Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Q Is for Qualms, Queasiness and Questions

I've seen him tell this story in other places, but I like the way he tells it here. It's like he still can't believe he got to meet his hero.

I like what he says right at the end there, about his responsibility to be similarly encouraging to students. That means a lot to me.

I have qualms about meeting my heroes, or really any kind of celebrity, or, honestly, any person at all.

What got me in mind of this was this Buzzfeed post comparing the meet-and-greets of Rihanna and Avril Lavigne. Now, I don't think paying to meet someone famous entitles you to touch them or is a guarantee that you're even going to be treated in a personable manner. But that's kind of why I would never pay $400 just to meet a person.

I don't place a premium on meeting celebrities for a number of reasons. First and foremost is probably that schema of mine that I'm always, every time, bothering a person or imposing on them. I don't like to do that. I've had a number of nice celebrity encounters. I've talked before about how surprisingly warm and conversational Claudia Christian and Cynthia Rothrock were when I met them at conventions. You know who's really nice? Harlan Ellison. That was different from what I was told to expect. He's sharp and cantankerous, but when I met him at a convention, he was very cool with everyone as long as you didn't purposely try to antagonize him by purposely asking something stupid.

When I met Brinke Stevens, I was too dazzled by being in the presence of Brinke freaking Stevens to try and talk to her. (One person in her line actually hugged her; I have no idea where that kind of thing comes from.)

What I'm saying is, some people are nice in these situations. Lots of them are. I've seen Clive Barker, exhausted, make sure to shake everyone's hand as they pass by. I've seen Ted Raimi, beyond burned out, not stop until everyone in the room has gotten his autograph. There are people who go above and beyond.

But I have qualms a lot of the times. I had a friend who was surprised when I expressed no interest in meeting Hayden Panettiere, who I like on TV, at a convention. Why? Because all I could think was, damn, if I meet her and she's bitchy or indifferent, I'll assume she was having a bad day (unless she's outright rude), but I'll also feel bad and awkward and I'll never watch my season 1 DVDs of Heroes again because, well, that's what I'm going to remember. And who needs that?

(And for what it's worth, I did see a picture of her at that convention shaking hands with a fan and then frantically wiping Purell on her hands. I thought that was a little unfair; if you're touching a lot of strange hands in one day, you need Purell. I was constantly using that stuff when I was teaching. But because I jump right to "I'm a disgusting excuse for a human being," that's what I thought of first.)

Like I said, I have qualms about meeting anyone new. It makes me queasy. So queasy that sometimes I have to lock myself in a bathroom. I talked back in August about how I was so nervous meeting Carl's then-fiancee (now wife) Kate that I was having a panic attack on the way to have dinner with them. I had no rational reason for feeling that way; I'd never even met her before. But Carl's been my best friend since I was a kid, and me being me, all I could think of was that she'd just hate me upon meeting me. Like I said at the time: that's an unfair judgment, because that's based a hundred percent on my anxiety. (And Kate is super sweet and we got along great and they inspired me to write, if I do say so myself, one hell of a wedding toast. She's pretty amazing. Carl's my brother, so Kate's my sister now, and I'm very happy about that.)

That's my schema to deal with: that my existence is at best irrelevant to people and at worst a true annoyance.

I always want to do one of those Ask Me Anything series that Jaquandor and Roger do every year, but I figure no one cares to know anything and I'll get no questions, which I'll irrationally take more or less as confirmation that people just aren't interested. Keep in mind, I know that there are going to be people that just won't have anything to ask or won't be able to think of anything. I know this because when Jaquandor and Roger do theirs, I can almost never think of anything to ask them. I'm that bad at conversation. But I also "know," if you take my meaning, that no one's into it. That's my bias against myself combined with the fact that fewer people are reading blogs. Read about it here.

I have qualms about meeting people. It makes me queasy. And I have qualms about the queasiness itself, which makes me queasy all over again, which is basically the cycle of anxiety. So the questions go unasked and unasked for.

I'll say this: doing these posts is a great way to analyze yourself.

My point before was this: when you meet someone, you have the power to put them at ease, or at least be polite. That's something people will remember forever. But you also have the power to make them feel awkward and annoying, and they'll remember that, too. That's happened to me. That's happened to everyone.

So, you know... you don't have to hug anyone. But that Avril Lavigne thing didn't surprise me, because I've heard a lot of stories from people who met her--at events specifically set up for fans to meet her--that were a lot worse than just awkward photos.

Be kind. To yourselves, and to each other.

But I might need time to build up courage to meet you.

If I'm dying and can get one of those Make-a-Wish things, though--which I probably can't, because I'm 37, and dying kids deserve all of the wishes--I just want to meet Kermit the Frog. Or Taylor Swift. They're both good people.

ABC Wednesday


Roger Owen Green said...

1. I'd LOVE to get a question from you, if you think of one. DON'T think, please, that it's too stupid or too silly.
2. I am shy around some strangers, even at comic conventions, because I don't know enough about their present work to be conversant. (One experience in 2012 confirmed that.)
3.Damn Tyson tape damn near made me cry. Did you ever see his video on racism? Don't remember it particularly, but it DID make me cry.

Carver said...

What a great story/video and an interesting post. I have qualms about meeting people in general because when I'm nervous I tend to talk too much. People can never believe that I'm shy because my type of shyness comes out as talking in paragraphs although I'd rather hear what other people have to say. Carver, ABCW-team

Joy said...

Wow got all teary with that Carl Sagan video story. What a guy. No I never know what questions to ask either although I'll probably think of something after the event, doh.

Norma Ruttan said...

thanks for sharing the video, I got goosebumps!

Reader Wil said...

I enjoyed reading your post although the only person I know is Kermit the Frog. I don't think I would be ill at ease if I meet a celebrity.
Thanks for your visit.
Wil, ABCW Team

Leslie: said...

The difference between Rhianna and Avril's meet and greets may be the difference between Canadians and Americans. We tend to be more conservative. lol Loved that video and everyone should remember all the good things done for them by others and pass it on. Great post!

abcw team

Roger Owen Green said...

OK, here's a question for you to answer, if you would: when you did those favorite songs of the decades, how did you keep track of what songs were in which decade? I find so many CDs provide the copyright date of the package, rather than the date of the original album.

Nathan said...

I understand the thing about being afraid to meet celebrities you admire. Most of the times I did meet someone famous, it was pretty indifferent, although there were a few that were fairly positive. I've never paid to meet someone famous, but my wife did that to meet John Waters once, and it went well. I don't know. I've just come across so many diatribes by people who was annoyed because a celebrity didn't automatically want to be their best friend, which hardly seems fair to the celebrity.