They say familiarity breeds contempt. Well, I don’t know about that but it sure seems that most things novel eventually become mundane or boring. It happens with new women and new cars and where and how you live. It happens with jobs and clothes and our favorite songs. It happens with most things, it seems.
Many of the most intreging or salacious celebrity unions have garnered nicknames. There was Tomkat (Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes), Brangelina (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie), J-Rod (Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez) and Bennifer (Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez).
To anyone with an keen eye for body language, there’s always been chemistry between Professor Jordan B. Peterson and Dave Rubin. From the beginning, Dave was easily entranced by the Lobster King’s erratic hand gestures and his authoritative alpha-lobster posture and mumbo-jumbo about Jungian archetypes. And Peterson was more than grateful for having a fawning pupil – his wife and children having grown tired of his forensic overanalysis of Sleeping Beauty and Pinocchio decades before. Rubin looked at their budding friendship optimistically, lying in bed at night imagining himself as Plato to this Petersonian Socrates. But Peterson, good and wise, knew better – that, at best, Dave was Fredo to Peterson’s Michael Corleone. Dave, though silly, was at least mostly kindhearted and as such to be, if not respected, at least be gently treated and kindly pitied.
Whereas the Corleone’s were bonded by blood, a far stronger bond than the loosely entangled ideologies of the Intellectual Dark Web, Peterson had affections for his underling nonetheless. Much as bad genetics had brought Fredo’s imbicility into the Corleone lineage, Dave had stumbled into this IDW by way of the media, not decree or council vote by its members. As such, Dave was still a reflection on them. With some mentoring, it was hoped he’d not disgrace the dark cabal too much.
By the time Dave had signed on as the warm up act to the Lobster Messiah’s lecture tour, the pair had already spent the cumulative hours of weeks together – prepping in Rubin’s studio, their on-camera banter and enjoying post-production meals together. In other words, they were by then well acquainted. And Peterson had seen some reason for optimism in his role as mentor. As a slow child might struggle through basic arithmetic well into middle school, Peterson saw slow signs of his protege’s intellectual progress as well.
And Peterson took some pity on his protege’s bad comedy, which was polity tolerated by his mentor’s sycophants, chuckling on queue to the punchlines – chuckles delivered with the sincerity of some slob’s patriotism during the national anthem before an indie wrestling card . Dave’s comedy was embarrassing and would not be treated well by history, Peterson knew. Still, with all this, Peterson embraced Rubin as the bumbling Fredo, stupid but maybe easily trained beyond his disgraceful attempts at comedy and serious discourse on libertarianism.
Their chemistry, both publicly and privately, had been something magical and, like other celebrity couples, they were labeled: Jor-Bin. Among the promoters and management, expectations for the speaking tour were high. Between the two men, there was a magnetic attraction of kindred spirits. Not a sexual or romance magnetism, per say, more the connection between sage and naive (perhaps even stupid) doe-eyed pupil. A bored and lonely master in search of a dutiful canine. A canine in search of someone to instruct him when to sit and fetch and to shit outside. It seemed like a match made in heaven or at least the pinnacle of the dominance hierarchy.
However, the purity of the bromance wasn’t to last. A few days into the tour, the following conversation ensued over dinner.
“Things are not black and white, Dave. The sophistication is in recognizing and understanding the subtleties in between.”
“But if freedom’s good, then absolute freedom will be even better.”
“Absolute freedom gives me the freedom to subjugate or tyrannize you, Dave.”
“Wow,” Dave had said. “You’ve just blown my mind.”
“They’re called laws, Dave. Laws impose rules. Rules restrict freedom.”
“My God, Jordan….you are just like Socrates or Zarathustra.”
“Calm yourself, Dave. I’m just a man applying fairly simple logic and observation.”
Throughout this discourse, Dave imagined himself as Plato. Peterson imagined him, at best, as Lysis. The fact that Rubin displayed a slight capacity for cognitive progress was mildly assuring to Peterson. But that he was so in awe of simple logic gave his master reason to consider that the divide between juvenile and adult cognitive ability in a man of his pupil’s age might just be too great. After all, even a chimp might learn some basic computer commands, which is no reason to believe it will ever learn to program code.
Weeks and months on the road change people and change relationships. Just ask any touring musical act. In the beginning, Jordan was able to ignore his comrade’s idiosyncrasies, like leaving shopping baskets unattended in the parking lot instead of corralling them and staying up late and giggling while playing video pinball on his phone instead of going to sleep.
Similarly, Peterson’s full 5 minute morning gargle routine was wearing on Dave’s nerves. He now laid awake every morning thinking, “just spit it out, son-of-a-bitch.” And Dave was at first amused by Jordan’s appetite for classic rock. He would have thought it beneath a man of Peterson’s cultured taste. It still seemed cute when, weeks into the tour, Peterson sat in the green room singing emotively to Billy Joel’s All About Soul.
Dave had playfully sang along, knowing some of the verse but all of the chorus. When it ended, eager to show off his intellect, he added, “You know, Jordan, this is from Billy’s last album. The whole album’s about Christy Brinkley.”
But Peterson quickly scolded his pupil. “No. It’s about The Lover archetype. Have you even been reading Jung? Or just staying up all night playing pinball?”
Rubin tried dodging the question, “And Billy never recorded another album after this one.”
“Why you gotta be such a downer, Dave?” Jordan replied. “I liked that song just fine.”
To Dave, this marked the beginning of their decline. What were once simple annoyances and eccentricities were now far more. The nights spent sharing hotel rooms (separate beds), traveling together by plane and limo, the hours sitting in airports and lobbies waiting to do press, meals together before and after shows…..were all taking their emotional and psychological tolls.
But this has only been the ascent to the narrative arc of this bromance. The apex wasn’t reached until a few days later. That night, the show had run long. Peterson seemed nervous and sweatier than usual at the post-lecture meet and greet for the VIP’s. After leaving the venue, the city was dead. Peterson asked their limo driver if there was anywhere to eat.
“Just fast food, Boss,” he said.
“Good enough,” Peterson replied.
The limo driver took them a few blocks round to a Kentucky Fried Chicken right next to a Taco Bell.
Peterson said, “This’ll do.”
“They’re both owned by Yum! Brands, that’s why they’re together,” Dave said. Both Peterson and the driver ignored the comment.
Jordan walked toward the KFC, asking Dave what he wanted. Peterson had made the mistake of letting the underling order the chicken once before. With strict orders for “Meat only. That means roast chicken, not fried. There’s breading on the fried. I don’t want to pick it off,” Dave had been stupid enough to order the fried anyway. So now Peterson took sole responsibility for all chicken orders.
“Just some sides, I guess. Green beans. No. No green beans. There might be bacon in it. Mashed potatoes…no gravy. Macaroni and cheese. And biscuits.”
“Gotcha,” Peterson acknowledged.
“What you want from The Bell?” Dave asked as he reached for that door.
“A quart of taco meat,” Peterson said. “Just give ’em twenty or thirty bucks if that’s what it costs. I’ll pay you back.”
Dave thought to himself, “And we’re supposed to be the chiselers.”
Peterson has a nasty habit of not really paying people back but Dave was willing to eat the cost for he had an ulterior motive, which hadn’t gone unnoticed by Peterson, who wondered why his friend was so willing to go to The Bell when there was nothing there he wanted. But they got their meals without incident, and were soon on their way to their suite at The Brown.
On the drive home, Peterson instructed the driver to switch the radio to classic rock. He found Loverboy’s When It’s Over at WQMF 95.7.
Dave plugged in his earbuds, listening to a Sam Harris podcast. Peterson could see image on his iPhone.
“Fucking Sam Harris,” Peterson said under his breath.
By the time the radio had switched to Billy Squier, they were at the hotel. Peterson instructed Rubin to tip the driver. Again, Dave thought, “goy chiseler.”
They grabbed their sacks and chicken bucket and went to their room in silence, dropping their food on the dining table, then removing their jackets and keys and wallets from their pockets, tossing them carelessly on their respective beds. Peterson removed his shoes.
“I smell something, Dave. Something odd.”
“No. Is there a bean burrito in your pocket?”
Dave refused to answer. He wasn’t playing coy or wasn’t even truly stupid about the question this time.
“I told you no. You’ll smell all night, goddamnit.”
“That’s not fair, Jordan. You know the menu’s limited for me. None of the meat’s Kosher. I need protein. And all you eat is meat. Meat. Meat. Meat. I think this carnivore diet’s making you cranky.”
“Whaaaaaah. Whaaaaaah. Whaaaaaah,” Peterson mocked. “Crying like a baby. You and that stupid Joe Rogan tattoo. I wish I’d never seen you without long sleeves, Dave.”
This was the nastiest display ever between these men. Peterson felt his electrodermal activity spiking while the weeks of pent up frustration over errant shopping carts and Sam Harris ruptured.
“You’re just jealous it’s not you!!!”, Dave accused.
It was the days and nights of Dave’s chronic foolishness and the constant travel and the all meat diet that had Jordan on edge. You see, an all meat diet without any greens or fiber leave the stool solid, making for rough passage through the bowels and anus. Such dense and malicious feces cause the veins around the anus to stretch and bulge under pressure. Dr. Peterson, due mostly to his carnivore diet (though he hadn’t excluded all the sitting from excess travel) have given him seeping, odor emitting hemorrhoids, which plague him, not only with their annoying itch, but from his not knowing if the anal odor is only a figment of his imagination. And, if not, unsure if it’s confined solely to upward wafting or dissipation like a mushroom cloud with his colleagues just too polite to comment on it – sorta like the poor manners of point out somebody’s bad breath. It’s led to a fair degree of anxiousness and paranoia as he’s sat close to people on planes and on trains and in limos. And he’s taken pains to hide his shit and blood streak briefs from Rubin, who he’s thought might be a panty-freak anyway.
But Peterson, a professional psychologist, understood that, in that moment, their relationship was on the brink of collapse. He tried coaxing it back from the precipice with a heartfelt confession, from which he hoped to receive the sympathy of a true friend. But it was an embarrassing confession. One he hadn’t exactly prepared for. So he stumbled through it, awkwardly.
“Dave, I’m sorry. Sorry I blew up just now. I’m sorry about everything.”
Dave put down his spork.
“Me too, Jordan.”
Dr. Peterson fidgited in his chair. He uncrossed his legs. He moved the bucket of grilled chicken to the side.
“I’ve got a confession to make that might explain some of my moodiness. But it’s a hard thing to talk about.”
“Um….I gotta ask……I don’t really now how to ask…..well, here it goes…….can you smell my asshole?”
Dave put both his hand on the table and leaned forward.
“Jordan, I thought you’d never ask. Of course I will.”
Peterson leaned away from the table.
“No. No. No, Dave. That’s not what I meant. That came out all wrong.”
Dave looked confused and suddenly disappointed.
“I don’t….jeez…..um……..” Peterson’s words fumbled from his mouth like his hands, slick and glistening with grilled chicken grease, fumbled frantically, as if trying to tell the story themselves.
“Wow….this has gotten really weird…..I mean…..ah, fuck it!!!!”, Peterson declared in exasperation, slamming his palms on the table, causing the containers and condiments to jump.
“Yes. I’ll fuck it. I will, Jordan.”
These sorts of relationships generally begin with some fondling, leading to handjobs or head before actual penetration. Though Peterson is the psychologist, Rubin was aware that such sexual eagerness is sometimes an indicator of borderline personality so Dave’s heart should have been cautiously optimistic. But it wasn’t. It raced and raged with passion.
“No, Dave!!!! No!!!!”
“Then what is it, Jordan. Tell me.” This was becoming more confusing than those Jungian archetypes. Dave began to wonder if it was some kind of test.
“I have hemorrhoids,” Peterson declared.
“That’s okay, Jordan. I’ve handled worse. I’m not into rimjobs and eating ass that much anyway.”
Thinking, Well, thank heavens for that, hemorrhoids or not, what Peterson said was,”No, Dave!!!! It’s about the odor. Have you noticed an odor?”
“You mean like farts?”
“Like from seepage.”
Though the exchange was brief, Peterson was already emotionally and mentally exhausted.
“That’s what this is about? Anal seepage?”
Peterson put his head in his hands and began weeping like Christ at the tomb of Lazarus.
“I’m sorry, Dave. I just though confessing something personal and embarrassing would show you my willingness to be vulnerable. Show you my willingness to trust you again. But now I’ve just messed everything up. Everything!!!”
It had turned into a real shit show, this awkward confession.
“I’m sorry, Dave. It’s devolved into an utter clusterfuck of anal semantics and syntax. That’s nobody’s fault but mine.”
“But…..I never found hemorrhoid ointment in your travel bag.”
“Why were you going through my travel bag?”
Dave’s genuine shock at the confession, an elementary cue to a trained clinical psychologist, suggested to Peterson that his roommate and travel companion must have at least not been going through his soiled underwear, thankfully.
“I never planned for this to happen either. It’s just how things turn out,” Rubin said.
Dave had found that, like most things novel, they grow tired and boring. And when old and worn out and boring, what once might have been amusing or easily dismissed becomes an ever increasing annoyance. Talk of lobsters and Jungian archetypes were interesting the first few go rounds. But by round twelve, it was old. And Peterson didn’t have much else but that and classic rock to bring to the table. Well, he brought a lot of meat to the table too. It was in that moment that Dave submitted to that reality.
“I think we’ve just lost touch with one another, Jordan.”
Peterson nodded, sorrowfully.
“I even tried with the socks.”
“I know, Dave.”
“I told you how good you looked in the Vice interview in your socks.”
“I told you looked good in hosiery and you said you liked hosiery.”
“Yes, I did. And still do,” Peterson said, using a wet-nap to wipe away the tears.
“So I bought you all those fancy and colorful socks. And you wore them for a while. But then you stopped. Why’d you stop, Jordan?”
“I’m sorry if that hurt you, Dave. But socks are just socks. I mean, footwear’s nice and all but it’s not a great or even good focal point of conversation every day. I put them on and take them off. They might look nice and even feel nice but that’s about it. Beyond that, conversationally, it’s like squeezing blood from a stone.”
Dave responded with a Cathy Newman, “So you’re saying I’m boring? What would you have us talk about? Billy Joel!!!??!!! We both know how that went.”
“I just thought if I quit wearing them we could move on to something other than socks or undergarments.”
“Undergarments?” Dave asked.
“Socks. Hosiery. Undergarments. Accessories. They go by many titles. I’m sorry this has gone so wrong,” Peterson said.
Dave pleaded. “Tell me about the archetypes in the Lion King, Jordan. I’ll listen. I’ll listen. I promise.”
In that moment, it didn’t seem Disney and Jung would be that boring.
“For all it’s metaphoric substance, even I’m tired of the Lion King, Dave.”
“See, it’s all about you!!!! You don’t care about me. You never even ask about my jokes anymore.”
“You have some new jokes? I’m all ears.”
Dave cleared his voice. “Okay….here goes…….SJW’s are stupid.”
“That’s not really a joke.”
“Okay. Okay……SJW’s are idiots.” He followed the statement with a schticky goofy smirk. “It’s the face that really makes the joke, right?”
Peterson chuckled with the authenticity of a $20 hairpiece. To do otherwise would only lead to accusations of hyper-criticism and a perverse desire for persecution.
“See, the chick’s about ready to leave the nest, right Jordan? That’s what this is about….spreading one’s wings? The teenager testing his independence against the parent.”
“No,” Peterson said. “This is about much more.”
Peterson wiped his greasy fingers on his trousers, then went to the restroom to take a shit, leaving Dave to sob next to a steaming carton of untouched taco meat. Then he heard Peterson humming Eddie Money.
Dave began sobbing hysterically, hoping the outburst would piece the door and the whiz of the bathroom fan and into his mentor’s heart.
Then, between the groans from digested meat scraping against bulging vessels, Dave heard his sage’s muffled voice through the bathroom door. It sounded like he was speaking into a tin can.
“Sex is a consequence of love, Dave. We get confused sometimes, thinking sex might lead to love. But that’s putting the cart before the horse. I’m a professional psychologist. I know.”
And Dave knew that too. All of it. The part about the logistics of love and sex as well as Peterson’s expertise. And somewhere deep down, without his mentor having to shame him, that his jokes just weren’t that good either.
Dave wiped his eyes and took a deep breath, telling himself “get it together and act like a man. ” He took the bean burritos from his pockets and tossed them in the garbage. Then he removed his shoes, laid on the bed and, with that, the Jor-Bin bromance ended.