02 August 2002

"From error to error one discovers the entire truth."
  - S. Freud"

Bias and prejudice creep up on us in the most insidious ways. We calmly go about our business, wending our way through the myriad contortions our lives afford us, and the whole while, we are being conditioned. That's a passive sentence, and it's a passive act I'm describing. I've come to the conclusion that it's impossible to be so vigilant at all times I can completely escape unscathed. Try as I might, I simply can't seem to avoid it.

What's brought on this observation, you ask? Why, my most recent discovery about the biases and prejudices I have held unknowingly all these years about what it means to be famous. I also had a dash of rich thrown in for good measure, but that's a different story. Now that I have had my fifteen minutes, I can't imagine how I could have been more wrong. It wasn't the thrilling romp I expected -- and I was completely unprepared for the reactions of my family. The people who hold me dearest in their hearts -- my mother, my sister, my husband, my kids, my friends -- have treated me as if my celebrity was something for which I ought to seek out medical treatment, rather than something to, well, celebrate.

My husband, in particular, who weathered this particular high sea in the marital ocean has been relatively subdued, and on occasion, sour about what came to pass. This, even though he gladly partook in every sybaritic, heady pleasure that was aimed my way over the past month as a result of my achievements. When once our photographs appeared in a newspaper heralding my little triumph, he remarked, "Hah... that's funny. They didn't even write my name in the story." By the end of the month, he was roundly tired of being identified everywhere we went as "Mr. Bilateral," and made a point of correcting people who made that mistake.

But back to my own mistake. I discovered that my accomplishment overshadowed me completely, and engulfed all possibility that anyone might want to discover the truth of who I am, irrespective of the thing I did. I was pampered, petted, indulged, and glorified. A lesser person might have succumbed to the unthinking praises and believed herself actually deserving of extra or special treatment, when in reality, what I did was no more wonderful than what hundreds of thousands of people bring about every day of their lives. The only difference between me and those people was that some deus ex machina known as a judging panel singled me out as the recipient of a significant prize. Granted, I did create the thing for which the prize was awarded, but frankly, the seeds for the thing were already germinating within me, regardless of any awards or riches. The competition only accelerated something that might have happened without any encouragement from anyone.

I now understand why actors, rock stars, and the nouveau riche all present the odd mix of entitlement and embarrassment they frequently do. It's because deep down, they don't understand what they've done to deserve all the attention and rewards, and they feel fraudulent, accepting love they're not certain they've earned. I gained some insight into this through my own experience. After the 50th person asked to touch my left hand "for luck, please," I felt separated from the rest of the world. I'd become a popular icon. I realized that this phenomenon would last only as long as the media made much of me. The realization frightened me, as it must frighten every rational human being to whom it happens.

I don't envy the famous, having had my small share of it. It was more than enough for me.

Excuse me. I have to go pay some bills. I wonder if the creditors will want to save my autograph?


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