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i am really good at being shocking
but shockingly bad at just being
by maigen thomas (@Maigen)
1.23.12
pop culture

So I'm a girl, right?

Right.

As a female, there's a general understanding that we don't require pick up lines to meet men or get a date. The joke is something like all you have to do is say “Hi.” While this may be accurate to a very large degree, I wouldn't say this is totally true. Friends of mine say that's not the case at all, but some of those people have spent an evening with me at bars near Times Square during Fleet Week, shooting fish in a barrel. I mean, flirting with military boys on shore passes. Same thing.

But me? Well, I don't exactly have a problem meeting people. I never have. I'm fairly outgoing; I have no trouble striking up conversations with strangers, and I seem to have a personality that helps make other people laugh and feel comfortable pretty quickly. I like being social, telling stories and impressing people. Just saying "Hi" isn't really my style, though. It doesn't always reflect well on who I might actually be on the inside, but if I want attention, I'll get it.

Okay fine, I'll admit it. I'm an Attention Whore. I'm perfectly willing to admit that I like attention. I don't think it's because I didn't get enough as a child, and I'm pretty sure – at 30 – that it's not just a 'phase I'm going through'. This is, like it or not, my personality.

Many people use the term disparagingly. Tightened lips and raised eyebrows indicate their true feelings toward those they deem 'attention whores'. Having always embraced my own idiosyncrasies, I can refer to myself as an attention whore and not feel as if I'm belittling my self worth. I have friends who say it, and say they 'mean it with love', but I don't think that's really the case. I understand where the sentiment is coming from, though.

If you break it down to the basics being a whore is, and has always been, socially valuable. Traditionally, a whore provides a specific service for a defined cost. That doesn't mean her additions to society are always deemed acceptable by polite standards.

Modern cultural proprieties and sensibilities being far less structured than ever before makes it easy for attention whores to perpetuate the traditions of the social transaction. I provide hours of entertainment in the form of silly anecdotes, shocking stories of debauchery and situational humor. You keep laughing at my jokes and asking for more. It's a social dance we both participate in, willingly. Brash, confident, charming, loud, boisterous, I am all of these things. I've always been more comfortable in the spotlight than hugging the wall.

But there are inherent problems with this kind of interpersonal interaction, through history and by today's standards. Gone are the days where flirting with a gentleman could earn you a public cut-direct by anyone of Quality. But even in these avant-garde times, being an Attention Whore gets you eerily similar treatment from people. It seems that underneath the veneer the rules remain the same.

Being shocking means I can probably get laid, but the same behavior that would get me laid isn't going to snag me real affection, lasting respect or even just a Nice Guy.

I'm really good at being shocking,
I'm shockingly bad at just being.

Two examples of this situation, examples that are as different as night and day:

On one particular night filled with shocking behavior I was with a group of flight attendants out at a bar in Amsterdam. Combine a couple of *several* drinks and an audience more likely to egg me on than make sure I got home safely – and the next thing I know I've been challenged to a Make Out Competition and BY GOD you don't challenge Maigen to a competition and expect to win. I was on this like a fat kid on a cupcake. I downed my shot (Ouzo, my least favourite) and turned to the tall, shaggy blond dutch guy at the table beside us and baldly said “Do you want to make out?”

“No.” he says. I'm a little shocked, to be honest. Do I laugh at his decisive answer? Maybe he's got a girlfriend. Maybe he thinks I'm ugly.

“Why not?” I ask with challenging curiosity.

“That's too forward.” he is politely but definitely shaking his head. I understand. No problem, buddy.

I turn to his friend, who has been sitting beside him the entire time, watching with interest. “Do you want to make out?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Good answer.”

I ended up making out with three guys that night, all of them totally cute (we're in the Netherlands, of course they're cute). Eventually, though, I was determined to be too hammered to win (thanks to continuous free shots from the hot Italian bartender). A table full of my raucous friends played Rock, Paper, Scissors to see who would help me find my way back to the hotel. Whoever he was, he was very polite when he dropped me off. Thank you, random Dutch guy, for not trying to take advantage of a drunk flight attendant. That was sweet of you.

Shocking behavior, right? Not something a Lady would do? Yes, but I had fun and ended up with a scandalous story to reenact for my friends. I consider that to be a wonderful experience.

That said, a recent interaction had me reconsidering what it is to be an Attention Whore, and whether or not being one is integral to my identity.

I was in the airport (I know, of all places for a flight attendant to be) killing the last thirty minutes left before my flight started boarding. I checked out sunglasses at the $10 store, handled some expensive lotions at L'Occitane and ended up strolling into a nearly empty Starbucks in an out of the way part of the main terminal. There's a large window that opens a view into the newsstand next door, and through it I accidentally made eye contact with the tall, handsome guy perusing magazine covers.

You know that awkward 'Oh crap! Accidental Eye Contact! Mayday! Quick! Look at something, anything else!' thing that people do? Even if I did happen to be checking out somebody, I would never let them actually catch me at it, and it's worse when it's totally unintentional. I momentarily panicked. I looked at the cups for sale, then the beans display, finally remembering there was a menu behind the bar. Despite knowing exactly what I would order, I stared at the menu on the wall as I finished walking past the window and arrived at the register.

Just as I open my mouth to reply to the barista's 'What can I make for you today?” there is a flicker at the corner of my eye. Someone has walked in. I glance up at the visual disruption to see the same guy walking into Starbucks. He is 6'3 with dark hair and blue eyes. He's wearing nice jeans, a sweater over a dress shirt, matching shoes and belt and a sport coat. He is handsome, smiling. And he is clearly making eye contact with me.

I did my best to respond. I'm afraid all I managed to do was flash some halfwit smile, mumble hello and proceed to claim my beverage, then walk at an extremely fast, awkward gait toward my concourse.

Had I stuck around, I might have found that he was as interesting as watching dust form bunnies under the bed. He might have been a closet cross-dresser who was just checking out my shoes. He may have wanted to wear my skin to his birthday party. But all I know is that he seemed like a NORMAL GUY who might actually find me interesting and what do I do? I lock up like a bike chain in four feet of snow.

One of my goals for 2012 is to be more genuine, more real and more honest. I want to let people get to know me – yes I can be loud, but I can also be thoughtful. I can be boisterous and crazy, but I love to make other people feel good about themselves and show others how much I care. There's a way to incorporate both of these disparate sides of my personality into my daily life and through doing so, find a way to achieve balance being me.

What I learned from all of this navel-gazing is what I feel everyone should know:

  • First, haters are gonna hate.

  • Second, don't be a hater, because the target may (eventually) be you. Karma goes around and comes around, you know?

  • Third, set and maintain high standards for yourself and those around you - if you aren't going to show yourself respect, why should anyone else?

  • Last, but not least: be yourself. If it feels awkward and weird, it's because you're not being true to the one person that matters.


  • ABOUT MAIGEN THOMAS

    Maigen is simple. is smart. is wholesome. is skeevy. is spicy. is delicate. is better. is purer. is 100% more awesome than yesterday. She';s traveling the world and writing about her experiences with life, love, yoga, food, travel and people. Mostly people. Because they';re funny. hear more of her random thoughts @maigen on twitter.

    more about maigen thomas

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