Toxic vs. Non-Toxic. (Which Type are You?)
Take this quick quiz to find out the only characteristic that matters:
1. You break up with your boyfriend/girlfriend of nine months. The next Saturday night you are most likely __________.
a) missing your ex, but out and having a good time with friends who have been, like, so supportive
b) home, constantly checking your phone and refreshing your e-mail, assembling a mix and composing an earnest letter intended to achieve “closure”
c) in the bed of the guy/girl you had your eye on for the past month anyway, achieving closure.
2. You are looking for a new job. You are more likely to __________.
a) commit several evenings to filling out dozens of applications, tweaking your cover letter, and shopping for nice interview clothes.
b) commit one evening on idealist.org finding the perfect job. obsess over an overlong cover letter, then miss the application deadline. complain for six months. repeat.
c) spend your entire interview telling yo mama jokes, get hired, immediately sleep with the boss’ daughter
3. You are out on a first date. You ______________.
a) go to a bar/club too loud to hear each other, dance a little, end the night by making out
b) go to a foreign film, then for coffee, spend hours talking about your past relationship, end the night with a hug, call the next night, just in time for the ‘let’s be friends’ speech
c) ditch your date when (s)he goes to the bathroom, take home the entire waitstaff
4. You have a heated disagreement with a friend. Afterward, you more likely ____________.
a) blame your friend, call all your other friends for corroboration
b) blame yourself, disappear into your room for a couple days, contemplate your place in a cruel, uncaring universe
c) hear the ice cream man, get distracted, forget what you were mad about
5. ___________ is the greatest leading man of all time. Or at least, of these three:
a) Tom Hanks
b) John Cusack
c) Chris Klein
6. If you had to pick a favorite Eric Carmen song – and you do – it would be ____________.
a) “Hungry Eyes”
b) “All By Myself” or “Never Fall in Love Again”
c) “Make Me Lose Control”
Quiz over. Give yourself five points for every b). Give yourself two points for every a). And give yourself negative one point for every c).
Now use this rubric:
30 pts: Mmmm. Most Poisonous.
14 – 29 pts: Toxic
13 pts: Normal*
-5 – 12 pts: Non-Toxic
-6 pts: Flavor Flav
*it is impossible to get exactly 13 points
You may be confused at this point as to what I mean by toxic. It is not, in my world, a catch-all term to describe anyone you don’t like, as you may assume after Googling “toxic personality.” Toxic/Non-Toxic is a phrase a friend and I slowly developed in conversation as we navigated our way through our 20s, finding that people – and, often, ourselves – are divided into two types.
The “Toxic” Personality Explained
“My friend said to me, ‘I think the weather’s trippy.’ I said, ‘No, man, it’s not the weather that’s trippy, perhaps it is the way that we perceive it that is indeed trippy.’ Then I thought, ‘Man, I should’ve just said, ‘Yeah.’” – Mitch Hedberg
If you are toxic, you have a problem just smiling and saying yeah. Rather, you are much more precise with thoughts and language, which forces others around you to be that way too, which no one wants to do cuz it’s fucking hard work to do that all the time, which makes them not want to be around you, which you can’t figure out because deep down you’re a really good person, so you insist that no one understands you and retreat into fits of introspection, nostalgia, self-mythologizing, and self-martyrhood. The toxic personality feeds itself, and feeds itself poison. Its challenges are internal creations.
The “Non – Toxic” Personality Explained
“Go ahead and talk to her, and speak up! Loud guys don’t scare girls; quiet guys scare girls.” – Wayne “Juggler” Elise
If you are non-toxic, you think your parents are great! You unabashedly sing along to oldies on FM radio but don’t know the names of the songs, and you definitely aren’t interested in tracking down the original vinyl of the bassist’s solo album! You have moments of doubt and sadness, sure, but they are likely reasonable responses to external challenges!
The toxic personality believes in soul mates, (noun; the last person who dumped you).
The non-toxic personality believes in leagues, (noun; someone of corresponding social status who, once the merger is negotiated, you retroactively refer to as your soul mate).
The toxic personality is quiet for long stretches of time, then unloads an academic-tinged self-analysis.
The non-toxic personality texts constantly, and e-mails in all caps.
The non-toxic personality is utilitarian. To say something is “right” or “moral” is just toxic talk to describe the act of making people feel good. The word “liar” is almost meaningless to the non-toxic, and calling them one would make you a complete buzzkill.
The toxic personality, on the other hand, is much more deontological. Like Immanuel Kant. Who lived a perfect moral life, mostly reading books, in his quest for truth. Then died a virgin, I believe.
Keep in mind that whether you are toxic or non-toxic refers more to the social role you tend to play and less to any inherent quality. Most of us are not 100% one or the other and can be either, depending on the situation, or who we’re paired with.
A year ago or so I started thumbing through this book called Nerds (by David Anderegg). His point seemed to be that every hero needs a villain – and every jock needs a nerd – and in America, we heroize jocks (“men of action”) and villainize nerds (“men of thought”). He mentions heroes like Superman, who are physically strong, proud, and unburdened by self-doubt. Our villains are more often “evil geniuses” with weakly bodies who tend to lurk in the shadows, plotting something perverse.
Presidential elections, just like any good TV show, necessitate the casting of heroes and villains as well. Anderegg called the 2000 presidential election a “Jungian’s dream,” referencing Carl Jung’s theory of archetypes: George W. Bush (the “man of action” archetype) vs. Al Gore (the “man of thought” archetype). Of course the jock beat the nerd. And of course, I noticed how Anderegg’s archetype was aligning with my homemade one: the non-toxic candidate beat the toxic candidate.
A look back at all the elections in my lifetime reveals the pattern to hold true:
1980: Ronald Reagan (non-toxic, cool-grandfatherly) defeats Jimmy Carter (toxic, creepy, “sinned in my heart”, yechh)
1984: Reagan (California, non-toxic, oblivious) defeats Walter Mondale (Minnesota, toxic, LO-SER!)
1988: George H.W. Bush (king of non-toxic platitudes) defeats Michael Dukakis (looks silly, and insecure, in military gear)
1992: Bill Clinton (saxophone playing, pot smoking, fucks anything that moves) defeats George H.W. Bush (who suddenly looks old, uncool, wishy-washy, and backpedalling)
1996: Repeat of 1992
2000: George W. Bush (never had a ambivalent thought in his head) defeats Al Gore (Jim Lehrer’s Pet)
2004: Repeat of 2000. John Kerry gave us a tepid, unsure, doctoral thesis in the debates; Bush just said yeah.
2008: Barack Obama (“yes we can”) defeats John McCain (who lived a long, honorable life but when it came time to win mass approval couldn’t get his toxic face muscles to contort into a normal, non-toxic smile).
This list reveals something especially interesting.
In 1988, George H.W. Bush was in the incumbent party, coasting on the genius-level non-toxicity of Ronald Reagan. Michael Dukakis, in comparison, seemed sort of toxic. He was not comfortable with a tough-guy image, and his answers in the debates were all verse, no chorus.
However, in ’92 it was Bush who was the toxic one, dissing Ice T and all. The person perhaps had not changed, but the archetype did.
I’ll leave you with a preview of my never-ending list of toxic/non-toxic archetypes (genre: music). Go ahead and place yourself on the continuum. I’ll give you a hint though; if you read this entire post, and still care, you are probably a little bit toxic.
| Song Title
|Loving Cup||Rolling Stones||Poison Cup||M. Ward|
|Move on Up||Curtis Mayfield||Down Through||Red House Painters|
|You’re No Good||Linda Ronstadt||I Deserve It*||Samantha Jones|
|Hey Ya||Outkast||Hey You||Pink Floyd|
|Friends of Mine||The Zombies||Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone||The Walkmen|
|Everybody is a Star||Sly Stone||Splendid Isolation||Warren Zevon|
|Speed of Sound||Coldplay||Speed of Sound||Chris Bell|
|China Girl||David Bowie||China Girl||Iggy Pop|
|Slip Inside this House||Primal Scream||The House||Doves|
|Ready for the Floor||Hotchip||Elizabeth on the Bathroom Floor||Eels|
|53rd & 3rd||The Ramones||Fountain & Fairfax||The Afghan Whigs|
|Sun Hits the Sky||Supergrass||Nightime||Big Star|
|I Wanna Be Rich||Calloway||Once I Was||Tim Buckley|
|(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction||Devo||Unsatisfied||The Replacements|
|Moon River||Henry Mancini & His Orchestra||Moon River||Morrissey|
|Love Song||Tesla||Hate Song**||Daniel Johnston|
*”I Deserve It” by Samantha Jones is not available as a digital download but it is available on the album Dream Babes, Vol. 1: Am I Dreaming? [IMPORT]
**”Hate Song” by Daniel Johnston is available as an MP3 on Amazon.