One of television’s best, most thoughtful series returned with two more episodes last night, continuing the storyline that “Louie” started last week when his neighbor, played by Ellen Burstyn, got stuck in an elevator. But I want to talk about one specific scene from the second episode, which I thought brilliantly captured everyone who has ever been on the losing side of an argument with their significant other (in this case, that is always me).
In that scene, Louie is talking to his ex-wife about putting their daughter Jane in private school (which just happens to be an argument my wife and I have had recently, and I fall on Louie’s (losing) side for many of the same reasons). Anyway, at some point, the argument gets away from Louie, because that’s what happens when you’re on the losing side of an argument, and we always end up overreaching, backing ourselves into corners, and spouting a bunch of incoherent gibberish (much of which will be held against us in subsequent arguments for months to come).
“See, this is about you,” Louie says earlier in the conversation, before lashing out about how private school will turn his kids into crest-wearing Nazi youth who will be paraded around Whole Foods as trophies.
“You are way out of line,” Louie’s ex-wife says, later.
“I know that. I’m too emotional, and I’m too upset now to contribute anything real to the conversation because you got me to this place. “
“So it’s my fault?”
“No, it’s not! I’m saying that I can’t say anything worthwhile anymore. I’m too upset, and it’s all about my fear about the kids, and about the stuff that we never resolved, and this is about my problems about my issues … there’s no way for me to say anything but sh*t now, which is all that’s coming out of my mouth.”
And that folks is how you beat yourself in an argument with your significant other. The key in all spousal arguments is to be the one who isn’t talking, and to let the other one talk themselves into a losing position. Let them hang on their own rope. It works every time. I know, because I’m always walking around with a noose around my neck. At least, unlike most of us, Louie acknowledges what’s going on and admits that he can’t speak intelligently to the issue anymore because he’s lost all perspective (most of us just say something stupid and then double down by vociferously arguing the stupid point).
Anyway, what I appreciated about this argument was just how real and authentic it felt, and so different from the arguments usually depicted in television and film, which usually entail slammed doors and yelling matches and hurtful, revealing confessions. That’s not how arguments typically work: They look much more like the one above. Two people debating an issue until one side loses and that person’s pride takes over and turns him into a gibberish monster that talks himself into circles until he tires out. Louie simply verbalized that unfortunate cycle.