America’s Sweetheart

“Mr. Roark, we’re alone here. Why don’t you tell me what you think of me? In any words you wish. No one will hear us.”

“But I don’t think of you.”

This is a passage from Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. It is the first instance where the story’s protagonist (Howard Roark) and antagonist (Ellsworth Toohey) interface. So much is conveyed in that cavalier reply of indifference, a blow that even the most rancorous castigation could not dispense.

I’ve been obsessed with this passage since the day I read it as a wide-eyed 16 year old. I ran the line back in my head several times and periodically revisited the book to make sure I remembered it verbatim. I had to be ready. Someday a moment would come for me to employ this humdinger. It didn’t even matter if I sincerely meant it or not.

I’m beginning to believe that Elissa shares my zest for this novel, because this is invariably her go-to response whenever she gets into a fight.

Let’s just acknowledge that—for a woman who likes to preach about maturity—Elissa has acted very petulant in the Big Brother house. After she makes some latently pointed jokes toward Amanda, Elissa was the one who was upset! She was indignant that Amanda got offended. Amanda finally had to be the one to apologize, and Elissa was reluctant to accept it!

And then there’s the whole Aaryn situation. Yeah, I know: Aaryn is a monster, a Texas tornado, if you will. But shouldn’t that be immaterial to a mature adult? Shouldn’t mature individuals always afford someone the opportunity to apologize?

On the off-chance that Aaryn can persuade Elissa to have a private conversation, Elissa always storms out at a certain juncture. This is how it usually plays out: Aaryn will begin to apologize for her behavior towards Elissa. She then—in classic Aaryn fashion—shifts the onus onto the apologizee, saying something akin to, “But you said some very hurtful things about me too.”

Elissa is starting to get anxious. This conversation is in its last throes. She will then request Aaryn to name a specific thing that Elissa said, confident that Aaryn is deluded. Aaryn quickly invokes something concrete like the suggestion that Aaryn was running a whorehouse out of her HOH.

That’s it. Conversation over. Elissa storms out of the room because continuing this conversation would force her to acknowledge her own shortcomings, something she is incapable of doing.

So now Elissa will not talk to Aaryn under any circumstances. When Aaryn confronts Elissa about repeatedly scapegoating her (during the outing of The Grasshoppers,) Elissa lies. And when her lies become exposed, she drops the Roarkian retort dismissively: “I don’t think about you.” She has no other recourse. She’s been found out.[1]

At the end of this fight, people are perturbed. Vibes have been irreparably marred. A select group migrates upstairs. They recount the row to parties who were not present, and a consensus is reached: They all feel bad—for Aaryn! Elissa has somehow succeeded in making Aaryn a sympathetic figure!

Yeah, it didn’t end well for me either, Elissa.

But boy did I feel cool.


I Am Justin, Hear Me Roark!

One day, at the dawn of English class, I received a missive from a female friend of mine. She sat in front of me and inconspicuously slid a folded piece of paper across my desk. Once unfurled, the paper revealed a question. I would answer the question, send it back to her, and receive another question.

I remember this vividly, for the format struck me as curiously puerile. After each question, she provided me with a series of possible answers and a box to check preceding them. At the end of every listed response was also a box with the adjacent text, “Other,” encouraging me to articulate my own explanation.

I must have answered something like five questions. I was intrigued, what can I say? The paper was relayed to me again. It was the final question. It read, “What do you think of me?”

“I don’t think of you,” I wrote back.


Other People I Don’t Think Of

It has recently come to my attention that I have featured, in varying degrees of coverage, every Big Brother houseguest in this column save one: Andy. I don’t know why that is. Andy is easily amongst my top three houseguests. In terms of personality, he is superseded only by McCrae.[2] He shares my verve for cinema and has a similar sense of humor. When watching the live feeds, I always gravitate to which ever camera he is on.

I suppose me overlooking him is a good omen for his game. I suppose that means he is doing a crackerjack job of laying low.


[1] Probably the most insulting thing about Elissa’s use of “I don’t think about you” is that it is a total falsehood. Everyone hears her verbally excoriate Aaryn on a daily basis. The ironic thing is that Aaryn is the one who has actually given up the ghost.

[2] Andy loses points for talking too much about Katy Perry.