Stop Caring So Much About What Other People Think
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that given a chance, all of us would like to date Jennifer Lawrence. You don’t get the title of “Most Desirable Woman” on the planet for nothing. But what makes America so intrigued by Jennifer Lawrence? Sure, it’s that she’s gorgeous and talented, both a future Oscar-winner and the star of the most successful current franchise in Hollywood. (When I think about the fact that she and I are the same age, it makes me want to vomit.) However, what makes her so irresistible is the fact that she openly doesn’t care about the charade of celebrity. In interviews, Lawrence refers to acting as stupid and prefers staying home in her pajamas and watching Real Housewives to going out. She’s also obsessed with Meryl Streep, so the girl has her priorities right.
Compare Jennifer Lawrence, who everyone I know has agreed upon loving, to Anne Hathaway, who people seem to irrationally despise. (Exhibit A: That BuzzFeed article on Hathaway.)
This used to mystify me, but when I thought back to Anne Hathaway’s Oscar hosting gig with James Franco, I started to get it. Franco notoriously checked out of the ceremony — as part of his weird performance art thing only he gets or as a result of really good weed — and Hathaway had to host the Oscars for two, overcompensating for Franco by turning the volume up to 11. Seeing her perseverance and resolve that the show must go on (with or without her co-host) made me like Hathaway even more. She not only put lipstick on that pig; she made it sing and dance.
But most people could only see Anne Hathaway’s wide-eyed desperation. It just looked like she was trying too hard and that she was desperate for us to love her. When Hathaway lavished attention on Sally Field at the Golden Globes, her critics didn’t find it heartfelt and genuine but ingratiating — a shrewd move designed to help her win dat Oscar. By being so earnest all the time and so eager to please, it makes people not trust her or despise her. Remember when Hathaway initially got the Catwoman role? The internet almost went into a coma with its rage seizure.
This reminds me of a theory a friend of mine has about Obama. In reference to Barack Obama’s bipartisan efforts, he told me that reason he makes so many people angry — on both the right and the left — is that Obama wants to be the cool kid at the lunch table, badly. As something of a social media genius, the Obama team is desperate for the “like” and the PR push — that act or unexpected facial expression that will make America’s GIFs fall in love with him. By this theory (which I marginally subscribe to but find interesting), Obama wants to be the New Year’s Eve of presidents, designed to appeal to absolutely everyone. But people hated New Year’s Eve — because the problem is that when you try to make everyone happy, you make no one happy.
Look at Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, who have never been more popular than they are now. Why? Because they stopped caring what people think of them. When Hillary ran for president, people lambasted her for trying to “outmen the men,” defeating the political patriarchy by using the master’s tools. She tried to play the devoted wife and the girl next door (her campaign song was “I’m Your Girl,” after all) — while also being the “brass balls” in the room. But by not worrying so much about her public image, that image became hotter than ever. Remember “Texts from Hillary?” You couldn’t create that kind of PR in a lab.
Similarly, the epic GIF of Michelle Obama “throwing shade” at John Boehner might not have been politically savvy in classical terms, especially for a husband playing the bipartisan game, but it was a reminder to America why they loved her. Michelle became the first lady of being a total badass.
With these theorems in the back of my head — which may or may not have any relation to reality — I recently counseled a friend of mine (who was clearly drunk) who called me at three in the morning, looking for dating advice. First, I assured her that she didn’t wake me up (she did), and then between poorly muffled yawns, I listened to her plea.
I’m going to call her Cady. Cady met this cute Lebanese boy at Bangers and Lace, a trendy-ish bar in Chicago that I’m too poor to afford anything at, and really wanted him to ask for her number. Cady asked, “How do I get him to like me? I really want this guy to ask me out.” Cady was recently single after a long-term relationship and unsure about how this whole hooking up thing works. Like every girl in the Dating Books section at Barnes and Noble, she wanted to know what the rules are.
And that’s the problem: We get so caught up in the rules of the game and conforming to other people’s expectations of how we should behave that we forget to let ourselves just be. We forget to kick back and enjoy the little things about dating that make it great, like that nervousness that he won’t ask you out or that stomach-tickling moment before you kiss for the first time. When we’re worried about being the idea of someone interesting and desirable, we ensure that no one is happy in the situation. It doesn’t matter whether he asks you out or not. It matters whether you’re having fun and being yourself.
I once took this advice and applied it to a job I hated, where I would go into work every day desperate to make my bosses happy and do everything right, ensuring that a) I lived in fear of them and b) I kept screwing up because of it. But one day, after getting yelled at by my boss the millionth time, I decided to stop living for his approval or anyone else’s. I was going to start going to work every day as if that were going to be my last day on the job. I was going to live like I was getting fired. I did end up getting fired — or rather, I beat him to it by quitting — but I learned that I hated it for the right reasons. When I quit, I walked out with a smile on my face, because it had been the first time I ever enjoyed my job.
So, I told her to stop caring so much about the guy or about dating in general: “Don’t listen to me or anyone else. Write your own rules.” I then explained to her my Jennifer Lawrence Vs. Anne Hathaway Theory and told her to go be the kind of person who doesn’t need someone like me to tell them what to do. Be the person who makes their own decisions and says what’s on their mind, whether people like it or not. Be the person who is too loud and makes mistakes sometimes, like farting in public or accidentally dissing Meryl Streep. Be the person who isn’t afraid to be herself and maybe go home alone sometimes.
You might not get laid, but you and those around you will admire you for having the courage to do you.
That’s the best dick inside you you’ll ever feel: the dick of self-respect.
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If you’ve been looking for a chance to say something then this very well could be it.
I wish to God I’d had a list like this when I was 23.
Answer phones better than anyone else has answered phones before. Relay messages so brilliant, they bring people to tears. Turn the coffee run into the choreography of Swan Lake. Become best friends with every intern and every underling and every taxi driver you encounter.
I remember taking the pen and notebook from that woman outside the courtroom, flipping to a clean page in the book, and writing, JESSICA IS SAD in big, bold, uncoordinated letters. “My sister is going to be a good writer someday! Look at how nice her lines are!”