole in the same way that, say, a carrot cannot be an asshole.

Now let's have your You You wake up. For simplicity sake Everett, I'm going to assume you're single and living alone. When you open your eyes in the morning, your You You is usually first joined by your Agent You. Your Agent You groggily recites what is in store for you on that particular day. That is, the things you have to do -- everything from dragging your ass into the bathroom and brushing your teeth to getting to that staff meeting to going to that party after work to masturbating. Your Agent You generally lets his principal clients, the incessantly squabbling Siamese twins Smart You and Stupid You,
sleep as long as possible to avoid their reliable unpleasantness.

At some point, however, as your Agent You goes over your appointments, something will trip a little anxiety switch which will wake up The Twins. The moment Stupid You and Smart You open their eyes the arguing begins, and this wakes up your Critic You, a cranky and opinionated son of a bitch if there ever was one who is always saying horrible things such as "should" and "shouldn't" and "if only" and "why?" and "why not?".

So now The Gang of Five Yous is up. That is, your day has begun.

Everett, let's say the Five Yous have piled into a car and have arrived at work, and now they are about to get out and head in. If your gang is anything like my gang, the conversation might go something like this:

Smart You (to Stupid You): Ok, listen to me dumbbell and listen to me good. I don't want you saying a fucking thing all day long, ya got me? Just pipe down.

Stupid You: C'mon man. You say this every time we get outta the car. Don't you notice me mouthing along? Maybe you're the stupid one, you ever think of that?

Critic You (to Smart You): You never listen to him. Listen to him. He's got a point there.

Smart You (erupting to Critic You): Ya think I don't know he's got a point there?!? That's why he's gotta pipe the fuck down! I'm the only hope we got!

Agent You: Valium? Valium anyone?

Critic You (quietly to Agent You): Yes, two for me thank-you. But I'm begging you, nothing for the twins. You know what happens when Stupid You takes over.

Agent You (whispering to Critic You): Yeah, well Stupid You's not as stupid as you think.

Critic You (whispering to Agent You): Yeah and Smart You's not as smart as you think.

Agent You (whispering to Critic You): And neither one's as smart as us.

Critic You (whispering to Agent You): Not even close.

Smart you (to Stupid You): C'mon. Let's hug and then shake on it: You'll pipe the fuck down all day long for me please?

Stupid You (to Smart You): I'll say now what I always say which is, I'll try. But it's not easy. There's no guarantees.

The Twins hug, but dutifully, without real commitment.

Agent You and Critic You look to each other sadly, trained by experience to expect nothing but disappointment.

And now the whole Gang trundles into work.

Everett, I know you know what happens next. At some point during the day, Smart You seems to be doing fine but then--who can say why or when--you get this pinch of Doubt. Uh-oh. I say uh-oh because with Doubt comes Anxiety. Double uh-oh. I say double uh-oh because when Anxiety enters the picture, it's only a matter of time before Stupid You grabs the mike. And when that guy has the floor folks, anything can happen.

This I know for a fact Everett because--if you will indulge me--get a load of what happened one time when my Stupid Me got the bull-horn. I had been invited to a screening of a movie written by a great pal of mine. I expected to love it, and did not. And so, as the credits rolled and we all stood up, uh-oh: Anxiety. What am I going to say to my great pal about this movie of his that I did not like?

Now I'm standing on the sidewalk with a cluster of people who are saying words like genius and nuance and symmetry and then horribly, everybody drifts away and it's just us. Me, my pal, my pal's wife. By this time, as far as I'm concerned, it's been a blood-bath. Stupid Me has massacred the Other Four Me's. And covered with guts and bits of bone, Stupid Me says this to his great friend: You should be so proud of yourself.

I thought it came out of my mouth pretty well. But my friend and his wife looked to each other as if they had both spotted an anvil heading my way from the sixth floor and sadly, knowing it was to late to say anything, they silently agreed to say nothing. Apparently, what I said was the exact phrase that was said to them lots and lots of times at a previous screening, and they both agreed in the car on the way home that it was code for I Hated Your Movie But I Don't Know What Else To Say. When they told me this as we stood on the sidewalk -- and I'm not kidding about this -- it was as if I were on a scaffold, and the trap door beneath me had been sprung, and there I was, hanging, and when you're suddenly hanging from the neck, everything, including your bowels, registers some version of this thought: "Well, this is certainly different." And standing there on the sidewalk I blew a low sustained fart that sounded like the death-bleat of a long-horned steer, or the noise of a lunatic with a railroad spike about to attack you in the fog.

Everett, juggling a couple things is relatively easy. But juggling five things is very difficult. That's why it is said so often by so many people throughout time that life is hard. And so my recommendation is to go easy on yourself, and to go easy on others. The Five of You Gang is a tough, tough gang, and so be respectful, and be patient.

I must report, though, that there is also available to everyone a Sixth You. You would think that another one of these jokers would only complicate things, but this is not the case. The sixth you is The Wise You. I'm sorry to report that not everybody gets to have one. It only happens when Your Smart You and Your Stupid You have the good fortune of really liking each other, really understanding each other, really respecting each other. When this happens, life is so much easier on all the Other Yous. Less of the You-chewing anxiety. More of your time on earth spent just laughing things off. More moments enjoying this thought: You know what? Maybe I am hot stuff. Maybe I am.

Thanks for your letter Everett. Hang in there.

Your Fan,
Waldo Mellon