I want to watch American Idol. I really do. Not because I love the show, but because it is something that my wife and I bond over, and it’s either that or The Bachelor. And The Bachelor, which falls somewhere between crack and cocaine on the addictive scale, is kind of depressing. Even the winners are doomed to a hideous public break up that people like me, recovering celebrity gossip junkie that I am, will track with breathless excitement.
So why don’t I watch American Idol? Good, clean fun that it is?
Because Simon Cowell left. And I could only watch Stephen Tyler make so many sexual innuendos at seventeen year old girls before I wanted to pour bleach down my ear canals. (Also, he looks like some kind of Brooklyn hipster’s leathery art project.)
Simon Cowell’s absence made me realize that for me, he, and he alone, made the show not just watchable, but inspirational. I know that’s a funny way to describe him. But watching Mr. Cowell reminded me how important it is to have that person in your life who can help you truly become not just yourself, but the best version of yourself.
Very Hallmark, I know – just hear me out.
We all need people who will build us up, who will love us unconditionally, who will always take your side. But we also need that person who in whose judgment you can trust completely. Who will tell it like it is, because that’s the only way they know how. Who considers the truth paramount, even over sparing one’s feelings.
Hopefully that person is not your spouse – and I don’t mean that in a bad way. I just meant that our spouses have a lot of responsibility when it comes to keeping us stable.
Take my wife, Liz. She has my back. Always. Always, always. I love that. When it comes to the things I am most sensitive about, she finds a way to protect me. Now, here’s where it gets tricky: she’s also a great editor. So I want her to read my writing, but I also want her to protect my feelings. So we came up with a code. If she likes what I’ve written, she says “I love it!” But if she doesn’t, she says “It’s good!” And I know to go back and revise.
That’s a pretty awesome wife, you ask me.
Now, what about those Simon Cowell type people in your life? I think deep down, we all crave having that person in our lives. Because even though Simon Cowell can be a bit of an ass – I mean seriously, the girl singing up there is, like, twelve years old! Can’t you just pretend to like her? – we know that he’s a rock. We know that when he speaks, he speaks the truth. We know that when we lose sight of ourselves, he can bring us back.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s not always easy being around that person, especially when you want their opinion on something you’ve done. But if I’m honest with myself, my apprehension is more about me. It’s because I’m trying to be somebody I’m not. And I know that person will call me out on it. And I don’t want to be called out.
That’s really at the heart of it. In front of this person, you have to be yourself. That’s valued above all else by your Simon Cowell.
My Simon Cowell is a guy named Charlie Agulla. I’ve probably mentioned him before, maybe even this particular trait of his. I’ve known Charlie since my first day of college. Charlie seems incapable of lying, or even buttering people up, and yet he’s a really nice guy – normal in every way. Except this one: if he saw me laughing at some kind of inappropriate joke because I was trying to fit in (because I like to fit in), he would sit there, the only one not laughing, and just look a bit confused, and ask why I was laughing.
I’ve learned a lot from him in that way (not in any other way – in most ways, I’m sure he’s learning tons and tons from me, since I’m so totally awesome). And what I’ve found is that people really respect that trait in people. Maybe not in the moment – in the moment, frankly, it kind of sucks – but it shows integrity. It helps us be honest with ourselves. That, I believe, is what makes us happy.
I was thinking about all this for two reasons. First, American Idol is on right now, and I’m not watching it. And second, it’s Charlie’s birthday today. And I was just thinking that I’m happy we’re friends.
Even though he can be kind of an ass.