Monday, February 10, 2014

"Look At Me!" or How To Deal With Attention Seekers

When I was in high school, I had a friend who was a bit of an attention whore. Maybe "a bit" is an understatement. Maybe saying "full blown 24/7" is closer to the truth. Whenever we went anywhere together, she HAD to be the center of attention. It wasn't enough that she got noticed, she had to be THE one everyone noticed. She was a younger version of Blanche on "The Golden Girls". This friend, like Blanche, believed she was the prettiest and most desirable of those of us who were friends of hers. She would pout or flounce out of the room if every head didn't turn when she walked in. She was everything I wasn't; thin, blond and beautiful. However, she seldom had a steady boyfriend and spent a lot of nights at home while the rest of us went out and had fun. I'm sure a lot of the boys at our school were afraid to approach her because her rejections were legendary. The boys she dated had to have money and a nice car and dress in the latest style. Pretty shallow, I know. But when a girl has nothing going for her but looks, then that's all she looks for in other people. I used to wonder why she befriended me. I was certainly not on her social scale. And when it came to looks, forget it. I couldn't hold a candle to her. One of our mutual friends suggested that she hung around us because we were no threat to her. If she had developed a clique of girls who were just as pretty as she was, then she would have had to spend most of her time competing with those other girls for attention. And she didn't want to do that, obviously. This way, she was assured of always being the center of attention whenever we went out. I was young and I wasn't self-aware enough to know that she chose girls like me to be friends with because we made her look good.

When I got older and I was making my own money for the first time, I filled my closet with pretty clothes and I learned how to put on make up. I saw this girl a few years after we got out of school. She was living with an abusive alcoholic. Her once beautiful features were marred by black circles under her eyes from lack of sleep and she wasn't dressed in the latest fashions either. She pushed a baby in a used stroller and wore a man's coat. I was enormously embarrassed to be seeing her like this. I had never seen her at anything but her best before that moment. This girl, who wouldn't even date a boy if his car wasn't brand new, was waiting for the city bus when I ran into her. I asked her for her number so I could keep in touch with her, but she replied that she didn't have a phone. Then her bus came. I was sad for her, watching her  struggle to get the stroller onto the bus. When I got home later that day, I told my mother I had run into Amy and I related to her the circumstances she was in. My mother shook her head and said "She's reaping what she sowed." I couldn't shake the thought of Amy, who was always the prettiest and most glamorous girl I'd ever known, was living in a house without a phone with an alcoholic who abused her. A lot of people might have gloated and said "How the mighty have fallen!" but I just couldn't do that. Yes, I know she used us to make herself look good. Yes, I also know that she occasionally laughed about me behind my back. But we were stupid, selfish children in those days. We were adults now and Amy was a mother. A few months ago, I was sitting in the break room at work eating my lunch when I saw her obituary in the newspaper. She was my age, 52 at the time and had died with her grandson in a car accident in Arizona, where she had been living with her daughter and son-in-law. It was this tragedy that had made me think of Amy after all these years. Her funeral was held locally because she had wanted to be buried next to a husband who had died in the 90s. So I went to her visitation and funeral. When I got to the visitation, the casket was closed, a testament to how violent the accident had been. There were pictures of her all over the place, looking just as I remembered her--beautiful and decked out in the best. She had obviously married someone who was very good to her. I met her daughter, the child she had been pushing in the stroller that day. It was her son who had died in the wreck and her sorrow was palpable. I couldn't even imagine losing a parent and a child in one fell swoop. I introduced myself and told her "Your mom and I went to school together." She asked if I was Cheryl and I said "yes". She went on to tell me how much her mother had admired me and how she had been mortified at me seeing her in that state all those years ago, when bad decisions had forced her to live a life she never imagined for herself.

Attention seekers have always been with us. And they abound in the spanking scene. To a certain extent, I'm one of them. I feel like I have to keep up with the traffic or I'll get left eating the dust of all the pretty young girls in the scene. While I enjoy attention, I don't have to be THE center of every one's attention. And besides, I can't compete at my age with the 20-somethings. They all have their sweet smiles, perky boobs and bottoms and their adorable personalities. I had my time to be in my 20s. Granted, there was no spanking scene back then and no social media like Fetlife with which to play on. Heck, there was no Internet. There were personal computers back then, but they were very limited. Even if there had been an Internet when I was in my 20's, I didn't have the kind of personality in those days to put myself out there like I do now. It took many years and a lot of trial and error to get me where I am now.

So does one deal with attention seekers? First of all, you have to know that there are different kinds off attention seekers. There are the kinds that are so cute and so sweet that you can't help but love them. There are the kinds that are a bit more irritating because they don't want to share the spotlight. These are the ones you might give a tolerant smile to instead of voicing your irritation. But there's another kind of attention seeker; the kind that act more like divas and who can't abide anyone else even getting any kind of attention. Fetlife exists just for them to be seen and admired. Thankfully, there aren't very many of those and they are easily ignored. Many of these divas not only post photos simply for the attention they know it will get them, but they generate drama whenever possible in order to keep others focused on them. The photos I can deal with. The drama, not so much. Drama Queens are attention seekers in one sense. Someone causes them a few seconds' worth of discomfort and life as we know it should end while they sort out feelings they are ill-equipped to deal with because people have always worshipped them. Welcome to the real world, sweetheart. The world is full of people for whom you have no significance. I mean, have your tantrum and then get over it. This is how the rest of us live. Not every minor disappointment is worthy of three days of your drama.

Please don't think that I'm being insensitive. I try to be there for my friends, no matter how trivial the problem. That's part of what being a friend is; telling that other person "I'm here for you!" The average person, who has lived a life filled with disappointments and challenges, learns how to pick and choose what's worth getting worked up over and which ones are best shrugged off. Take a chill pill, Jill. Just because the store is out of your favorite coffee or someone cut you off in traffic is no reason to make the rest of us miserable, too. The best way to deal with people like this is to ignore them, much like a parent ignores their child's temper tantrum. Take away the diva's stage and there's no point to the drama. Now I'm not speaking about the person who occasionally posts a status like this: "Grrrrr!! The store is out of my coffee!" I'm talking about the person who doesn't know how to deal with even the smallest setback in their day without making sure everyone knows about it. They aren't used to seeing other people going on with their lives and laughing and having fun without them. It's unthinkable that life doesn't just go on pause when something negative happens to them. They are the center of their own universe and therefor, they think they are the center of everyone's universe. Well, sorry to disappoint you, but you're not. Of course, I want everyone to be happy. And if a friend of mine is having a bad day for whatever reason, then I usually offer to call them and ask them privately if there's anything I can do. For a drama queen, this isn't good enough. Everything has to take place where other people can see and give them even more attention. They aren't happy until every person in the feed is commenting on their journal entry or posting comments on their photos of the soufflĂ© that fell.

Yes, there are attention seekers on Fetlife and in the scene. How you deal with them will sometimes, unfortunately, determine what kind of day the rest of us in the feed have.

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