Attention Whores vs. Unfuckwithables and why I love Cardi B
Photo by ALEXANDRE DINAUT on Unsplash
My costume is cinched tight, I've re-laced my pointe shoes again and again. My hands are shaking as I stand in the wall of curtains waiting for my cue. Right on time, I step out into the blinding light, my body memory taking over, smile, smile, smile. Everyone is looking at me. I'm terrified. I love it.
You know you're not funny. I have just regaled my family and friends with my amazing stand-up comedy at a barbecue when my friend rolls her eyes and says this to me before walking away. I was in elementary school and had memorized some of my favorite sketches from one of Germany's most famous (and absolutely not funny) comics.
The jokes I told were not funny. And they weren't even mine. I was stealing jokes AND they were bad. Double cringe face. That was one of the first times I remember thinking oh there is something wrong with me wanting adults to pay attention to me, to laugh at my jokes, to want me around, to want them to think I'm cute or funny or talented.
If you're a parent, you know that small kids always want you to watch them do stuff. It's not even cool stuff! Usually, it's something boring but you have to be excited about it, not once, but three THOUSAND times in a row. And if you do not produce the same level of excitement every single time, get ready for a meltdown and be forced to watch it eleventy BILLION times more, because MOM, YOU MISSED IT! YOU WEREN'T EVEN LOOKING THE ENTIRE TIME! MOM!!
In my head I know I was just being a kid and it wouldn't have been cool for the adults to say, gawwwd, that dumbass joke again, how many times do I have to listen to this shit? How many more dance recitals do I have to drag my tired ass to? Parents think a lot of things that would be psychologically scarring if said out loud. So, the grownups were indulging me as they should, but my friend told me the truth. I wasn't funny, I was annoying. I didn't know the word attention whore then, but that's how I felt. Like I asked for something I shouldn't have wanted, that I didn't deserve, and I was embarrassing myself in the process.
Today Medium was supposed to announce the semi-finalists of the Medium Writers Challenge. They have not. I went back to read the rules, fuming. It actually says on or around Sept. 21st, but COME ON!! Do you know how many times I've been checking my email and Twitter today? There are thousands of entries and I know it's unlikely I'll win, but I really really really want to. I still want someone to tell me, you're good enough, you're a good enough writer, I like your words, meaning. I like you.
I often do like what I write (also a bit controversial to admit because… cocky!), and sometimes I don't, but either way, I'm always looking for someone to tell me if I'm right about myself. For someone to give me a second opinion on what I think about myself.
I'm having a hard time writing this down without cringing so hard my whole face is contorting. I love a lot of things, but I love writing the most. And I don't want to be a good writer. I want to be the best writer. I know I'm not but I really really really want to be.
I'm still an attention whore. Do you know I actually like public speaking? There's nothing I love more than people being forced to be quiet and listen to me. I know, insufferable. I will not delete this. We're all insufferable at times.
One of the things that are hardest for me to admit is when I'm feeling needy, like right now. That brings up the shame like nothing else. If people only knew how weak you are, how much you need their approval, how much you want to be liked. How much you crave their attention. They would be disgusted with you. I just can't change it. I love to write and I also know that I write to be read.
I don't understand the people who say they don't care about what others think about them or what they put out in the world. All these writers, musicians, artists, dancers who perform, who make art, who externalize their insides for public consumption…they are above all this? What? How?
The people who give zero fucks are our heroes. There are shirts with these slogans. If you wear one, you are trying too hard. Believe me, I know. If you wear one, you likely have many more fucks to give than zero. I know this because I have wanted to buy a shirt like that. Or one that says Unfuckwithable. But clearly, that would be ironic. I am SO fuckwithable.
The lone wolves who don't need the pack, the rare humans so confident and strong and unflappable they don't need others…. I'm not like them. I am so very wobbly. Seldomly sure of myself. Often second-guessing, questioning.
When I feel especially fuckwithable, I listen to Cardi B (Bodak Yellow if you must know). You know how many times I've "rapped" lil bitch, you can't fuck with me, if you wanted to at the top of my lungs while driving around in my banged-up Subaru in a town full of other white people wearing actual cowboy hats? It's ridiculous. All the bitches can most definitely fuck with me, because I am by nature totally fuckwithable. There are times I need to project strength I don’t always have and in those moments I have borrowed them from a few close people but also from Cardi B.
I have no cool story to tie this up nicely. I still want to be good at the thing I love. I want attention from the people I care about. I rarely run out of fucks to give. And I kind of want to stay open and soft enough to be fuckwithable.