Monday, October 18, 2010

How not to be a freak...

First, let me say I have NO idea how to do this. I either recognize people that are various levels of celebrity or I completely space who they are. When I recognize them, I go through the mental "oh my god, holy shit, they're a real person and they're close enough for me to talk to, am I cool enough to even address them, fuck me I'm in high school all over again" panic response. I wish I could be one of those people who just have that innate "fuck you, I'm awesome!" persona.

I don't. I am forever that geek that learned how to code before computers were "cool" and have the social awareness of a gecko. I can do small talk (yay for being in a social business setting for ages) but I absolutely fail at the graceful exit from small talk.

Here's where it all started for me this weekend. I attended TAMLondon and met people that I follow on Twitter/have only seen on stage with their stage personas in full form. Cue my brain going into overdrive. The conversation went something like this...

Ryn's Id: Look, it's someone you appreciate. Because you appreciate them and "get" them, you have something in common with them. Go up. say hi!
Ego: Is that really wise? They're people just going about their day.
Id: Oh, c'mon. They have to expect this on some level...
Ego: They are not going to magically become your friend. They will not remember you in 24 hours. Or even six.
Id: C'mon, it's all in good fun. Roll with it!

Eventually, the id wins out and then the nerves kick in. So far I've been fortunate enough that upon opening my mouth I have not said "You cool. Like. Wow. Shiiiiiiny." But it usually is something along the lines of "please allow me to tell you something about a way in which you have impacted my life that you may not have known about and likely will see as being somewhat creepy when I mean for it to be complimentary and oh god please something make me shut up and run away any time now I can't stop talking and if I don't breathe soon I will pass out I wish I could disappear where is the nearest black hole?"

I know, in my heart of hearts, every single one of us has done this at one point in time or another.

Here's the flip side.

After Saturday at TAM, I was stuck at Charing Cross waiting desperately for a taxi to take me home since the trains had decided that running as late as normal was just not on that day. I am quite (85-95%) certain that the nice man behind me in the queue for the taxis was Damian Lewis. A clot of us chatted while in queue and it wasn't until the next morning that I realized who it was in the nice overcoat. Had I known at the time, I would have been a stammering fool because I have used Band of Brothers as a teaching tool.

If my brain doesn't twig on some manner of fame (I do it in more niche areas of my life as well), I am fine and chatty and do the polite "stranger chat" thing with a willingness to let it taper off.

Back to TAM...

I'm fine if I can just go up to the person, say my little "you're brilliant!" or "thank you for [insert thankable offense here]" and run away. Much like going up to someone in elementary school and saying "I like you!" and running away (a la Eddie Izzard). And for the most part, people were willing to do that. But then you get people like Iszi Lawrence... Lovely woman. And tall. I rushed up to her outside and said "I follow you on Twitter, I think you're brilliant!" or something similar and was ready to walk away again and she Started Talking To Me.

In fairness, it was quite pleasant. Definitely one of those people that I felt like "yes, I'd like to buy you a pint and do things with your brain" but I also know that I am not the only person out there that feels that way. In fact, I bet if you follow people on Twitter, there are a lot of them that make you think that you have a "connection" with them.

That's because they are very good at interacting with people. As Stephen Fry wrote in the foreword to The Salmon of Doubt, "[t]he stranger might laugh and seem to enjoy the writing, but you hug to yourself the thought that they just didn't quite understand its force and quality the way you do..."

I have my list of people that I think "I would love to be friends with that person" - it's not written down because that would be a little obsessive and creepy. But I also try to maintain the grounding in reality (hard to do at a convention where things are a bit heightened by the "I've found my people" sensation) that I/they don't have to be friends with everyone and that again I am not the only person out there that feels that way. And I just don't have enough of the narcissistic tendencies to think that I am just that awesome.

But what I'd really like to know is what the celebrity-types think about it when they are approached by the hoi polloi (of which I am an imaginary-card carrying member) and aurally accosted with praise and gushing admiration.


  1. Here is what I try to keep in mind when meeting stars/idols/messiahs:

    When meeting celebrities (musicians, actors, authors) I usually say the same thing. Something like "I really enjoy your work, thanks for doing it" or, in the case of performers that I have just finished seeing live "Very nice work/show, I enjoyed it."

    More often than not these kinds of phrases will lead to a question from the person such as "what's your favorite" or, in the case of live performances, "how did it sound?" If it does, just give an honest but positive, and brief, answer. You can ask a question or two, but let them carry the conversation, if there is a lull, exit gracefully with a "nice talking to you" or whatever.

  2. A friend of mine (who has done all but promise that she will do a full on fangirl squee when we meet) did the tl;dr of this post:

    "Chillax, they are humans too, but just because they're talking to you and being lovely doesn't mean you are bestest friends from now on until the end of all times."

    That's almost exactly what I meant, with one addition...

    "To all the people I have met that I admire in one way or another... I am a huge dork and I apologize to the people I talked to if I came across at all scary and obsessive. It was nerves and I promise I will not stalk you."

    I think that sums it up pretty well.