adventures in extreme people pleasing.

One Christmas when I was not quite a child but not yet a teenager, my mother gave me a little wall plaque that said EVERYONE IS ENTITLED TO MY OPINION. I opened it and thought: my mom is soooo weird. I think I must have even said this out loud because I remember her going, "I know you think it's weird now, but one day you'll understand why I gave this to you." 

And my mother still does this kind of crap, all the time: gives weird gifts and then goes, "I know you think it's weird now, but one day you'll understand." And then I do not. I do not understand. And sometimes, I think about one of her gifts and silently ask: Why?? 

But the little plaque about opinions I do actually understand now. I still don't understand why I couldn't have gotten the make up kit with 250 different lipsticks and eye shadows like I asked for, but I now understand the plaque. For the record, that plaque was the only weird gift she's ever given me that I do understand now. Because Mom, I know you're reading this and Christmas is coming so listen to me: that plaque was the ONLY one. This year, just get me some wine glasses.

I don't want to blame anyone for who and how I am, because I am who and how I am because this is who I am and how. I challenge you to say that ten times fast while drinking. Having said that, I will also say in a really not-finger-pointing-at-all-just-sayin' kind of way that my father, raised by people who expected children to be seen and not heard and not even think about getting up from the dinner table until my grandfather said to, could often be a bit...steamroller-like with his own children. What I'm trying to say is: I have a hard time giving my own opinions now. And my mother saw this when I was a young, and gave me a small plaque to hang on my wall so that when I grew up I'd become bold and fierce and jump out of airplanes whilst screaming all of my opinions at the world. Which did not happen, of course. I bring Tylenol PM with me on long plane flights so I can be passed out if the plane crashes into the ocean. There will be no screaming of opinions from this girl, unless it's to scream my opinion about being terrified of death by fiery plane crashes.

I know, I know! I hear you saying: But Amy, you give lots of opinions here; this whole piece you're writing is one big opinion. Yes. However. Here I can be very bold because I know no one really reads any of this except my mom and some very sweet, dedicated friends (hi mom! hi friends!). So I'm not giving out any opinions that could make anyone mad at me (though, knowing my mom, now one of my Christmas presents will be a plaque with something really weird written on it). Or that, if I do, these people will most likely still love me and continue to take my calls after maybe a brief, stony period of silent treatment. 

But strangers don't have to do that. Do they? And strangers can be such a-holes. Seriously. I mean, have you read the Internet lately? 

Last year, during a writing class/writers workshop I was in, one of my writer friends read a piece I wrote and remarked: "Don't be afraid to give your opinion, is what we're saying. It's okay to rock the boat, Amy." I think about that every time I start typing here, every time I tweet something, every post I throw up on Facebook. I can rock the boat. It's okay to rock the boat, Amy. But I'm scared, Internet! I'm always scared I'm going to end up capsizing the whole thing.

I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings; I don't want to offend anyone. I hate getting my feelings hurt and being offended. It sometimes takes several days for my feelings to recover, and whole decades for me to stop being offended. I am working hard to develop thick skin, but I can tell this will be a lifelong process. And I think about that, too, when I give opinions. I don't want anyone nursing emotional wounds I've created or being offended by me for decades because I carelessly took a knife to their thin skin. I try to walk gently on the planet,and I spend hours berating myself and beating me up whenever I know I've hurt someone.

This is a real problem when it comes to creativity, by the way. I'm not hurt or offended if someone criticizes my writing, as long as it's done in a constructive manner. But I am loathe to hurt or offend others. It becomes a problem in that I look for only the most positive, helpful things to say about others' works of art. Which is important, because there is good in every piece of art someone produces; art comes from that Divine spark within, and that is always good. However, if you're truly serious about making art, there's always room for growth and improvement, and you should have someone or several someones around you who aren't afraid to point those areas out to you so you can consider them and then work to make it better. (In my opinion.)

I will share with you that one of the things I often speak with the Universe about is finding a safe tribe of fellow creatives--they don't all have to be writers, just creatives--in which to share our works of (he)Art. And to be able to feel safe enough, in that tribe, to receive feedback but also GIVE feedback openly, knowing I will still be loved.

Side story: A decade ago, when I first started writing seriously, I went to a couple of critique group sessions at a local writers' club. One of the people in it was a man in his mid-fifties who wrote mysteries. In these mysteries, the man would never reveal: who his main character was or even the main character's name...the setting...who the antagonist was, or even the antagonist's name...what the mystery was. You can only imagine my distress after reading and realizing: there is nothing positive I can say about this piece. Horrors! You guys, I can't even tell you how horrific that was for me--not a single, positive thing to say, except something like: Well done, you, with that comma placement! (except no! I think there were a lot of comma splices). Thank god someone in the group didn't worry about being too offensive, and they just said it like it was: Hey, what the hell is going on in this?! I didn't understand your story at all. What was the point? Where was the plot? Who were the characters? What IS this? WHY?!  

Mr. Mystery's feelings were totally hurt and he got all defensive. He was a mystery writer, and this was a mystery (he said). So everything in his story was a mystery; the readers were supposed to figure out the mystery that was in his brain. Put on our Psychic Hats and have at it, mystery readers, go go daddy-o! (Even the plot? asked the person. Especially the plot! said the mystery man all angry-like, It's not my job to tell you my mystery plot. Read Romance if you want plot, is what I think he also said.) And then they had sort of an awkward, passive aggressive argument and after that Mr. Mystery didn't come back to the next group. And I didn't go back to the group either, and not because Mr. Mystery didn't come back, but because I could tell they just weren't my tribe--there was a woman who only wrote children's stories about reindeer in it and when someone suggested she try other animals her next piece was about a deer, and another woman who wrote chaste romantic pieces with lines like She trembled softly as he kissed her smooth brow lovingly and chastely held her womanly hands and then looked in her eyes which shone like an angel's. I don't even know what to do with writing like that. My only suggestion for her would have been to make her characters stop being so chaste, go out! have some fun! enjoy some filthy sex! it'll be good for them! Except I think the characters were supposed to be Puritans in the 1600s. Or 1930s housewives. I can't remember now. (I'm sorry--I'm being ludicrously judgmental and harsh right now, I know. But honestly. He chastely held her womanly hands. What does that even mean?)

So I have a problem with piping up. And when I do, I always wait for moments when I know others will high five me so we can create a formidable army against those who disagree with my/our opinion. And if someone I admire a lot gives an opinion that is different from mine, I'm highly susceptible to changing my own thinking quickly--if I admire you, I want to be like you and I want you to like me, and if you think that, then okay! Me too. Because I'm wishy washy. And a Pisces sun/Cancer moon. And I have a desperate need to be liked. Adventures in extreme people-pleasing, I like to call it. I try to be the antidote to Mean Girl.

I'm telling you all of this because on Thursday, I watched Peter Pan Live. It was not good. But yet it was! Apparently social media has cultivated a phenomenon called hate-watching, in which snarky people tweet or blog pure snark while watching an awards ceremony, a tv show, or a classic children's production which is being aired live. I think NBC is one of the more exciting networks these days, because they seem to be taking risks on all kinds of things: trying to revive the miniseries format, live musicals, and staying with a series until it completes at least one season's story arc. I sense they see television is in a massive upheaval of change, and they're trying mightily to stay relevant and compete but also innovate. I can appreciate innovative. But it's also inviting Opinion (which is okay when constructive) and snark (which is okay too as long as it's not directed at me).

At any rate, I find the hate-watching entertaining to the extreme, and so I was more entertained by that than by the actual show. Besides which, I had to DVR it because it went from like 8:00 PM til 11:00 PM on a school night (what up with that, NBC? This was for kids....or wait! Maybe not...maybe NBC is developing a niche in which they air stuff seemingly for kids, but in reality it's so grown ups can play drinking games while watching TV and participating in real time schadenfreude on social media). After we watched Peter Pan (Live!) last night at a more reasonable time, Melissa announced that she loved it. She would like to dance and sing like them, and also can we get some wires in our house so we can fly around too? (NO.) (Okay, yes. That would actually be delightful fun. But only if we get a bigger house.)

Thursday night, most of Twitter agreed: Christopher Walken's Hook was fairly hilarious, but that's because most of Twitter agreed that Walken is fairly hilarious. Yesterday, Melissa was confused, because the only live Peter Pan/Hook she knows is Jeremy Sumpter as Pan and Jason Isaacs as Hook in the PJ Hogan 2003 version (which I've written about here before--how was that movie not a runaway hit of Harry Potter-like proportions? I think it's magical). Her major concerns from a child's perspective were: Why was Peter Pan a girl? Where was the real Captain Hook, and why is this one is too happy? Other than those two things, she was captivated--as she should be, since this stuff is so much better for her development than Barbie Goes to Princess School. Live hater-watch THAT, Twitter.

At any rate, I desperately wanted to join in on the hater-watching tweets and make new hater-watcher friends, but I was worried about Christopher Walken's or even Peter Pan Live's producers' feelings being hurt if they saw any of my tweets. And I feel like there's a fine line between creating humor and just being hurtful. Plus also, I genuinely like Christopher Walken; his FatBoy Slim dancing is magical, just magical. And his casual, nonchalant mumbling when he couldn't remember all the words on Thursday evening? Delightful! God bless him, I'd have completely frozen in horror at myself (I'm being very open and honest here: once, I played piano in a talent show, messed up three notes and then froze for about an eternity until I was able to find my spot again; then I just rushed through the whole thing all crazy-like so I could get off the stage). 

Walken just plowed through it all. I don't know. He may have been drunk. Really, I think that may be the only way to do these live television show productions. 

Plus, they worked so hard on this. I hate it when someone creative has poured their very all into a production only to watch it be attacked. Is there a way to constructively critique the less-than creations in ways that won't drive anyone to drink away what's left of their careers in a depressed funk? And yet I do appreciate some of funnier snark when it's clearly deserved--I am thinking specifically of people who produce things JUST to make money. Books and songs and movies that are horrible, not a single artsy thing about them, just: give us your money/time/attention. On those, please sarcastically opine away. The makers of those creations won't end up drinking themselves to death, I promise you--they'll take the attention as a sign they're doing something right, and be happy people are talking about them and their egos will soar. 

When that kind of societal snarky ridicule happens, and it's done well, I feel inadequate trying to hang out with people who excel in it--that kind of snark is an Art in and of itself. (Wine. I needed wine, is what I'm saying. Wine always leads me to believe I'm smarter and funnier and cleverer than I actually am. But it also makes the keyboard hard to see after a bit and also I'm less inhibited about what I'll agree to, and so tweeting and blogging drunk may not be for me.)

I think the whole point of this post is that I often have crises in confidence, briefly, after seeing how clever and popular some other people are. I would like 1.9K people to re-tweet some inanity I've put up. And that's because I would like to make lots of friends on and offline, and not have to have passive aggressive pissing contests with strangers in the process. Because I'm an extreme people pleaser, which makes giving my opinion hard sometimes, because I become paralyzed with fear I'm not good enough or someone will dislike me for saying what I think.

Which is why I'm going to end this with an strongly worded opinion. Have you been listening to Serial on NPR? There is now a lot of opinion out there about whether or not podcasts and other programs like Serial are okay--are they undue influences on the justice system? Or are they checks and balances? Do they just appeal to people's raw emotions? Or do they seek justice in ways the current system doesn't? Are they perpetuating bias in America? Or exposing it? 

Here's my strong opinion: who flippin' cares? It's fascinating listening, and also I am certain Adnan is innocent. Arrest Jay for god's sake. And also: this better not end with a "this was just a psychological experiment in podcast torture" or anything. I expect some firm conclusion, Sarah K. (Either way, I will still love you and give Season 2 a chance, so don't be mad at me for giving my opinion about that, okay?)

Oh, and before I go, here's my opinion-slash-philosophy on romance and love:

What Momus said (is that okay?).

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