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.