Friday, October 14, 2011

Rapunzel's Secret Identity: Mole Girl

First, a minor announcement: Several years ago, I snagged the Blogspot address for The Stealth Geek and parked my Stealth Geek FAQ on it. In a fit of procrastination yesterday, I decided to do something with it, so I'll be indulging in my geeky side there. There may be some overlap with topics here, but it will be more focused on being a fan blog instead of a writer blog. If that's your thing, then visit The Stealth Geek and spread the word.

Yesterday was an all-around weird day. It didn't help the general sense of gloom that my friend's obituary was on the list of top local stories that showed up whenever I went to my web mail's landing site. Then when I'd put off going out for groceries too long and was killing time before lunch, I ran out of things to look at on my usual Internet haunts and started just going to all my somewhat publishing-related bookmarks (so I could call it "work"). I got to the Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Books site, and what do I see at the very top of the page? My bookcover. And my name. I was the "whatever happened to?" question of the day. And I really did find it that way. I was not egosurfing or Googling myself. It was a real shocker, and it took me a while to stop shaking. On the one hand, it's wonderful to know that people are still thinking of me, and that kind of exposure on that popular a site can be a good thing (it looked like my Amazon ranking improved). On the other hand, if you're a "whatever happened to?" question, does that make you a has-been? I responded in the comments, since there was a lot of speculation that wasn't entirely accurate (like the accusation that my web site was out of date -- it isn't. It's just that nothing has changed in a very long time). And then it turned into a discussion on e-publishing, which I'm staying out of because that site can get ugly if they turn against you and the e-book zealots scare me.

I went to ballet class because I figured that dancing would be great stress relief. On the way, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up the essential items from my shopping list, and on my way into the store I ran into someone from choir, then I ended up in the checkout line with my pastor's wife. Since I was on the way to ballet, I had my hair in a tight bun and no makeup on, so I felt a little self-conscious. At least my pastor's wife recognized me even out of context, so that proves I'm active enough in church that she knows me (and it's a pretty big church). Then I got to the ballet school and found that I was the only person there from my class. I guess everyone is staying out until our regular teacher gets back from maternity leave. Worse, the substitute was the Old World-style ballet mistress. If you've seen any ballet movie ever, you know the type, except this one is Mexican instead of Russian. So I had her eagle eye on me and only me for the entire time, which made me even more self-conscious and got me flustered. I'm fairly graceful, but I'm not all that coordinated, so remembering what I was supposed to be doing while moving my feet, maintaining proper positions with my arms, moving my arms and moving my head all at the same time while being flustered and knowing I was being watched intently was a train wreck in the making. I made her shake her head in despair, though I'm sure I did learn a lot and got a lot of minute corrections. I found myself thinking that maybe Mole Boy has the right idea. If I could have found something to crawl under, I would have.

And then I realized that one reason Mole Boy gets to me -- and that I "get" him -- is that I have a fair amount of Mole Girl in me. I simultaneously fear and crave attention. It feels weird and wrong to seek attention openly, but I kind of want to be recognized, and yet it can be utterly terrifying to be the center of attention.

This cartoon came out earlier this week, and my first thought was "Darn! They're on to me! Back to the drawing board for the Ongoing Plan for World Domination, since this is pretty much the basis of it, and now everyone knows."

I generally function on the "if you're good, no one will see you coming" idea, along with the idea that if you're nice, people will want to work with you and want to do nice things for you. But as I've been dealing with some career things and thinking about my Mole Girl tendencies, I'm realizing that there's a fine line between not seeing you coming and taking you for granted. People are more likely to notice the people who make a fuss. Doing PR for Ericsson as long as I did showed me that this may be a cultural thing I've picked up from my dad. It's a very Scandinavian attitude -- you don't put yourself out for attention because if you deserve it, you'll get it. You also don't have to make a fuss about things you're working on because you know that everyone else will get their part of things done when they need to be done. You don't need to nag or remind people -- and doing so is even something of an insult. This could explain why I worked so well with Ericsson that I got recruited by another agency when they consolidated their accounts and the new agency needed someone to run all the Ericsson accounts. It's a very low-stress way to work when everyone's on the same page and operates that way. But it all falls apart when you're dealing with someone who doesn't work that way, and most Americans in the business world don't work that way. You have to push yourself forward and ask for things you want, like promotions, raises and job assignments. If you don't, they'll go to someone else, even if you deserve them more. You have to remind and even nag people about deadlines and deliverables or they won't happen, and you'll get nagged even if you're on schedule. If you're thinking Scandinavian and are dealing with American practices, that gets frustrating. You'll get passed over for advancement and left to languish where you are. You won't find out until the due date that something hasn't been done. You'll get nagged even when you're on schedule.

At first, if you're like me, you turn it on yourself. You'll think you didn't get the promotion, raise or assignment because you really weren't worthy. You'll think that other people didn't get their parts of your project done because it was a low priority item and they didn't care about it. You'll think that you're behind schedule or have given people reason to believe you're unreliable when they nag you. So you don't protest or complain. Eventually, though, you'll start to look at things objectively and evaluate the situation and realize that you really should have been the one to get the promotion, that your project was important enough to be done on time. You don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, though, so you'll say something generalized and oblique about it, and when that doesn't get the message across, you'll find a polite way to mention it that doesn't place blame. And then the explosion happens, and it usually comes as a complete surprise because the person you're dealing with hasn't been paying attention.

I tend to let things slide, in part because of that "if I'm not getting attention, then it may mean I don't deserve it" thing and in part because I pick my battles and don't complain when I don't think it will matter much. But I'm not really letting things slide. I'm just not making a fuss. That means that by the time I say something in a self-deprecating way, as though it's some kind of quirk that there's this one thing that I really like to have happen in a certain way, with no direct accusations or specifics, that means NORAD has already gone on high alert. When I get more specific but without being too angry or accusing, the "I kind of hate to mention it, but it bothers me when this happens," sort of thing, the bomb bay doors are already open and it's probably too late to get to the bomb shelter. When I actually complain specifically and directly, what you're seeing is the mushroom cloud. The bomb has already detonated. I've been dealing with a situation where NORAD has been on alert for a few years, and I've made multiple "gee, this is one thing that gets to me" remarks. But I think my being "nice" has created a sense of complacency that I won't mind. The nuke went off this week, and there's someone out there awash in radiation who doesn't seem to have noticed. I'm not sure what more I can do to make it clear without getting really ugly, and getting ugly isn't in my nature. Getting ugly would also probably hurt me more than it hurts the people I'm dealing with (for now).

And, yeah, that's on top of everything else that's going on. I had thought about retail therapy, but that can backfire if they don't have anything in my size (and they never do) or if it doesn't fit well. I ended up at Target and bought a couple of fun little things while also taking care of my grocery list. There was a Phineas "big ideas" notebook on the clearance shelf that I couldn't resist. And I obtained chocolate. I think I may head to the library and see what DVDs they have. I think mostly I need a really good laugh, and old favorites don't work in the same way because most of the laugh yourself silly response comes from surprise. I haven't decided what I should do this weekend. It might be good to spend some time with others (more laughing) but I'm not sure I'd be very good company. There aren't any movies out right now that fit my current emotional needs, and there's major construction on the freeway that connects me to the rest of the metro area, so that also hampers things.

I promise next week I'll quit whining.

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