The Creepy Bar Guyon April 10th, 2009
Making pictures and writing stories for a living is great, until you put them out in front of people, and everything you may ever have enjoyed about it all can evaporate in a moment with one “You suck.”
Making yourself mercifully free of the good opinion of others may render you impermeable, but you might simply be autistic.
I go through periods of feeling comfortable with my work, and criticism flows from me like water off a duck’s back.
But a lot of creators won’t admit any weaknesses at all. It’s like giving their enemies a free shot.
A past acquaintance was one of those foul weather friends who could not resist repeating back to me any doubt I had expressed of myself as if he had just thought of it. He had the imagination of a brick, never an original observation in his entire life, and I finally realized that there was NO FREAKING WAY I could ever tell him a single doubt or concern, because he would be repeating back to me what I had already said of myself, and regurgitating all to everyone in his vicinity as if he had discovered something shiny and dangerous like uranium.
Once I told him how I had used a photo of an actor as a model for a cover painting I had done, and how no one had seen any resemblance because I tried to make it a point to use my reference as reference, and not to merely copy what I saw. I hoped no one would be able to recognize my source, I added.
It took no time at all for him to come back and boastfully declare that he knew exactly what photograph I had used (GOTCHA!) because he had seen it in a magazine and recognized the actor right away, as my foul weather friend is so observant and wise.
Of COURSE he could see a resemblance with that actor of a great sudden (two years after I had actually done the piece) because I had told him I had used the actor as a model. Amazing how he had never seen any resemblance before I told him it was there. I’m looking at the painting right now, and I don’t see any resemblance at all, frankly.
And his sudden revelation was horseshit because he had never seen that photograph in a magazine. I had taken that photograph myself at a convention. It’s never been seen anywhere except in my reference file. But given a little bit of incentive to SEE something because I had TOLD him it was there, suddenly his eyes were opened and he saw a place to niggle me, and went for it.
Does saying something about yourself or your work give people tacit permission to dive in and have a go?
You know, if you mention to some folks, “Eh, I need to lose a few pounds,” there are those who will respond, “Oh, no. You look great.” Because they know that you are a friend seeking a few words of assurance.
And then there are those who will respond, “Since you mentioned it, you do look fat.”
A few year’s back I had gained about 6 pounds and was trying to drop it to get into this gorgeous evening gown for an important business party. I mentioned this to a small-time writer acquaintance.
While talking to some colleagues about the upcoming party, the acquaintance then piped up “And she’s been trying to lose weight like crazy to fit herself into this gown HYUCK! HYUCK!” Because the addition of a raucuous guffaw when insulting a woman about her weight in front of her business colleagues (people he’d never even met before, they were my colleagues, not his) is just the perfect touch.
Everyone turned to this social inept and glared.
God will be good to them, but if there was a God, he’d have struck that little worm down right then and there. (EDIT:…um, we’re not friends anymore.)
I’ve read that some people use insults to “tenderize” people, to soften them up, the way you beat up meat. The object of the insult may be more open to the advances or the company of people they might otherwise ignore. I’ve read that some guys do this with women in bars, thinking that if they treat a good-looking woman badly in the initial interaction, she will be so surprised by the treatment that she will be more likely to respond to his advances. There are guys who brag about being shot down for a date and they relay clever responses: “Honey, it was just an offer for a mercy f*&^k.” or “I was just trying to do you a favor.”
Whoa, in my book, not dating that guy means I dodged a bullet, but I understand some men expect women to respond to this sort of behavior with heaving bosoms and parted lips.
Any bad experience I had ever discussed will never be forgotten by some, and will be dredged up for maximum effect at the opportune moment. Even if I say, “Let’s not go over this again, it’s painful history” a foul weather friend will never fail to bring it up and chew it over. After awhile, I began to realize this sort of person enjoys the cheap power this gives them.
Initially, someone who feeds your insecurities may seem as if they are being empathetic or knowing, but they may also simply be taking the opportunity to cut you down to a tasty size. If you feel like you can talk about your faults with this person, you might get the impression you are making a connection.
Or you may have just let someone in who is just going to keep digging and digging until you hit rock bottom.
Expressing an insecurity is not a weakness, but some people see it that way. Wolves run when rabbits howl.
Informed criticism can be very good for you, but much of the time the stuff we creators get boils down to “You suck”. And your critic turns out to be the creepy bar guy who wants you to think he talked to you because he was doing you a favor.
In the end, you’re probably your own worst critic anyway.
And this dress does not make me look fat.