Celebrity Social Contracts

Someone in my life peripherally associated with me erupted recently to spew fantasies, lies, projections and malice about me. It was done first in a private forum, and then the person sought a more public venue.

This isn’t the first time it happened, and given the nature of the person’s hatred, it probably won’t be the last.

I find it baffling that this person is so intent on attacking me. What’s the point? I’m not famous, I’m not rich, I don’t own any islands in the Pacific, and I haven’t invented either a cure for cancer or a safe and plentiful energy alternative to fossil fuel oil. I cry easily, I laugh easily, I get mad quick, I get over it quick, I don’t hold grudges, and I can’t find a great-fitting pair of blue jeans. There’s nothing that stands out about me to draw forth such venom. Musing this way led me down other pathways, wondering about the extreme examples of projection and slander that famous people experience. Remember Richard Gere and the gerbils?

Years ago, I heard those rodent jokes. I confess, I snickered. A really kinky bizarro image formed in my head. It was all so juicy and salacious that I was hooked in. Now, with what I’ve experienced from someone telling lies about me, I feel a little ashamed. Was I colluding in slanderous gossip? That’s not the person I want to be.

The person who spreads lies about me invents pretty damning stories. I always feel a little sorry for people who have to put others down to pump themselves up; I’m also secure in knowing that the people who know me, the people involved in the truth of the matter, know that it’s false and malicious nonsense, spread by a vindictive person. But still, it’s painful. Lies hurt. And it’s potentially damaging to my reputation and to the hearts of people close to me.

In a larger way, I have to wonder, is this what celebrities experience, when the most outrageous and intimate stories are published about them? When their privacy is violated with sly and cozening falsehoods? If so, I feel for them–even if they do own islands in the Pacific and have sussed out the perfect pair of Levi’s. I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what I’ve gone through.

I used to think that celebrities set themselves up for rumors and gossip by entering the limelight. That is, by seeking out fame, by accepting the adulation and positive projections we heap upon them, and the money and social status that accompany fame, then celebrities are also tacitly accepting derogation, slander, and the inevitable negative projections. Because the edge between perception and projection is a fine and tricky thing, more like the play of figure and ground than like a big iron gate between two yards, so we are all always sliding into vomiting forth what’s inside us–exactly at the moment we think we’re taking in truth with exquisite sensitivity. And a person who has sought a world stage must be prepared for this fact of human nature: to be out in the public is to invite other people’s stuff.

But now I think that simply to be alive is to invite other people’s stuff. Objectification for unconscious reasons simply occurs, all the time, like the ocean ebbs and then rushes back. So I think twice about giggling at certain jokes. I can’t always prevent myself from seeing a really funny, sicko image in my head. I’m not the Buddha. I don’t pretend to be. But I think maybe our public figures deserve the benefit of the doubt.

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