Thursday, October 11, 2007

What The Hell Are You Looking At?

In Oprah's magazine (July issue), Martha Beck's column addressed self-consciousness. She gave a scenario for her readers where they go to a party feeling pretty good about themselves until they happen to see their reflection there. "The dress isn't just tight; it fits like Luciano Pavarotti's diving suit. Your hair looks as though a crazed weasel nested, bore young, and died there. Aghast, you wobble off your high heels and sprain an ankle. All eyes are glued on you. All conversation focuses on your disgrace. Everyone begins texting hilarious descriptions of you from their cell phones."

She goes on to state that the feeling that people are watching and judging you is largely an imaginary perception known as "the spotlight effect". Evidence is given that shows that others only notice you at about half the level you think they do. For attention whores, this is sad news. For everyone else, it is suppose to let you know that you shouldn't let your social interactions suffer because of the fear of being ridiculed. People aren't going to care what you do or what you look like.

I don't doubt Beck's conclusions from the straight world. However, in the gay world, you'd get more accurate advice from Carrie's mom ("They're all going to laugh at you!"). Well, not everyone will, but some will. I know this from participating in enough group situations where everyone passing by is fodder for incessant catty comments. I got so use to talking that way, I even did it with my family. Of course, they don't understand this part of the culture and just get offended by my sharp, incisive comments.

The funny thing is that I can dish out, but I really can't take it. I hate to be ridiculed. I go way out of my way to avoid any situation that may subject me to being made fun of. Obviously knowing what I know could have a deleterious effect on my willingness to be in gay social situations.

I manage using a few principles I learned along the way. One way is to tell yourself that "using only the power of my mind, I will bar the doors and then unwrap the fire hose..." (Just kidding.) For anyone who cares about this I provide the following advice:
  1. Go out with someone else who draws attention. The cat's claws generally go out for only the easiest prey in the group.
  2. Choose the right clothes. If you are large and well proportioned, dress down with neutral colors. If smaller, or not well proportioned, or have noticeable flaws, dress up with clearly more expensive clothing and brighter colors. This may seem counter-intuitive, but like mixing an acid with a base, the clothes work with you to neutralize the problem.
  3. Remember that the wall and/or doorway is your enemy. Stay away. Being there screams "I am ready to be savagely critiqued."
  4. Last, and most important, is the phrase "F*** you!!" Say it to yourself repeatedly as if you were addressing everyone around you. The concept is realizing that no one else is any better than you are and screw them if they don't understand that yet. This also helps you exhibit the necessary level of attitude to show you are also a formidable part of the pack.
Photos are from the movie Another Gay Movie, which for a parody of a dumb genre, is surprisingly funny.