Back in my day, we called them ‘wannabees’ or ‘hanger ons.’ Today, you might call them something else. But those were the people who so desperately wanted to be well liked and popular, that they inadvertently crossed the line and ended up becoming one dimensional and fucking annoying. I’ve actually always had a soft spot in my heart for them. To me, it seemed like their only crime was trying too fucking hard and I couldn’t bring myself to publicly shun someone for being nice to me. Oftentimes, I’d reach out to them, hoping that my guidance would ‘cool them up’ a little. When I was 11, my classmate Megan became my full fledged project.
Megan was widely despised by everyone despite her innate sweetness. She was the type of girl who never really talked about herself. If you asked her what her favorite food was, she’d say, “What’s your favorite food?” If you answered “Pizza,” she’d say, “Oh, that’s my favorite food, too!” If you asked her what she liked to do for fun, she’d ask, “What do you like to do for fun?” If you answered, “I like playing soccer,” she’d say, “That’s exactly what I like to do too!”
Never mind that you always saw her eating a peanut butter and banana sandwich at lunchtime and that you once witnessed her hurling a soccer ball over a volleyball net. She loved what you loved 100% of the time. You had millions and millions of things in common. You were destined to be best friends.
She drove me fucking crazy, but I was determined to help her.
One day, we had the following conversation:
V: Megan…what’s your favorite color?
Megan: What’s your favorite color?
V: I’ll tell you after you tell me.
(At this point, she looked terror stricken.)
V: Cool. Mine is green.
Megan: Green is my favorite color, too!
V: No, it’s not. You said you liked blue.
Megan: But I changed my mind! Now I like green!
V: Megan, have you ever seen me carrying around a mirror?
(Her terror turned to abject confusion.)
V: Do I carry around a mirror? Do I look in a mirror all day long?
V: Do you want to know why I don’t?
V: Because I don’t want to be friends with myself. I want to be friends with you.
Megan: What do you mean?
V: I want to know the things that you like. I want to hear the things that you think. If I wanted my own opinions echoed back at me all day long, I’d just start talking to a mirror.
Megan: But I like all the things that you like!
V: If that’s really true, then you’re boring and I don’t want to be your friend.
She cried and because I felt guilty for handling the situation all wrong, I started avoiding her in school. Eventually, she latched on to someone else and I learned that you can’t change people. If someone is insecure, weak willed, and cowardly, they are going to stay that way until they get sick of looking at themselves in the mirror.
I look around the world today and I’ve noticed that it is full of people like Megan.
Everyone has been playing nice-nice with each other. No one wants to accidentally offend anyone else. We’re all so open and accepting of everyone’s thoughts and feelings (Even the fucking dumb ones) and there are no stupid questions. We share. We encourage. We sugar coat. We are tactful and we are pleasant.
And after a day of this, we go home, make ourselves a cocktail and wonder why no one really knows us. We wonder why we never feel really close to our friends and we speculate on how it’s possible to live one third of our lives without bonding or connecting with anyone else. In the midst of so many superficial friendships, we are amazed by the fact that we can feel so alone.
If you’re 16 years old, all you have to do is go heavy on the mascara and start cutting yourself to feel alive. If you’re in your 30’s, the chic thing to do is live vicariously through your children. Both methods are equally pathetic.
Today, Karolin is my only real girlfriend. We are polar opposites in every way. Karolin is a humanitarian, a liberal, a spiritualist. I could give a flying fuck about my fellow man and I’m pretty sure that God is dead. Karolin is very social and will happily strike up a conversation with a hobo on the subway. I cringe when strangers ask me how my day is going. Karolin sometimes wishes that my toughness will rub off on her and I sometimes hope a little of her heart will rub off on me.
I guess where I’m going with this is that the reason our relationship works is because we’re so different. Our conversations are colorful and interesting because we so often disagree. When Karolin muses that James Kim’s death was a tragedy, I roll my eyes and insist that it wasn’t a tragedy. It was justice. Stupid people walking around in freezing temperatures deserve to die. That’s Darwinism at work! Karolin will laugh and remind me of his family left to fend for themselves. The end result is that we learn a little something about each other and even more importantly, we learn something about ourselves.
Self love is easy. Learning to love, respect, and admire someone different from you takes a bit more work. Furthermore, there is no more a freeing feeling than being completely open, honest, and raw with someone and knowing that they will still call you back the next day.
I guess it’s no secret that I like to make people angry with this website. In a cyber world where tact is king and we shy away from certain subjects as not to alienate our readers, I take a purposeful inflammatory tone. I like to make you angry because it isn’t until you’re pissed off that I get to learn how you really feel about a certain subject. However briefly, your anger allows me to take a little peak into your soul. Sometimes I even learn a little about myself when I read those passionately pounded out rebuttals.
You people do yourselves a vast disservice by always playing nice. When you spend your life ‘me too-ing’ your peers, you cease to become an individual with your own thoughts and feelings and turn into a mirror in some asshole’s pocket. The blogging community is the biggest offender in this department. Don’t any of you realize that when you continually censor yourselves the end result is that people quit reading what you have to say? Sure, you might get X amount of hits a day, but the only reason people are visiting is because they want to make sure that you are still linking to their blog. I guarantee you that you are not enthralling the public with a methodical recounting of your day that included a trip to Gymboree and a saga revolving around burnt toast.
Every once in a while, I will read an essay where someone gets really excited about the subject they are discussing. I can tell by their word choice and their tone that I’ve stumbled into territory that really means something to them. Their words almost seem as if they’re on fire and they’re taking me (the reader) somewhere interesting and colorful and honest. And even if I’m mentally disagreeing with them, I’m still excited to be reading. Because they’re close to waking up a sleeping part of my mind, they’re close forcing me out of my comfort zone, they’re so fucking close to inspiring me towards mental applause and jubilation or towards outright fury. Then, all of the sudden, they pull the punch. They reel the passion in. They go back to playing nice. That point that they were just about to make? It never comes. And I, the excited reader, am left to glare at their little sidebar of links and wonder to myself, “Who was it? Which one of these assholes was this writer afraid of offending? Who stole this person’s voice?”
Fuck all of that. If you don’t have the guts to step outside of your comfort zones, you will never grow and change as a person. If being well liked is more important than being yourself, then you will never say anything of value and you will never have true friends. If you don’t have the balls to be hated, then you don’t deserve to be loved.
So, Internet, how do you feel about the world? What do you think about the people in it? What makes you happy? What makes you angry? Do you ever feel hopeless? What do you hate and what do you love? Do you really give a shit about the war? Please, don’t play nice with me and please don’t reflect my own opinions back at me.
I really want to know what you think.
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