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2003.09.25

Ted's Birthday.

By Felix Q. Varga
Glowlab Agent-at-Large

There’s this guy Ted. You know him. Everyone knows a Ted, if they think about it hard enough. Ted might be your little brother, the guy who sold your dad overpriced life insurance, a friend of a friend, that obnoxious guy who works in your office who doesn’t seem to do anything, some schmo you got set up with once on a blind date. Only this Ted, this specific Ted, he doesn’t know he’s Ted. He thinks he’s someone else. Someone with a particular history, in a particular place, at a particular time, out having a drink with a friend on a Friday night in the East Village. He is by all accounts happy, comfortable, and secure in his non-Tedness. Well, you may say, that’s just nutty. OF COURSE he’s Ted. Is Ted perhaps suffering from a personality disorder of some kind, you ask? Is he crazy? Or just stubborn? Why won’t he acknowledge his Tedness?

From out of nowhere come a group of strangers bearing gifts. Gift certificates, to be more exact. And clapping him on the back and saying, “Happy Birthday, Ted!” A cause for celebration! A party! The strangers are not smelly or visibly deranged; they seem normal enough folks, well-groomed, jocular, even attractive. Why are they, then,doing this to poor Ted? Insisting he’s someone he’s not? Trying to give him presents, crying “Speech! Speech!” Maybe Ted's the sane one, and the strangers are the crazy ones. Who can tell anymore? A cake is produced. The friendly, laughing group gathers around, with no other purpose than to show Ted a good time.

But Ted isn’t having it. He keeps insisting he’s this other person, he’s NOT Ted, never heard of a Ted, and the people before him are unmitigated assholes. “What’s the matter with Ted?” the saddened partygoers want to know, shaking their heads. “He was never like this before; what happened”? I should know; I was one of those people, uncomfortable and antsy in that way you can only be when your well-meaning intentions are summarily rebuffed. “Man. Ted”s changed.”

Ted is on to us; he’s not playing along with our little game, our joke. He lets us no in no uncertain terms that he wishes we would go away, and maybe we should. After all,
if that’s what Ted wants...

But slowly, something begins to change. Ted begins to see the light. He is starting to get it. He’s playing pool with his newfound friends, a grin on his face. Enjoying a frosty alcoholic beverage (or ten). Eating some of the (delicious) cake. Who could have
predicted such a thing? He started out the evening as one person, and ended it as someone else. A drink in a bar with a friend, and now he has thirty friends. He began the evening empty-handed, and now has $300 worth of gift certificates redeemable for fine quality merchandise from Best Buy and Barnes and Noble locations nationwide.

And a fresh new identity to boot.

He has embraced his inner Tedness.

Is identity just a state of mind? That is, alas, a question too deep for this writer to answer. Ask Michel Foucault, ask Luther Blissett, ask Madonna. I admit that sometimes I, Felix Q. Varga, have moments - ponderous, navel-gazing moments - when I wonder if in fact I’m not just a figment of someone’s imagination, a marionette beholden to the every whim of some shadowy, deranged puppetmaster.

But if you see Ted, tell him Felix says hi, and that he is an inspiration to at least one person.

For Ted is nothing if not proof positive that it is possible to have one’s cake and eat it too, and that inside each of us lurks a Ted; we have only to acknowledge it, to say yes to it, to bring it out into the light where it may shine, in all its glorious, inimitable Tedness, for the world to see.

For more about Ted’s birthday, click here

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