To understand where this tornado-of-need originated, it’s important to understand that I am a part of two communities, which, through no fault of their own suffer (at large) a hefty amount of invalidation, marginalization, skepticism, and shame.
Why did you unfriend me?
I miss you!
I thought you liked me!
I need your advice!
I need to vent!
Tell me your life story!
Please accept my friend request!
Did I upset you?
What did I say?
How do you get so confident?
How do you do it?
Hello, why don't you answer me?
It’s been a whirlwind past year. I went from being a 31-year-old, brand-spankin’ new transplant to the proverbial Pacific Northwest who knew no one and nothing . . . to a 32-year-old fairly well-connected and established singer, writer, carny, and Official Character™ of the Seattle Arts scene.
I never learned how to put a hand over my face and say, “No pictures,” or conveniently brush off appearance offers with, “My people will call your people.” (Does anyone really say that, though?) I only learned how to be nice. Approachable.
So when I’m at the local QFC buying seltzer and someone comes up having a fangirl moment, I am wholly humbled and all smiles. When someone politely asks if they can take and post my photo, I almost always oblige, putting on my best carny-glower for the camera. A kid asked if I would sign his T-shirt at a show once; I was so flattered, I almost cried.
Those are all harmless and respectable. But . . . sometimes I’m less adept at laying down boundaries. One person was so taken by my appearance, they emboldened themselves to hug me, tug my beard, and kiss my cheek without asking. I was uncomfortable to the point of momentary paralysis, hoping if I said nothing it would be over sooner (like a possum playing dead). I would later kick myself for not putting up a hand. Because I don’t want to make anyone feel unwanted. I want to be NICE.
Because social media is a huge part of any rising performer’s elbow-rubbing and calls-for-artists, it is no surprise that this influx has spilled over into the tricky politics of Facebook friendship as well. I began receiving requests from people anywhere I went, because I’m just so darned approachable. Let’s face it: even in my thirties, being 4’11” with apple cheeks and candy-colored hair, I am doomed to a life of being called “adorable.”
With that, came anticipated inquiries:
How do you have a beard?
(Witchcraft. Well, that and PCOS.)
Are you on T?
(I’ve been “on T” my whole life, to be technical.)
How did you get the confidence to grow it out?
(Pull up a seat and get comfortable, kid . . . )
Are you a lesbian?
(I think my boyfriend would be sad to hear that.)
Are you a man or a woman?
Can you give me tips on being more confident?
(Nope. I’ll let you know when I have ‘em for myself.)
I’m so jealous—I wish I was a bearded lady. It’d be so cool, right?
(Walk past the crowded bus stop on 3rd and Pine at night; then come back & tell me that.)
You’re so lucky to have all these people loving you. Everyone hates me. What do I do?
(Uh . . . I’m sorry . . . ?)
Where else are you hairy?
And repeat. And repeat. And repeat.
One person asking one question, one time, is innocuous. But several one persons asking several one questions, several one times, began to feel . . . oh, how did Bilbo Baggins put it? “Sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” Yes, that.
The more I performed, was photographed, and had my words published, the more verbally-grabby and pleading/demanding people became.
To understand where this tornado-of-need originated, it’s important to understand that I am a part of two communities, which, through no fault of their own, suffer (at large) a hefty amount of invalidation, marginalization, skepticism, and shame:
1) NonBinary people
2) People with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome)
As I’ve previously discussed on the former, NonBinary people are in that weird purgatory of not-quite-oppressed because of our invisibility, but still met with eye-rolls and laughs for our “attention seeking.” This is intensely damaging in its own right. Whereas gay and binary trans people have the panic of wondering if their parents will disown them upon coming out, we often don’t even know HOW to come out. Maybe we won’t be thrown out on our asses, but it’ll likely be because our parents are laughing, thinking, “This is just some trend these kids are doing right? Eh, next week she’ll be something else.”
That constant invisibility and patronizing of our identities affects our very lives, our very worth, our very selves. And so we look to “the ones who made it” and seek help.
The PCOS community suffers its own unique shaming. In a society that weighs a woman’s value by how hairless she is below the brows, how thin (or “fit/healthy” so that we can give it a moral bend) she is, and how good of a mother she is, having a condition that leaves you prone to “excess” (subjective) hair growth, weight gain, and infertility is naturally going to do wonders for a woman’s self-esteem. I’m lucky enough to (finally) enjoy my hair and enjoy my child-free existence (my weight is another story). But for women who dance daily with depilatories, diets, and dreams of delivery, the struggle is real. And so we look to “the ones who made it” and seek help.
Therefore it is easy to see someone who is “out and aloud,” as I am, as “the one who made it.” Even though I have discussed that my bravery comes from living through my fear—not without it—I appear to be someone whose queerness, hairiness, and chubbiness have been wholly embraced, studied, and celebrated. I must have the answers!
I don’t. I’m still learning myself. I’m still figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Time management. Personal space. Overbooking. Hell, I’m still using electrical tape for pasties.
So when you turn to me for therapy, messaging me on Facebook with, “HELP! I hate myself! How do I fix this?” I may very well be in the middle of a therapy session, myself. In other words, I can’t be The Patron Saint of All Things Queer and Hairy. I’m flattered, but I just can’t. I’m just a person who took the energy I was hating myself with, and learned to spend it promoting myself.
About two months ago, it became clear that I had bit off more than I can chew with my aforementioned niceness, as my inbox became flooded daily with people needing advice, a shoulder to cry on, and a quest for my life story. I found myself with more “friends” than fans, and more inquiries than I had time to answer.
In a move that I knew would risk pouts and grumpy folded-arms, I let everyone know I was creating a personal profile for just close and local friends, and implored that everyone continue to follow me on my fan page.
But I could not have anticipated how much entitlement and self-importance would arise from this move. Messages like, “I thought we were friends! What did I do wrong?” and “Okay, fine, I get it, but it’s not fair and I miss you,” may not aim to be emotionally manipulative, but they absolutely are, and I received them in abundance. The worst was the petulant, “I think you’re letting all this fame go to your head.”
At first I laughed. “All this fame,” as the person who still unplugs her thrift store coffee maker after every pot to conserve energy? Who wears a pair of jeans for a month straight before washing them to save quarters? But then I was angry.
What is “letting it go to my head?” Setting healthy boundaries, and explaining to people I cannot be responsible for their confidence and well-being? Remembering that Facebook friendship is not a locked and inescapable contract? Reminding myself that I do not owe anyone my time? If that is the case, then yes.
Yes, I have let fame go to my head.
These days, I still receive entitled messages, complete with manipulative sad-emojis and passive aggressive attempts to guilt me into friending them and doling out therapy. In response I send them my FAQ, which politely but briefly states why I have a beard, why I can’t solve your problems (but I wholly recommend therapy), and why I can’t answer every question that comes my way.
For some people that won’t be enough. That’s no longer my problem. They are their own project, and I will continue to be mine. Because “letting fame go to my head” is serving me a lot better than being NICE. Sad emojis be damned.