’til i get there
“I would hate being famous,” you say. “It destroys who you are because you have to think too much about how you’re perceived. You lose the ability to be alone.”
You say it with a tone that indicates, here is the reason I have chosen not to be famous. This is not a real reason: you lack talent, you lack persistence, and somewhere deep inside of you, you lack the very work ethic that often defines you.
As part of the bizarre circumstances that cluster to form my life, I went to a Broadway show last year with a man who was once very, very famous. His car was met at the door by one of the show’s producers, who had previously indicated that the man would get a shout out on stage during intermission. As he stepped out of the car, he blinked like a baby bird reacting to sunlight for the first time.
There weren’t any lights to blink at.
After we sat down, he looked around nervously, keeping his head slightly bowed so as not to make eye contact. Around him, groups of tourists and Jersey Shore transplants hooted and hollered in their own brand of musical glee (it was not a classy Broadway show.) By intermission, he held his head high, making brave eye contact with strangers as he walked through the aisle on his way to buy a t-shirt. Life went on all around him.
He did not get called out after the break, during which they took us backstage to meet the actors. They were gracious. He talked about how wonderful it is that no one recognizes him with shorter hair.
I have a friend who used to be very, very famous. He does not go out much, but he showed up to my birthday party like he always does, full of jokes and smiles and well-wishes. We got into a roundabout discussion of a topic that he knows all too well, and he offered informed opinions while buying me drinks.
Later, one of my female friends sent me an email to say how much she enjoyed my birthday. She especially enjoyed talking to my friend, who by the way was so cute and so charming and such a shame, really, that he has a girlfriend. She then detailed the thought process that she went through on her way home that night as she put two and two together and realized who he was.
This happens like clockwork after every gathering.
I am reading one of those airy-fairy Eastern philosophy-inspired kind of books that I love but that no one respectable would expect me to read. One of the things that it impresses on the reader, over and over, is that we are not an amalgamation of the things that have happened to us. Who we are is instead irrevocably linked to how we respond to that collection of events.
I have a prominent scar on my throat. For a year or so after I got it, I hid it as best I could with scarves and cowlnecks and sometimes my fingers. Everyone who spoke to me seemed focused on ignoring it, never asking where it came from as though they knew they didn’t want to know the answer. Eventually as time passed, I gave up on the scarves and I started to forget about it and then one day I got into a conversation about its origins with a friend. He paused for a moment, peered at my throat, and said, “Oh, weird, I never noticed that before.”
I think fame is something like that.