Armpit Futures

I’ve long been on record as an August hater. Recently I decided that August will henceforth be known as Armpit, at least in my head. Armpit is the True Name of August; it is truly the armpit of the year. My greatest fear for the future is that it will be an Eternal August. I call such possible futures armpit futures. Listless, sweaty grey timelines where history just sort of runs out of narrative energy with a whimper rather than a bang, and settles into a shitty plotless equilibrium full of T. S. Eliot’s hollow men that everybody hates, but not energetically enough to do anything about. Sometimes, I think the explanation for the Fermi paradox is simply that it is August all the time, almost everywhere in the universe.

Anyhow, why is August, I mean Armpit, so bad?

Here’s the thing, besides all the obvious things wrong with it (ranging from listlessly ugly, enervated weather  to the ugly social calendar as documented in this David Plotz anti-August rant), Armpit is when people give up on the year. It is the month of abandoned hope. The inescapable liminal passage of refractory ennui you must get through before you can peel yourself off the floor (where you will have been lying sticky and facedown for 31 days) to take another swing at Destiny.

Through the end of July, which vaguely sounds like June and so vaguely feels like you’re still in the first half of the year with a shot at salvaging something, you’re basically fine. Armpit is when you realize it’s too late, but can’t do anything about it. In September, you can formally write off the year as a deadweight loss booked in Q4, reset your horizons and start thinking about the next year or seven.

But for the 31 days of Armpit, if you have a brain, you’re in that sweaty, muggy, hopeless, newsless, atemporal state of mild-to-medium existential despair that is not even severe enough to justify active intervention. Like airplane food that is just short of bad enough to complain about. Where eating it versus going hungry seem like equally bad options. You kinda just have to get through it. It won’t be good no matter what you decide.

Europeans and VCs in America try to put lipstick on the pig by collectively going on “vacation” but as Plotz argues, the good vacation month is actually July. Armpit is when you kind of just take a weak swing at pretending to be alive to keep up appearances, since it is not polite to act dead in the West. Adults have beach-time poisoned by dreading Fall Budgeting Bureaucracy. Kids have their last few weeks of vacation poisoned by looming schoolwork. Nobody is having a good time, and most people don’t even have the energy to pretend.

Anybody who is enjoying Armpit is either clueless, or powered by energy drawn from the dark dimensions. All signs of life in Armpit are hollow and fake, a case of civilizational premium mediocrity on display (not coincidentally, I wrote that post in Armpit last year).

Armpit is awful everywhere on the planet (even the southern hemisphere I suspect), and I think the reason is that it is the truest glimpse we get of the human condition. Yes, we’re most likely to end up in an armpit future, not a dystopian or utopian one. And Armpit is the one month of the year we cannot avoid facing that fact, like Sisyphus in the moment just after he summits and watches the rock wobble portentously.

September is the dawn of new hope. Even the Eternal September of the online world, despite the generally n00b-infested, culture-warring craptitude of it, is tinged with hope and demented stupid energy. October through July we have The Struggle, when we manage to steal a shred or two of dignity from the universe.

Other naturally bad months during The Struggle, like blazing-furnace-hot July and calamitously cold and depressing January, at least have interesting social action going on. Or present the kind of urgent stress you can feel good about tackling head-on and overcoming. The plot is moving along even if most people have lost it.

But Armpit? Pure zombie month. Not even a villain of a month. The entropic heat-death month of the calendar, during which Time may or may not choose to regenerate. Beating August doesn’t even feel like a win.

Enjoy your last week of July. As with every Armpit, there’s a small chance we’ll never come out of it, and end up in an Eternal August armpit future.

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About Venkatesh Rao

Venkat is the founder and editor-in-chief of ribbonfarm. Follow him on Twitter

Comments

  1. Elliot Godzich says:

    You feel about August how I feel about Tuesdays.

  2. Well, well, well, this post just made my day, or week. Let me explain. I’m miserable all year round, always miserable, that’s my thing, but August, or Armpit—well, I’ve had this nagging feeling that I, in some remote kind of way, enjoy it. And now I know why. You all lovely, happy fellow creatures come down to my level, and join me in my misery. I stay the same, of course, but suddenly we connect. Suddenly, all of you look as gloomy as I feel. We’re all friends then. No one wants to change me. I want to change no one.
    You know what, this post actually made me so awkwardly cheerful, I’m declaring this, the last week of July, officially August. Welcome.
    And then, in a little more than a month, when you finally leave me, I’ll be as sad as ever. Especially when you go running headlong through December aiming for Christmas (for crying out loud..! Christmas? Really?), then I’ll lower my head, just a little bit more. But perhaps we’ll meet each other again, at the end of January? Why not.
    Until then, as a true lover of human kind, I wish you all a fetid Armpit.

    • It is the sociopath who isn’t graced by will-to-power he who lives in a constant August/Armpit.

      Anybody who has read Montauk and understood it.

      To the others, September’s demented bliss.

  3. This made me laugh a fair bit. I appear to have found the way out of August despair, or at least one that’s worked so far. August is my birthday month, and while as an adult I don’t put too much importance on birthdays, it’s a good occasion to have a nice dinner with friends and family and, perhaps more importantly, it’s a benchmark st whose arrival I can look back on the year since the last August and see what’s changed, and how I’m different. So it feels like a milestone every year.

    Here’s the thing: the calendar is entirely arbitrary. I have a couple of holidays only I know about set up throughout the year, one of which happens to be in the dead of winter’s most depressing period. There’s nothing to stop you from generating some kind of milestone or recurring event that happens each August and gives some kind of long-term large-frame meaning to its arrival. I have one built-in, but you can make your own, instead of succumbing to misery.

  4. Ralph W Witherell says:

    Thanks, fun insights. I think I’ll take the month off. Regards

  5. Hello there Venkat,
    I found this article interesting, but my comment is actually for a different post. “The Return of the Barbarian”. In that post I saw that you said something about writing about the barbarian future at some point. I was wondering if you ever wrote a post about that, and if so if you could tell me how to find it. I’ve looked for it with various searches.

    With that, I do want to talk about the armpit time of year. I own a mushroom farm and I have to say that Armpit is the absolute worst time of year to grow and sell mushrooms. So with that, I think I may try and just take the whole month of Armpit off next year. I’m glad that I’m not the only one that absolutely hates this time of year! I don’t feel like this year has been wasted by any means, but I don’t like the heat, and I don’t like the people at this time of year.

  6. Man, wow man, hahahahahahaha, this is one of your best insights, ever. Can not stop laughing. And yes we do have Armpit here at southern hemisphere, also known as February (much more stinky than your Armipit because it usually comes attached with Carnival days, so you can figure it out).

  7. Jack Williamson says:

    However, those who have found their sweet spot on SSRIs, feel differently, as do those making obscene amounts of money who really know how to spend it. Not to mention the biologically successful who are constantly overwhelmed by their progeny, but who are nonetheless still hopeful that the future belongs to their genetic material.

  8. Some of us like August not because we are taking in the dark energy of the universe. But simply because we are looking forward to our birthdays.

    Silliness aside, great insight.

  9. Aaron Winter says:

    All true, and yet somehow February is still worse.

  10. Venkat, you’re a funny cat. The only thing I agree with is that it is true that it’s not (yet) polite to act dead in the West — But thanks to auto-reply/IFTTT/similar tech that help people ghost on each other and on themselves, playing dead is actually quite a common practice. The denser the city, the more common the practice as that’s a maladaptive coping mechanism by city dwellers.

    One could say that there’s negative tempo happening as a shadow content in New York City, at all times.

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