Am I attending Open Mic Nyte for all the wrong reasons? Am I there just to be the center of attention? If that is the case, has my whole life been one giant egogasm?
Come on you target for faraway laughter, come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine! ~Pink Floyd
We all have some insecurities. Some of us are defined by them, while others bully those insecurities into silence.
Self awareness. At the center of insecurity is self image. We see ourselves differently than anyone else does. In the mirror. In pictures. In the eyes of our parents and spouses and children.
I know a lot of people who are not self-aware. They have no idea how absurd, ridiculous and annoying they are.
When I was a teenager, I was very insecure about talking to people in general, and especially about talking to girls. Most teenagers feel this way, though it’s not always true: the Proud Crowd had it worked out.
For the record, most of those early bloomers ended up fat and bald, with soul-crushing jobs and a few divorces, and when they tell me they “really admired” me or thought I was cool, I know it’s not true.
I’m taller than I realize. Sometimes I can seem like an intimidating goon, particularly when I am talking to smaller women.
Once when I was eavesdropping on my next door neighbors, a young, attractive, shallow couple of newlyweds, I overheard them talking about me. “He’s wweeiird!” I heard the girl say, in an accent so hickish it almost parodied itself.
They didn’t stay long in that apartment, and I have no idea what became of them, but I’m willing to bet it was boring.
Do I sound a little bitter? If so, why would I care what two strangers thought of me in 1993?
Are they actually afraid of me because I am “weird?” Do they think I don’t wash my hands after I pee, or that I’ll open up with an AK-74U at the mall?
And what, young judgemental neighbors, would you do about it? Do you think weird people should be shunned? Walled off? Locked up? Finished off? Do you think hating weidos and loners will make them better? Make them go away?
A girl I was dating in 1998* knew my next door neighbor. “He thinks you’re an idiot,” she told me.
Scene from Fight Club…
Narrator: When people think you’re dying, they really, really listen to you, instead of just …
Marla Singer: … waiting for their turn to speak?
Is that who we are? Are we a race of non-listeners?
Flash back to 1978, when I first started writing in my journal. By many measures, it was brilliant, I was brilliant. Most kids who just turned 15 are still giggling at farts and pretending to be in the NFL. But me? Obsessed with a girl, and writing real, deep thoughts. But by many measures, it was far more idiotic masturbation than brilliance, and if there was a wayback machine and I was there on that first day, I hope I could quote Voltaire and Nietzsche.
For many years, I not only let people read my journal, I sometimes kind of insisted on it. I made at least a few people mad about that, but some, like Frank R. or Melissa B. actually thought it connected us.
What have I been doing this whole time?
Then I think about ex friends. At one point or another in my life, I knew people and got close to them such that we felt like brothers and sisters, that we knew each other inside and out, that we really cared about each other.
Now, we not only make no effort to be in each other’s lives, we probably say terrible things about each other. How many of those terrible things said about me are true? Am I self-involved, egotistical, manipulative? Is my manner so weird and awkward that those neighbors were right?
I Know You by Henry Rollins (excerpt)…
Yeah, I think I know you
You spent a lot of time full of hate
A hate as pure as sunshine
A hate that saw for miles
A hate that kept you up at night
A hate that filled your every waking moment
A hate that carried you for a long time
In conclusion, how many of us have it all together? Who among us preaches the right sermon while believing the right facts, while putting everyone at ease with their smooth handshakes and neatly ironed lapels? Who would my neighbors welcome to dinner, to drinks, to play with their kids in the yard?
And how much of this judgement, this rejection, this hatred is merited? Do I deserve to be cold, to be lonely, to be that target of faraway laughter? Do I deserve to be called “weird.”
And should I hide? Should I change and fix it? Hang out with the cool kids? Learn to wear the right tie and the creased trousers? Or should I stand up and be weird from the rooftops? If so, who am I? Who should I be?
I said it once, years ago, and I’ll say it again: it’s easy enough to pat yourself on the back. The hard part is to keep everyone else from kicking you in the crotch.