Thursday, January 04, 2007

Notes (for the next novel or the end of this one)

I lost a bloglines subscriber yesterday. I’m forced to admit that I was saddened – bothered on some level that was inappropriate to this particular stimulus.

It’s silly because I have weeded through my feeds for months now. In a continuous yet moderate quest to focus on what makes me happy and ignore what bugs me, I have attacked my bloglines subscriptions with some regularity. If I’m not pleased when someone updates – if I feel reading is for some reason a chore, or makes me feel badly about myself or just isn’t pleasant, I stop. We don’t owe each other loyalty, though it does happen that I enjoy reading everyone who comments and reads me. It’s just a little step – a way of controlling a hobby (that admittedly takes a good deal of my time) to ensure it makes life better rather than worse.

When I delete items, it’s sometimes because someone had admitted he is writing a book. Please, I scoff lightly. If I’m not excited when you update for free, why in the world would I buy a novel talking about this crap? Honestly. You should spend more time doing your job and less time thinking about what a wordsmith you are. Jackass. (Huh. Apparently sometimes I’m not very nice when reading people. This is why only reading what I like – what elicits kind and empathetic responses – is good for me.)

So when I started braying like the jackass that I probably am (Don’t nod along. It’s impolite.), I expected some of you to jump ship. Shake your heads and think that you’d tolerated me so far, but this was ridiculous. The merging of overwhelming conceit with this desperate insecurity that just doesn’t make sense. A quick click of “delete this feed” followed by a muttered “Of course I’m sure.” click of the confirmation screen. I might have done the same thing.

Of course, this reminds me of a story.

Before beginning undergrad, we had summer orientation. A time to sign up for classes, take placement tests, stay in a dorm and get to know the 1/12 of our peers involved in that session. I was sick with nerves – knowing no one, feeling frumpy and uncertain and desperately wanting people to like me. To start college as someone fun and amusing and wonderful rather than just smart and successful as was my high school persona.

Preening after returning from a scholarship meeting – I was National Merit, you see, and therefore got to attend the “look how special you are! You’re going to get this much money and we’d love for you to join the Honors Program! Attend special sessions on the meaning of dreams or politics of the Middle East. Combine your Western Civ requirement with the composition course because you’re far too advanced to join the others in their freshman English classes.” gathering, I made my way back to the dorm room I was sharing with Linda as we talked about which seminar we liked most from the meeting. Then she asked if I’d be her roommate. I was filled with the certainty that I was going to be amazing in college. Smart and popular. Finally. (Note that the first sentence in this paragraph was insanely long. Perhaps those composition classes would have helped me out.)

Someone came to the door of our room as we were preparing for some social event that evening. I think it was loud music and awkward dancing in the cafeteria. Super-cool. Anyway, I vaguely recall a pretty blonde asking if we’d brought a curling iron. As Linda looked for hers, I smiled when the blonde complimented my Clinique make up. I just used the pressed powder – Stay Buff – but was also enamored of the marbled green case.

“Where were you guys earlier?” Blonde asked.

“We had a meeting for Honors Program seminar choices.” I said as Linda walked over, curling iron in hand.

“Wow.” Blonde said, thanking Linda with a smile. “I have a financial aid meeting tomorrow. Do you both have scholarships?”

Linda confirmed that she did and I nodded as well. Since junior high, I’ve understood you don’t brag about academic accomplishments. It makes people dislike you. And I very much wanted to be liked in my new environment.

But Linda talked of her half-tuition remission, then glanced at me and told Blonde I was receiving a full ride. Tuition, fees, room and board. I was, of course, pleased. I couldn’t share that information, but I very much wanted people to know that I was smart. Special. Because I doubted those qualities were truly mine to claim and liked having friends around who could reassure me that I was important.

“That’s great.” Blonde told me and I smiled.

“I test really well.” I said in an attempt to brush her comment aside. “The PSAT went better than I expected and things just fell into place. Which is good, actually, since I doubt we could have afforded tuition had we not had help.”

Blonde came back with a tin of eye shadow moments later. She stood in our open doorway and asked if we could help her open it. I don’t remember what was weird about the container, but there was some little trick to reveal the pretty makeup. I quickly conquered the device and handed it back to her with a smile.

“I’m such an idiot.” She said, frowning when I showed her the trick to open it.

“Of course not.” I scolded lightly. “I’m just really smart!”

“Right. I remember the scholarship.” She said, her face falling in disapproval.

“No!” I was immediately horrified. “I was kidding. I don’t think I’m smart. I just…”

“Thanks.” She said haughtily and walked away, leaving me wide-eyed with regret. It was then I realized that life wasn’t going to be much different for me. I’d never have masses of friends because I could only open up to a given few. They would get my jokes – laugh when I said I was really smart because they’d seen me weep in miserable terror of failure over some C++ concept I just didn’t understand. I can, in the presence of people who love me, be quite funny. But if you chose to take what I say in a way other than was intended, I can appear painfully arrogant. And the truth is that the underlying insecurity is so strong that any perceived conceit is rather ridiculous.

I have made the mistake of telling myself the bloglines readers are friends. They know enough – have read enough – that I don’t need to track them on site statistics. They know when I’m kidding and when I’m serious. They like me. When faced with the truth – that sometimes they’re just not impressed, I was left sighing with regret. I said something wrong. Was irritating or boring or otherwise unworthy.

Upon further reflection, I’d rather you not read than come around to roll your eyes. So it’s good to unsubscribe. I approve.

“My mom decided she rather liked you.” Friend told me after she returned to our city from being home for New Year’s Day.

“Thank you!” I said with some feeling. “People should like me! I’m delightful! A good friend who is not in need of perspective.”

So in truth, while I doubt my intelligence, writing ability, humor, appearance…I believe in my inherent lovable qualities. When someone gets me, they should like me. No, love me. Want to protect me and make me smile. Bask in the joyful love I offer in return.

So despite the loss of a bloglines reader, I have fluttered a bit over my site statistics of late. Since the mention of the book, I’ve done amazingly well. People come, read, then return. There are less random google searches and more cities I recognize. Perhaps people want to hear about the book, I think, lured strongly toward talking about it all the time to provide something interesting to read. Come back again, I urge the cities. You don’t have to comment or email. Just read. Let me take up space in your day – just for a few minutes.

Why is it important? I wondered as I switched screens to look through search words. Then I frowned, closed my eyes and shook my head.

Read the posts more carefully, I told him in my head. I want the attention. I like that you read, though I desperately wish I didn’t. I have this sick desire to take up space in your head and you’re not supposed to feed that. You’ve done so well thus far! Ignored the drunken email (did I not mention that? Yeah…not so good for the Katie.) and, as I expected, have been gallantly and completely silent. At least publicly. But there’s a single person who finds me through googling “minor revisions.” (Which, by the way, is silly. Just type it into the address line, add a and you’re here! And I’d never know!)

(I’m aware that I’d also never know if I stopped being freakishly obsessed with Site Meter. I can’t help it. I have a problem.)

“You’re writing a book that happens to feature him prominently.” Friend said when I started obsessing out loud. Bad call on giving me permission to do that again. “Did you expect him not to be vaguely curious? To wonder what the hell you’re doing?”

“You swear more since you’ve been home.” I pointed out. “But he wouldn’t have known! It’s not like he cares on any real level – about me, what I do, any of it! It’s that little friend.”

She smiled as I narrowed my eyes, then I grinned in return. “I don’t read her.” I said and she nodded. “I’m afraid to, actually.” I confessed sheepishly. “I’ve been…less than mature in how I think of her.”

Friend shrugged, hopefully thinking that I’m rarely catty but wondering over the amount I appear to be reveling in it right now. She didn’t comment, so I continued.

“I don’t know why she reads.” I said. “They’re friends and apart from mocking me as the poor cow, which is just mean and that’s why I’m catty!, what could I possibly have to say that would be of interest?! To either of them? But especially to him?”

Well, there’s this.

Reading those old emails is interesting. Helpful in the fact that I remember why I liked you so much. It wasn’t just me seeing what I wanted to see – there was something compelling there and I feel no small amount of relief at the fact. It’s an interesting story, but one filled with warnings that I should have heeded. Some of which I tried to heed but whether from your reassurances, my blindness or a mixture of the two, I didn’t. My fault, and I’m OK with that.

The fact that I can’t get over – the one that puts you on the list of people I just dislike – a list, by the way, that is short and incredibly difficult to land on – is that our particular ending was so very avoidable. A tiny measure of respect for me as a person, let along a friend or someone who cared about you, would have lent itself easily to an email that said, “You’re great and I’m sorry, but it’s not there for me. I have feelings for other women and though I’ve tried to warn you, I see that you’re not getting it. So, dear Katie, I’m out.” Then instead of ignoring me, we just would have been done. And I would have been hurt – terribly hurt and disappointed – but I would have understood and thought the world of you for being gutsy enough to say what needed to be said. I can’t fathom why you didn’t do that. I just don’t get it.

The other problem is that it simply doesn’t matter to you. I was this little bit of nothing in your life. That’s where I get stuck. I matter to people. I select them carefully, but once I decide? People love me. And… I don’t know. I don’t understand why you didn’t. Just a little. In some minor way. How you could lie outright. What you must have said to the other women about me – during or since. What kind of standard document exists that explains the presence of someone who was admittedly stupid but painfully sweet. The punishment, I decided yesterday, for your bad behavior is that you don’t get to know me anymore. Don’t get to hear when I think a meeting is annoying, don’t get postcards that tell how the weather is in whatever locale I’m visiting because I hope it makes you smile, can’t discuss books where I tell you I think you’re wrong. Pickwick in prison was annoying.

But you don’t see it as punishment. You weren’t amused or charmed or interested and therefore the lack of me is negligible. Deleted. Lack of significance confirmed. Some strange little character you can only bother to acknowledge when the poor thing talks about you.

I am not a cow, damn it. And if you or your friend – or any of your friends – think so, then you’re wrong. Terribly and completely wrong. I feel like dismissing what happened concedes my defeat to a degree I simply can’t tolerate. Because to people I love, to 44 (and probably decreasing as I write this) people on bloglines, to me – I matter.

So somebody needs to buy me a clue as to why I can't focus on that, instead choosing to dwell on the few people who think I don't.


EthidiumBromide said...

Perhaps the subscribe just switched to a new RSS reader and closed the Bloglines account? After all, I used to use Bloglines but switched several months ago to Google Reader since I think it is so much better (although I think I still have my Bloglines account activated, collecting gazillions of unread posts). No need to be disappointed in losing a reader if there are other possibilities - just a way to think on the bright side!

life_of_a_fool said...

Bloglines is not something I've explored or figured out, so I have no thoughts on that. But I nodded in agreement or laughed at two other bits: 1) I also don't understand why so many people choose to make unpleasant situations a thousand times worse by not being direct and honest. It's possible to do this while still being tactful and unnecessarily hurtful. Really! Yes many choose the passive-aggressive way out, which is much worse. I don't know why, except that it probably seems easier to them at the time. 2) I recently got an email from a former friend with whom I had a long and painful history. He said something like "I miss our friendship." My initial response in my head: "of course you do, I'm awesome!" Ha. Maybe I'm not as insecure as I sometimes think. :)

The Contessa said...

Katie, thinking you are fabulous not only isn't wrong it's a good thing. Delivery of it again is something else.

I struggle with this too and had to laugh at your under-grad story. I truly have been there.

It's funny too - it's not an ego that we have so much but one we are trying to convince ourselves we are!

I focus to much on the stat counter too...

And it means something to me that people read me and comment and I am always wondering what I do wrong when I see nothing. It's just me and it's just a blog and I have to get over that!

I LOVE your blog and read EVERY day.

You ROCK girl!

flossie said...

Dude, I'd kill for 44 subscribers! You're doing well!

Anonymous said...

hey, i am reading and catching up...
i think it's great that you are gonna write a book and was very excited to read that! you are a great person and yah, why wouldn't someone love you?! i did as soon as I started reading.

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