In one of the “lighter” of the several excruciatingly awkward moments of Girls this last week (Season 2, Episode 9), Marnie decides to do an impromptu performance of her own arrangement of Kanye’s “Stronger,” at the party of her ex-boyfriend phone-app start-up. Her voice is good. The arrangement is interesting. The moment and the audience were both ill-chosen, and witnessing the whole event was so very very painful.
When it’s all over, her boyfriend takes her into his office, and she says, “Should I be embarrassed?”
The possibility of these kinds of moments terrify me, and the the reality of them horrifies me. Right now I have flashbacks to the lingering camera angles on all the hipsters in the office watching her performance with pained expressions. It’s not just an embarrassing thing that happen like a strap breaking and a boob flopping loose during your ballet recital. That’s embarrassing, of course, but it’s an accident that happens within a prescribed setting, in the course of a prescribed activity. Especially if your ballet teacher chose the costume, none of it is a result of your bad choice. It’s not because you just don’t get it.
Fear of being that person who just doesn’t get it is the monkey that I’ve carried on my back for almost as long as I can remember. In fifth grade, a large portion of my friends were mortified that that one girl didn’t wear socks with her loafers. It didn’t matter an iota about her socks. I was only mortified that such a large number of people were voicing mortification and that the girl knew nothing about it. Fuck, if it could happen to her, over this–it could happen to anyone, over anything. And it did. Clear through adolescence, as one might imagine–and into adulthood. There were people who spoke up at the wrong times at meetings, and people who spoke to the wrong people on set. They didn’t understand the dynamics of power, the etiquette of being near, but not of, celebrity. They just didn’t get it.
I’ve been having wrestling with the monkey lately, maybe because I’ve been trying to put myself out there when I can–be as honest as I can, give all I can when I think I have something to give, navigate the treacherous territory of social media. Lately, I’ve been making some mistakes (or, alternatively, lately I have tottering self-esteem and think I’ve made mistakes even when I haven’t, or maybe I have), and sometimes I can feel the mortified looks. Too often I feel like a ridiculous white girl trying to cover Kanye to a room full of unforgiving eyes. And whatever I have just done, I have to grapple with the fact that the people who have witnessed it may never see me again without remembering it. And I have to engage in the spinning self-interrogation that seems obligatory in the wake of faux pas. What was my intention? What was I trying to do? Was I being arrogant, self-important, above myself? Was I compensating for insecurities? Was I trying to prove something? There are so many possibilities, it seems impossible to even admit the possibility of altruistic motives.
At the same time, again, for almost as long as I can remember, I’ve realized that at some level–the real level– these social mistakes don’t matter at all. Loafers without socks–don’t matter–it’s just a construct. So are all the aspects of “knowing your place” that are imposed on people based on gender, ethnicity, class, and around here, the Hollywood class/power structure. It goes without saying, that kind perpetual second-guessing is really non-conducive to doing good creative work or just being a happy individual.
So then I have to breathe for awhile and put my mistakes into perspective. After several minutes of breathing I can accept that in vast scheme of things, my sins are usually about the equivalent of coming to school in loafers with no socks–social sins that carry the same weight of punishment as a crime in a world of fifth-grade fashion aficionados, but in the moral universe are almost utterly unremarkable.
In other news, there was no yoga teacher to teach class at the gym today, so I got up and led the class. I tried to do a good job, to be clear, set a good tone. Some people walked out early on, as I often want to do when another student gets up to teach. Some people seemed genuinely pleased and grateful–they’d driven through traffic to get to class, and they got to have class. I think I did it because I have a love for yoga, and thought I had enough experience to be able could give something of value where nothing was being given. But if you said I wanted the limelight, on what grounds could I refute that? After all, what else is a blog but a platform for a spotlight to shine on, a tacit admission for one’s need for attention? Should I be embarrassed?