Friday, April 29, 2005

A Flair for the Dramatic

I am painfully well aware of the fact that I sometimes demonstrate a flair for the dramatic. That’s old news. It’s probably why I won a theater scholarship back in 1984 (which I then squandered on a Russian Studies degree. Go figure.) It’s also what makes me a persuasive writer and speaker. I inherited it from my father. Sometimes, when used to advantage in professional situations (like dealing with scenery-gnawing drama queens former Soviet Union), I call it "channeling my father." Sometimes, that bothers me to see him in myself. My father didn't like me very much, and he let me know it.

I also have a lot more crap that goes on in my life than the average person has to deal with, I’ll bet you dollars to donuts. It’s challenging to get through a single day without some ignorant creep treating me like garbage for my physical appearance. (See my post from April 27th to get an idea.) So, there’s more drama going on in my life than the “normal” person might expect. As a result of being denigrated a whole lot, I tend to get very impassioned when I have to defend myself. And I’m good at it. I've had a lot of experience.

Also, I'm a "Weirdness Magnet." I attract strange people and strange events. And, on occasion, I encounter celebrities. If I'm in the right mood, I will go up and interact with said celebrities. (It's kinda like a dolphin encounter... well... minus the exhorbitant fee, the handfuls of fish, and the possibility of being drowned by Flipper excitedly wrapping his penis around you...) Up until a month ago, I was a member of a Yahoo group, populated mostly with folks in the Los Angeles area. People liked to post their brushes with celebrity - the more mundane or silly, the better. I started sharing my goofy tales, and a couple of people started calling me Forrest Gump for my plethora of pointless celebrity encounters - all lame, all the time.

Lots of celebrities came through Moscow. I saw three presidents - Reagan, Bush the Elder, and, shortly before he died, Nixon. I met boxers and actors and writers and painters. Al Gore had lunch with me and some friends one day - he took notes on our lives as contractors at the embassy. He scored mucho bonus points with me for that. My friends and I "danced" to heavy metal with Tipper Gore (and her good sense of humor) in the embassy bar.

Recently, some unhappy stranger on this Yahoo group decided to suggest that I was being less than truthful based upon my silly stories of brushes with B-, C-, and D-level fame. It’s all true, let me assure you - totally dumb stuff and totally verifiable, with witnesses and everything. And for Pete's sake, who really gives a flying whoopdee-doo if I used to work for Fred “Gopher from The Love Boat” Grandy or that I once had Easter brunch in Moscow with a still-drunk-from-the-night-before Hollywood has-been? BFD, man. But, it makes for entertaining stories in the right circles. (And the stories I told there were the tip of the iceberg, I tell ya. I hadn’t even gotten to being locked in the refrigerator with the corpse and the Passover seder food at the Moscow airport or my telephonic lovefest with Robert F’ing Mondavi… By the way, that was his choice of middle name, not mine.)

I think what bugged me most was that this individual - someone whose real name I'll never know - decided to be underhanded and call me a liar only once I was gone from the group. I wasn’t around to defend myself, so she was able to conjure up a coward’s courage. Lame, frankly, and I think she thought she was being very witty and catty, the strategy of choice for a lot of insecure folks online. In my book, unless you are a drag queen - and are witty and catty naturally on a cellular level, it’s a fairly transparent – and fairly annoying – strategy. A friend forwarded me the message about my supposed lack of veracity. Why, exactly, I don’t know, but there you have it. I guess he felt I needed to know what was being written about me in my absence.

So, I defended myself to this person - and most vigorously, too. I did it privately and directly and I didn't spare the words or the feelings. When my dander is up, I will admit, I can swear like a drunken stevedore on payday. I gave her witnesses by name and even offered to fax her some documentation on some of my encounters (it’s amazing what people will put in job reference letters...) She didn’t investigate further. That would have required an acknowledgement that I wasn’t fibbing about my silly tales.


Instead of taking me up on my offer, the snarkcritter opted to forward me a private message she received from a friend of mine on the group - a friend I’ve known for several years, but have only met twice in person. It was from several months ago and made light of my “flair for the dramatic.” I’m sure she never expected me to see it. It was not particularly complimentary.

But once you put words out in the ether, they’re there. You can't snatch them back once you hit "enter." In a split second, you’ve handed over your words, your thoughts to someone else who may use them as a weapon or an olive branch. The snarkcritter used my friend's words as a weapon, but she didn’t just hit me. She hit a friendship – a tenuous one, for sure, held together in the ether – and that friendship is damaged now. And, in truth, I have bigger fish to fry these days than trying to suss out the psychology of people I guess I don’t really know. It's challenging enough to attempt that psychic feat with my family most of the time... I gave up on trying to prove the truth with the snarkette, for it really doesn't matter in the end. And, honestly, I haven't had a thing to say to my old Internet friend since then. I haven't asked her why she dissed me. I'm not sure I even need to know.

I harp sometimes about the brutal murder of civility, and I think the Internet is a tool of that particular felony. People can hide in anonymous covers of cruelty or dismiss people as lessers without a single deep thought of the consequences. A few years ago, I thought it wasn't a problem - the Internet is like a cocktail party! - you can stroll, chat, ignore, engage, gossip. But it seems less cute when you're a bit older. I don't like how casually people turn mean to strangers or that sociopathic children haunt chat rooms and gaming sessions, spouting hate speech and the frustration of the tiny mind. All without consequences. As far as they know. As far as they care.

I guess my original point was, once words leave your hands, your mouth, your computer… well, they’re no longer just yours and they can and do affect other people. They can educate and illuminate and entertain and charm and inflame and anger and incense. But they also can be manipulated, misinterpreted, and used against you like a scalpel or a hammer, depending on the minds reached. If I didn’t want to share my words, I wouldn’t have this blog, I suppose. (Although there are only a handful of people reading it, in truth. It’s a writing tool and an exercise in vanity, more or less.) But I understand that there can be consequences. I wish more people felt the same way.

God, I feel like the last five minutes of an Afterschool Special.

One more demon exorcised. If only this worked on kitchen mice.

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