The tyranny of my imaginary audience, or, I would love to not give a shit.

August 28, 2006 at 9:10 pm (Bloom Status: Downward)

Do you have that? An imaginary audience that you carry around in your head that has a few key members that are always sitting there with their arms folded, glaring at you? I have that. I am an oppressed people. The people of me are oppressed by five or six or eight hostile imaginary bastard dictators who have for some reason purchased tickets to my life, and there they sit.


I also blame the lighting designer of my life, who has subversively made it so the house lights over those seats never go entirely dim. The hostile people are subtly pinpointed, slightly lit. The friendlier, more supportive members of the audience of my life – they’re much foggier silhouettes when I look out there. And when I squint to find out more about them, they’re either dear friends who are obligated to love me or they’re people I don’t know at all. What I need are some well-lit, friendly acquaintances of known intelligence and taste out there. See, the ones I don’t know who are out there smiling at the show of my life…I have it so if you cut to them at other locations, you find out they’ll smile at anything. They’re smiling at McDonald’s commercials, smiling at Touched by an Angel, smiling at Celine Dion’s show in Las Vegas. I’m lovin’ it! So, I need a sort of tough crowd of discriminating acquaintances out there to be like, well, I came in here skeptical, but she won me over. Her life, how she lives it – I hate to admit it, but it’s GOOD.

The hostile people in my audience are people I know. I will never reveal their identities! But they’re around. They’re around. They’re not necessarily hostile to me in real life. But they seem like they’ve got some hostility ready to deploy at the first sign of foolishness. And I have cast them in these terrible, creativity-crushing roles. And now I have to figure out a way to fire them, or eject them from the theater, or kick them out of this mixed metaphor.

There have always been things about myself that I’ve felt like I’ve had to hide for fear of ridicule. Like, I skipped seventh grade. So in eighth grade, at my new school, I was like, they must not know I’m only twelve. They must believe that I am thirteen. They cannot know that I have skipped a grade. Being smart will be no help to me here at Jane Addams Junior High! It will be a big red target on my back! All year long, I was desperately trying to evade embarrassment. Ah, Jeeeesus, I can’t open a locker! Don’t let on! Don’t let on! Ah, Christ, my butt is too small! Oh, Lord, Lord, don’t let my mom drop my age into the conversation! Lord, let me rest! I am exhausted from dodging the bullets of ridicule! Slow me down, Lord.

And for a very long time, I kept my interest in spiritual matters on the down low. I was afraid people would think I was some kind of airy cornflake. Yeah, first I didn’t want people to think I was smart, and then I didn’t want people to think I wasn’t. I was afraid that people would assume that my open mind had caused everything to fall out of it. And then I sort of crept the cat out of the bag little by little. And now the cat is out. In case you didn’t know, the cat is out. I am all the way one of those There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy mofos. But I still get a little wobbly when I talk about these things and glance out into my imaginary audience.

I have my twentieth high school reunion coming up in less than two weeks. I’m frantically figuring out what to wear, how to cut my hair, what I’ll say about myself, how I’ll spin what I’ve been doing. It’s sad, really, it really is. I’d love to just make a small effort to look nice, show up and focus on other people, what they’ve been doing, and not overly care what impression of me people will take away. I would like to pull that off. What will happen is that I’ll futz with my appearance until I’m a walking shred – I am guaranteed to have one squirt too much hairspray on the front of my head – and then I’ll go and I actually will be interested in other people and what they’ve been doing, but I’ll be having a constant parallel heart flutter that will spike at any whiff of negative impression I imagine myself making at any given moment.

This has all gone on too long! I constantly put off doing important things because I follow imaginary trails out to the potential withering look waiting for me on the other end. Withering look?! A withering look?! I’m afraid of a facial expression?! YES! What gives? What is the fallout of the withering look that I fear so much?! Some sort of dangerous ostracism from my fellow man? A fatal trip to some kind of social Exile Island? What would happen there? Would I die? Is death in there somewhere? Oh, chickenshit, examine thyself. Set thyself free.

I would follow this train of thought out further but Weeds is on now. I gotta go. But there’s more here to figure out. Meet you here later.

Bloom status: No time. Mary Louise Parker. I don’t know. Sideways. No, lots of fear. Downward. Damn.

P.S. What a great episode that was! Holy shit, that show is good. The acting is so great. Makes me want to act like nobody’s business. Also, non sequiturishly, I love this quote from Steve Pavlina’s blog:

Intelligence can be used as an antidote to fear. If your life is full of fear, denial, and suffering, you don’t understand your life well enough not to be afraid. If you use your intelligence to increase your understanding, and if you fully accept the truths you discover along the way, you’ll gradually withdraw your power from your fears and begin feeding it to your desires.

I think that’s great. I’ve always heard of love being the antidote to fear, but sometimes that pops for me and in certain applications, like with my imaginary audience, it doesn’t. Sorry, Love. Love you, but you can be kind of vague.


  1. Eve said,

    First of all- I hope that the creepy audience member up there didn’t smoke around you when you were pregnant… and secondly- I am one of those blurry stranger audience members sitting waaaaayyyy in the back, loving everything you write, and considering myself lucky to have gotten tickets to your show.

    I know in my blog, I probably seem like one of those people who love everything and everyone- A fucking Pollyana riding on a unicorn, carrying a wicker basket full of hugs and kisses, humming a Celine Dion song, sliding down a goddamn rainbow into a pile of kittens.. but that is only because my blog is highly censored for Grandmas and such. I wish I were as brave and creative as you to write so openly and honestly.

    I hope you will accept my compliments as real- you REALLY are one of my favorite writers,and I am not just blowing bubblegum scented smoke up your ass. Your blogs are like one of those precious books that you never want to end, and you want everyone you like to read it too.

    I’ve been watching your show over the last year, and haven’t missed a song, and think you are phenomenal. A rare treat. I’m holding my lighter waaaaaaayyy up, soyoucan see me through the fog.

  2. Eve said,

    OK, shit. That last part did sound kind of Celine Dionish. Sorry.

  3. tinarowley said,


    Listen, you good angel. You are absolutely not among those imaginary gratuitous smilers. I happen to love your writing as well, and you’re clearly the kind of smart, funny, quick, ideal audience member I hope for. Your approbation is seriously appreciated and really does get in. When I rebuild my imaginary audience properly, you are totally going to be in there, and I’ll have the lighting designer do something extra-groovy to highlight you.

    You’re the best.

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