You know what’s interesting? Internet relatability. Relatability—there’s a weird word. It’s meme fuel, the driving force behind influencers and YouTube stars. The key to online fame. It’s a code I can’t crack, so of course I want the key, not to cash in, but to know….
It’s like you’ve got me a present, but it’s for my birthday. I can’t have a hint? Not one little hint?
I hate surprises—I hate knowing about surprises. I hate the weeks of speculation, the rank curiosity, then I rip off the paper and it’s exactly what I wanted, and that’s great, but also disappointing, because really? All that buildup for a pair of gloves? Why? To what end?
In the weeks leading up to my thirteenth birthday, I nagged Mother so much she spilled the beans: “it’s porno, all right? I got you a porno book. Now go away.” I didn’t believe her, but it was true. She’d got me an illustrated edition of Il Decamerone. I guess that was “the talk.”
Relatability, though, that’s not so much a present as a rude awakening, like your first day of school. You show up at the gates and you get it or you don’t. There’s these shibboleths, these secret signs, and who comes up with those? A council of four-year-olds in the cool treehouse? My first day, I made the following missteps:
- I brought an apple for my playtime snack, didn’t know to call it a “play piece,” and wouldn’t trade a bite for an Alien Spacer;.
- I pulled my socks all the way to my knees;
- I had shoes with rounded toes;
- I talked about A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which had just been on TV. There was a dog puppet in it, and I wanted one. I thought someone else might’ve seen, and they’d know where to get one….
- I didn’t know the words to “All Things Bright and Beautiful”;
- I didn’t know the Lord’s Prayer;
- I didn’t know how to give someone a shaky blanket. (That’s when you grab a nerd by his wrists and your friend grabs his ankles, and you swing him back and forth, singing “shaky blanket! Shaky blanket!”.) For the sin of not knowing how to do a shaky blanket, I got one done to me.
That might not all have happened in one day. But it happened, and it kept happening, and I think it still is. Back then, it was obvious: I didn’t know any pop stars, so I couldn’t play tag. I hadn’t seen Blue Peter, so I couldn’t join the club. I wore the wrong clothes, liked the wrong foods, had the wrong accent, and used the wrong words. I was strange, not quite right. A curiosity, not a friend.
That’s not true any more, though. I have a TV. I can watch anything I want, not just Saturday afternoon at the Met. I know most of the pop stars, and who’s famous for what. I know about bake-offs and Bachelors, makeup and drag queens, Christian Louboutin. I have an iPhone and a flatscreen and something from Chanel. I have…two life-sized bronze rats that watch me sleep from the shelf. I have cool things, know cool things, but still I don’t pass.
I don’t want to be famous. I want to know how it works—how memes start, what goes viral. If I knew that, I could blend. I could pass every check without tripping the bells. I’d be a normal kid with normal friends, normal hopes and normal dreams. I’d understand strangers and not be afraid of them. The wall would be gone, that invisible screen….
This tweet, for example. I tweeted this tweet:
I wonder if monkeys wank in front of human beings because they know we don’t like it, and they don’t like us….
I don’t know. It crossed my mind. Monkeys whack with purpose. They look you in the eye. It’s like the middle finger, but a dick. Anyway, I tweeted that. It got one comment, no likes. No-one liked that at all. No-one liked this much, either—
Weird Al Yankovic should totally do a zombie Guns ‘n Roses parody, where it’s the week after Thanksgiving and you’re looking through your fridge, all like ♫ I’ll just end up chomping…through the cold November braaaaaain. ♫
…I mean, I laughed. I snorted ginger ale.
Someone who wrote Canada instead of candida has 1,500 likes. That is pretty funny. I should be funnier, but not too funny. Polite-titter funny. Dinner party funny. Like Victor Borge.
Donald Trump’s just got seven hundred thousand likes for retweeting himself. How has he cracked the code and I’ve not?
It’s not what people think. It’s not looks. It’s not money. Or it’s not just those things. Not every pretty face becomes an influencer. It’s not cuteness, either: there’s only one Grumpy Cat. There’s something else, some sign that says hey. I’m one of you. It’s comforting. It’s familiar. It feels right. Folks catch that signal and follow along, but I’m blind to it. What’s wrong with me?
(Don’t, y’know, tell me what’s wrong with me. What’s wrong with you? Where’s your manners?)
This is a fingerprint that sort of looked like a puppy, so I drew eyes on it, and a dog tag. But it’s just a dirty fingerprint.
7 thoughts on “Just a Dirty Fingerprint”
Well if you DO find the secret can you tell me… Nah scratch that, I’d rather not know – who the hell wants to be normal.
I do know where you’re coming from though, I had some pretty dreadful experiences at school too and have always been on the outside as well… I sure as hell don’t understand what makes people popular either (It’s got to be the hair with Trump – I’m sure that’s an alien overlord).
I used to get really hung up over not being popular, but these days I just don’t care, maybe I’m just too old and crusty to care – I’d certainly hate to be boring.
You’re a pretty unique person Socar – embrace who you are – there’s too much bloody mediocrity in this world as it is, for God’s sake don’t join it!
I wouldn’t say my school experience was dreadful, just weird. I had friends, and so on, but there was always the sense that there was something missing, some secret code that eluded me. Part of it was not having the stuff my friends had, and not understanding their cultural references, but it always seemed like there was one more ingredient, something just out of reach.
I don’t think understanding that code translates into mediocrity. I know plenty of extraordinary, brilliant people who blend perfectly in social settings. Indeed, I often think I must be the boring one, though how I could possibly be duller than Trump, I can’t imagine! Ha, ha!
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mmm… I’m not so sure you know, in my experience the stand out, extraordinary have always been those that stood apart from the crowd. But, yeah I can see it would work the other way too. However, they might not always be what you think. I’ve known a lot of people (myself included) that could be the life and soul of the party and still have nothing in common with the people around them and feel very much alone in a crowd. It’s an act – a defense mechanism. I found very quickly at school that making people laugh was a surefire way of stopping them punching me in the face.
A lot of celebrities can be like that. Take Bruce Willis (pop culture – sorry), a huge larger than life star, but in private rather shy and private.
You’re right – there is a ‘something’ that makes some people more popular than others – damned if I know what it is though. But if it means I have to watch crap TV and keep up with all the modern culture I’m not sure I want it.
And Christ no, you’re not boring 😀
Ha…you know, that would be kind of heinous, if we’re ALL just pretending, or most of us are—if we all think everyone else has cracked the code, but really, there is none, and we all scrabble along as best we can. Wouldn’t it be awful if the people who seem to do it effortlessly are actually putting MASSIVE amounts of time and effort into it, almost like a full-time job…and then we’re out here all bewildered because we’re doing our actual jobs, and then we’re tired, and Christ, how does anyone manage? Ha, ha, ha.
My mother’s one of those people, always fits in, very popular and friendly. Not online, I mean—she doesn’t have an online presence. But in real life, she just gets it. Or maybe she DOES work at it. I mean, she volunteers for everything, goes out all the time, spends a lot of time checking up on her friends…it seems to come naturally to her, but who knows? I’ve never asked.
My father’s like me, only more so. I don’t think he has ANY friends. He doesn’t make an effort. I do try, but only to the extent my energy holds out. I don’t have time to be immensely popular, but I’d like to be able to join a conversation and not wonder if people think I’m weird.
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That’s an awful thought actually – what if everybody is thinking the same thing?!?! :-s Maybe we’re all just as mad as each other – or some are better at acting… some people do just seem to be magnets to other people.
Sounds like your Mother knows it – or she cares about other people, which is a different thing entirely!
I’m definitely with your Dad – I don’t try either 😀 Well, maybe a little, I certainly have to at work – I try to get on with everybody, just to avoid the office politics if anything.
… I’m not as grumpy as I’m making myself sound.
Actually as an aside that’s one of the things that surprised me about wordpress – the amount of time you have to spend reading and commenting on others blogs just to get interest in your own – it’s like a 5:1 hourly ratio or something. It’s ultimately what burnt me out and stopped me from posting.
Oh, you know, with blogs…I mean, don’t listen to me. I suck at social media. But you remember the old version of my blog, right? For the first year or so, NOBODY read it. I had maybe two regular visitors, and there was no way to comment on anything. I got zero interaction. I kept posting anyway, as the point’s always been mostly to write things down so I can read them later. Readership only really picked up in the third year, and it wasn’t till towards the end of my blog’s life that I had a large contingent of regular readers and commenters. I think it’s even harder to get a following now, having to compete with Facebook and that. I think it’s easier to get a large following if you post consistently about one thing, rather than writing a diary about your life. For example, I’ve noticed that when I write about my job, I get a lot more engagement than when I write about, say, my teeth, or some guy I bumped into on the street.
I could write about work all the time, but I don’t always feel like it. So I write about whatever I want, and if people want to snub me when I complain about life, that’s their call.
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I do remember your first blog very well, as it was the first blog I read*. Alas by that time you;d started to trail off a bit.
But I do know what you mean – getting your name about is a LOT of hard work – but it does make you ask why you’re actually blogging – is it for the like or for the joy of writing?
It does seem so very ephemeral as well – readers come and go and there is a distinct feeling sometimes of ”well you haven’t commented on mine so I’m going to ignore yours’.
Having given it up for a few months I don’t really miss the interactions. I DO miss writing however so if I start it up again it might well just be for the joy or writing. I DO wish it wasn’t themed though – I need a random blog I can spout any old crap on…
Personally I enjoy reading about your teeth and the guy you met in the street – oh and that bloody ladder. I’ve always enjoyed your sense of humor and the way you see the world around you…
*strangely I found your first blog when I googled Linda Bergkvist – perhaps there was a link through Deviantart or something? I still think that was bit strange but then that’s the internet for you!