They’re here. They’re weird. Get used to it.
“NASA announces alien life could be thriving on Saturn’s moon Enceladus.” — The Telegraph, April 13, 2017
As Earthlings, we’re endlessly thrilled by the prospect of extraterrestrial life and the potential to expand our network of Facebook friends, frenemies or real enemies beyond our little ice-cap melting, sea-rising planet that’s doomed pretty soon if we depart the Paris Climate Accord.
We wallow in books, TV and movies that feed our curiosity, excitement, hope and delicious terror about who’s out there, what they look like, how they live, and what they want. Do they seek to engage, understand, and join us in universal peace and prosperity? Or conquer, kill and consume our blood, planet and resources they need to survive? Are they higher beings hoping to force us to learn about ourselves and save our planet before it’s too late? Do they wear pants? Should they?
Among the thousands of alien movies, which is truest? Abbott and Costello Go To Mars? Close Encounters? Spielberg’s E.T.? Alien, Aliens, Alien3, Alien: Resurrection, or the sequels to the prequels? The Cat From Outer Space? Flash Gordon? Flesh Gordon? Zontar, the Thing from Venus? Amy Adams talking to a sideways flying saucer?
Forget the fantasies and relax: Aliens are already here, on Earth, living peacefully, anonymously and productively among us.
Not in the Men in Black way, hiding their hideous forms — albeit sexy back home — behind human visages. Not in the My Favorite Martian, Coneheads or Mork and Mindy way, winsomely celebrating how we seem different but really are the same. Not in the Bannon, Trump, alt-right view of aliens as illegal, criminal, welfare-cheating fraud voters who steal jobs nobody here wants for pay nobody here wants.
By aliens, I mean brothers/sisters/cisgenders from other mothers/fathers/whatever from other planets wherever who seek to live unnoticed among us, blend in, and perhaps bring their cultures, clothing and cuisines to ours. This explains the Lady Gaga meat dress and all modern couture, $500 jeans, the fetching melodies of Gucci Mane, Playboi Carti, Lil Uzi Vert, Kodak Black, Boosie Badazz and XXL Freshman, endless Seinfeld reruns and references, and the sauce schmear that even Cracker Barrel now uses to present its Country Dinner Plate.
Don’t be afraid. The aliens mean no harm. They just want to live here. They like it here. Earth is pretty nice. So far.
The aliens like that most of us care about each other, the planet, doing the right thing, and living in harmony, even if sometimes we choose leaders who don’t always reflect why we chose them. Like Earth children, the aliens worry about parts of our planet where there’s a lot of fighting, killing, suffering, and hatred, how with so much sustenance everywhere, people are still starving, and why the rich and poor are so miles apart. The aliens among us also wonder why their greatest hero, interstellar explorer Robin Williams, left Earth so soon. Nanu nanu.
But the aliens get us. They’re advanced. They know these are tough questions with no easy answers. They also like that Earthlings (by and large) care about what’s wrong and want to make it right. The aliens see how we’ve evolved to be basically decent beings. They like how we’re determined to cure disease and suffering, and while failing sometimes, we keep trying. The aliens love our holidays and how they involve heartfelt sentiments, delicious foods and family members we avoid the rest of the year. The aliens like all the good things about Earthlings and believe that the constant evolution of our species, especially our cats, will always make life on Earth better.
Above all, the aliens want to live among us, unnoticed. Most are introverts, and they’ve done a good job writing articles for the New York Times and other publications that introverts read about how being socially awkward is not just ok, but to be celebrated by leaving them alone.
But we know who the aliens are. It’s obvious. They act in mystifying ways. Ways that are irritating, confusing or confounding. We think they’re stupid, clueless, flakey or thoughtless. But it helps to remember on encountering them: They’re not from here! They don’t know our ways. They’re trying to fit in, and act our version of normal. It’s not easy.
So let’s give the aliens a break, respect their attempts to fit in, accept their foibles, and welcome them. Here’s how to spot one:
For no discernible reason, they choose to drive Subarus.
They creep along in the passing lane, never use turn signals, and motor methodically, at their chosen pace, five miles below the speed limit, noticing no one, like they’re the only ones on the road.
As pedestrians, they bend over their phones, engrossed, standing at the edge of a crosswalk, confusing drivers as to whether they’re crossing, and then suddenly step into the street, ignoring traffic because they have the right of way.
They’re cyclists in spandex who hate drivers and pedestrians … distracted drivers who hate cyclists and pedestrians … and righteous pedestrians who hate drivers and cyclists … all without noticing the contradiction.
Forgive them — they’re not from here.
At work, they can’t answer a quick, simple yes/no question because their calendars are blocked with back-to-back meetings for the next month. They finally get to urgent emails at 2 a.m., implying they’re more slammed than you, and then send back non-responsive replies just to convey they’re awake and working while you’re sleeping.
They cut coupons from the Sunday paper inserts, methodically sift through them at checkout, holding up the line to save $3.00 while spending $30.00 on Easter junk for a snotty 5-year-old niece who will ignore the immeasurable love and effort behind the gesture and toss the plastic China-made crap aside to eat the Reese’s Eggs.
They share uninformed yet powerful, passionate opinions in the comments sections on internet sites while ignoring basic spelling, grammar, syntax, usage, logic or common decency.
They still smoke cigarettes.
They believe and spread fake news and alt facts.
They exercise their free-speech rights by shouting down speakers.
They’ve convinced Starbucks to call coffee sizes tall, grande and vente, when everyone else says small, medium, large.
They clot Starbucks lines ordering complicated drinks like “tall skinny non-fat iced chai tea vanilla latte with half skim, half soy, half-sweet, half-caff, no foam and caramel drizzle” when most in line just wants a goddamn fucking cup of joe for chrissake.
Remember: They’re not from here.
Which is why they still draw, write or read the old daily comic strips — Mark Trail, Judge Parker, Beetle Bailey, Hagar the Horrible, Blondie, etc., that aren’t funny or remotely interesting anymore.
They maintain complicated facial hair configurations, including the Soul Patch, including the women.
They sport indiscreet, inappropriate tattoos, particularly those depicting pornographic interpretations of Yosemite Sam or other Looney Tunes characters.
They went to Trump rallies, voted for Trump, still support Trump, and think we should still give him a chance, defend his mess and disrespect of the presidency and 17 golf outings in his first 81 days, and don’t notice the hair thing because to interplanetary aliens, where they come from, that kind of thing is considered stylish.
They love Ivanka because she’s for women.
They think Bill O’Reilly got a raw deal.
They still eat Frosted Flakes, Lucky Charms and Froot Loops, accepting the latter is called “froot” because there’s not a distant molecule of fruit in any bite.
They love driving their fun, sporty Toyota Camry, unaware of the cognitive dissonance.
They love driving their fun, sporty Toyota Prius and plaster the bumpers with Bernie and exclusive private college stickers where their kids got to go, unaware of the irony.
They drive for Uber and, as professional drivers, need to know where they’re going, but don’t.
They still stay “troo dat,” or “feel me, bro?” or “fo shizzle ma nizzle” or worst: “my bad.”
They write pieces like this one.
Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer