What do they think of me?

What do they think of me?

I read a couple of phrases that got me thinking. I paraphrase but they boiled down to ‘He wanted to swank a bit in his new clothes, so everyone could see how well he was doing’  And ‘he picked a fight with the stranger so everyone could see how tough he was.’

Neither character was particularly interested in merely knowing they had done well, or were tough. They wanted OTHER people to see it, to admire it, to respect it, or even to fear it.  We’re social animals and, to varying degrees, the regard of other – especially others you do not know and who do know you, is important. It varies from individual to individual, society to society, culture to culture and in how it is expressed.  

Now it is fair to say I’ve always struggled with this. There are a handful of people I would be seriously upset if I lost their respect. I know them well. There are likewise a handful of people who have my deepest respect… and I know them well.  I’ve been known to dress well (this may surprise you. It surprises me) not because I give a damn what strangers think of me, but because I care that others of their set might think less of someone I respect and am fond of, because their friend is such a scruffy shagrag. I’ve been known to get into fight because that meant standing next to someone I did respect, and they expected it of me.

But, yes, I accept I’m not typical. If you feel that makes me a lesser human being, and not worthy of your notice let alone respect… shrug. So be it. I am what I am, and I’m getting to old to teach new tricks.

It does make me look at much of the virtue-signaling in my industry with a knowing and jaundiced eye.  It’s not what they are – or even the characters they write are (which is why they often read so false, and cardboard). It’s what they want others to see, to respect, to approve of – particularly those who they feel are important. Logically this often determined by 1)who is winning (or they believe is winning right then, be that Chairman Mao or Greta Whatersename) 2)how effectively they are signaling that status. To be nasty, you have fakes faithfully faking it for fakes who are faking it.  It’s all very human, and as old as humanity itself, and possibly older. Once upon a time there was serious benefit, in survival terms, in pretending that nothing was more attractive than how the biggest monkey in the troop groomed himself or wanted to go looking for tasty scorpions under the rocks.

It’ll change to follow the next ‘winner’s’ style.  By pure accident that could as easily be mine as the something else. As the old man said, ‘I’ve worn the same style clothes for 70 years. And I’ve been in fashion twice in that time. Once when I was first buying them and once fifty years later.’

The point of this, is that, yes, there is a market that cares deeply what others think of them. They have the ‘right’, (un-read but ‘right’) books on their coffee-table. They care deeply what the store clerk sees them buy at the book-store (they care a lot less about what they buy on line, anonymously), they fill the auditorium to be seen (by people they don’t know, and often wouldn’t want to) of the strident feminist author’s reading (and said author later comments if only she could sell as much as one copy to each of them. But she can’t, because no one can see that).   That market exists and best sold to, by making that sale an open and public display of virtue-value to the customer, so they can be seen to do it, and gain that approval or acceptance they so desire.

It is also worth remembering – if this is your target – that this market is only interested in the current ‘winning team’. Ask any high-fashion retailer how well last year’s styles sell.

On the other hand you could just try writing books that appeal to you. Who knows, they might come into fashion, and you might be in the right place at the right time. Or there always some customers like me, who care what they read, not what others think of them for reading it.

Image by Ahmad Ardity from Pixabay

31 comments

    1. One notes that theologically, one must repent of the sin to avail one’s self of the indulgence. Which means resolving not to do it again.

  1. I keep think I should try to write something woke. Then I realize that it would (1) not get Trad published anyway. (2) They’d notice my other stuff, and blacklist me. (3) My regular readers would start thinking twice before ever buying something of mine again. (4) Probably couldn’t do it without it morphing into something highly humorous and very unwoke anyway.

    1. I’ve had similar thoughts. I’ve been kicking around an idea for a couple of years that could easily be mistaken for a “fluid gender identity” endorsement. I’ve thought I could write it up, use a pen name like Nima Al’Muryak (pronouns xe/xir/xeself), get it published on Tor.com or someplace like that, and collect my plastic rocket ship to hang in my trophy room like the scalp of one of my enemies.

      It’s just a fantasy, though. It probably wouldn’t work. For starters, the story has a plot, and that would give me away in a heartbeat.

    2. To be fair, I already think twice for anything not Wine of the God’s even though I’ve never been disappointed. #4 is the reason I would buy it, without even reading the blurb.

    3. The sad thing is that one can write good things on topics that shriek of Wokeness. A handicapped black woman could easily be the main character of an interesting story.

      1. Current “I think the First Draft is done” book’s climatic battle involves the Hero in a bulldozer with a dozen old grannies and geezers zooming around in their over-sized elderly-but-low-mileage sedans running down the evil cyborgs. The story was not supposed to go there.

  2. I write books I want to read. Also, since I don’t outline or do much advance planning, to find out how the story ends. I know this flies in the face of all the “write to market” advice touted by many indie authors, but I don’t care. This probably explains why I’m not surviving on my writing, but at least I have 18 (and counting) books I know I’ll always enjoy reading.

  3. *looks down at outfit she’s worn variations of since high school, jeans and a t-shirt*

    Clean, well-mended, sturdy, inexpensive, comfortable, and most of my shirts made me smile.
    (Current shirt: buttery-soft cotton with two large, black colored birds and the logo: ATTEMPTED MURDER.)

    I do try to do the “don’t give people an obvious reason to dismiss you,” which is why they are clean and well-mended. (Doesn’t hurt that my sense of “something decent’ requires both of those unless there’s Good Cause. :D)

    About the only practical reason for fussing about fashion is a signaling mechanism– that I don’t stink, and don’t especially stand out, signals to folks that I can be depended on to not be totally outrageous, say whizzing on the lawn. That I am not dressed “fashionably” likewise signals that I am unlikely to be up on that kind of stuff.

    Even then, there can be some assumption crossing– like the fellow in a Jojo shirt who was trying to figure out if I actually knew anything about Kakashi, even though I was wearing a shirt with that character. Which some of the professional geek girls have thrown fits about, but…well, how else are you supposed to know if someone is a geek on the same vibe as yourself? Mind-reading? Since he likes Jojo, we probably wouldn’t have much in common for sense of humor, but we might appreciate similar notes for characterization– say, Gadjeel being a big, scary, feral twerp who still has many redeeming features. (scoobie-doo-do-wa!)

    1. I confess that my youngest is a poseur who makes such investigation necessary.

      If you asked her which stand in Fairy Tail was her favorite justu, she wouldn’t even look at you funny.
      (She’s slightly better on Minecraft. She hasn’t really played it, but she’s read guides and watched some YouTube.)

      (Sigh) It’s not like she’s lacked opportunity or encouragement.

      1. *laughs*
        I would look at you VERY funny. And not even because I caught that it’s mixing shows, but because we do mostly subs, and I’m vaguely aware that the dubs sometimes use very different explanations, so my default assumption is that I’m missing something.

        I have gotten several folks to laugh by saying I’m not a huge fan of Naruto, I’ve only watched the first few story-arcs of the show and enjoyed it, but I did support my husband by listening and sometimes watching when he finished the entire thing.

        (It’s great for finding out who is looking for an excuse to be nasty, and who was just hoping you were as obsessive as they are. 😀 )

        Is she interested in anime at all? Or just like the vibe?

        1. I think it’s more a cargo cult thing.

          She’s seen her sister instantly bond with people over shared interests and quickly make friends.
          Anime shirts have featured in that.

          She ain’t wired quite right, and so…

        2. Apparently I took Jerkese for all my foreign language electives, because I notice that I’m spoiled with three choices for obnoxious reply.

          a) Tediously insisting that only the manga form of the properties is authoritative, and hence is the appropriate basis for term policing. So it is super super wrong to talk about show, anime, or comics, etc.
          b) Looking at stand like powers in Fairy Tale, and then arguing that Jutsu is a generic term because it is merely a word that is translated technique.
          c) Contriving a fanfic crossover where the mixture of terms makes sense, and then insisting on treating it as the proper basis for any discussion about any of the properties.

          There are a lot of ways people enjoy Kakashi. He is a bishie, has a tragic backstory, is a bit of a badass, has some comedic potential, and IIRC in Boruto manages to pass himself off as a female reporter.

          A young kid who /really/ likes One Thousand Years of Pain (IIRC), may not have much in common with an old person who likes to sperg about the character execution compared to a few dozen other long running Shonen Jump properties.

          1. IIRC in Boruto manages to pass himself off as a female reporter.

            ….I totally know ONE of the ways he could do that, already established…. *squee!*

            The thing is, all three of those responses can be the right one, if you believe them enough to be willing to carry the discussion to the end– it’s a matter of telling someone what kind of a conversation they can have with you.

            I can even see B and C as valid fun “oh oh I never thought about that before–” type ah-ha! moments, and then take off running, verbally.
            Bonus, Fairy Tail if it’s not actually a Shonen, it has roots sunk deep into the genre, so it’s even MORE defensible.

            I mostly can’t do anything because I don’t care for the manga; the reading-backwards thing intrudes on my immersion, and if they flip things around it intrudes on the …whatchacall it… inter-panel flow?
            That thing where the really good artists DO stuff so that it just LOOKS right to follow things from this panel to that one.
            Mirroring might work, but not sure if that’s a “thing.”

            1. I’ve thought of another reason why a JoJo fan might like Kakashi.

              I have a very weak grasp of JoJo, I read bits of one that was coming out around ten years ago.

              It struck me as being a very trickery and rules of the gimmick sort of fighting manga. Kakashi is tricky, and at least some of his fights went that way. For a Sharingan user, a lot of his fights haven’t been decided by a mangekyo power showing up without any foreshadowing.

              It seems to me that we have the specific definition of Stand, and a generic one, in terms of story function. Important fighters have one, they operate according to rules, rules matter in fights, and the specific rules vary from fighter to fighter. Likewise possibly Jutsu. Jutsu could be a bread and butter fighting technique, possibly specific to a character, that works in a consistent way. Or perhaps that isn’t the right generic definition for Jutsu. In Fairy Tail, pretty much every fighter uses different magic. Stand. So, possibly someone’s favorite stand and jutsu could be Natsu’s Fire Dragon’s Roar. I think Wendy was the first to come to mind as a possible favorite of mine, but that may be because I was thinking that Dragon Slayers are a strong pattern.

              1. It actually makes me feel good that what I think of myself lets me admit that I am TOTALLY lost by this thread. Let me see, I recognize Shonen Jump because the daughters would beg me to buy it for them, and Naruto and Fairy Tail because they talked me into watching them.

                No, that is not a denigration of the thread, by any means. I’ve found some quite good anime (I have the same problem with the manga as Foxfier) from reading these. I would never have hit upon Sword Art Online or Girls und Panzer without you guys.

  4. What do they think of me?

    Of course, the real answer to that question is usually so devastating that most people can’t handle it: they don’t. If you were to ask most of the people I interact with what they think of Zsuzsa, their response isn’t going to be, “She’s a geek,” or “she’s that loser who can never keep her kid’s hair brushed” or even “she’s always hiding in the corner and won’t talk to anyone, it’s like she thinks she’s better than us.” No, the response is going to be, “Who?”

    I remember a book a read back in fifth grade where the main character was complaining about some feature that she thought made her look ugly, and her older sister said, “People don’t notice stuff like that. Other people are so busy worrying about their flaws and what others think of them that they don’t have time to be noticing what’s wrong with you.” I’m not sure it’s entirely true (it wasn’t in middle school, certainly), but it’s worth remembering that most of us don’t take up nearly as much real estate in other people’s brains as we think we do.

    1. “Who” is frequently the best option! At least for me. Much better than “That annoying jerk who keeps telling me why my latest plan just will not work.”

  5. I will read what I darn well please.
    I will write what I darn well please.
    I will wear what I darn well please. (Fortunately the day job allows for Hawaiian shirts and jeans/shorts.)

    I don’t follow fashion trends, nor do I start them. I ignore them.

    1. Same here. I’ve gone with the basic buttoned-down quietly preppy look since before that book even came out. Never quite in style, but most definitely never laughably out of it, either. Skirt suit, modest heels, stockings, understated jewelry.

      1. The dress code at Day Job has a floor, but no ceiling. Therefore, if I feel like it, I can wear long dresses with classy wrap, dangling earrings and necklace, and matching strappy heels to work. I can also wear a frock coat over goth geek basics, or a reproduction Edwardian blouse and full skirt with appropriate petticoats… because what’s the point of having nice things if I never wear them?

        Yes, I also sometimes wear athletic pants and a weightlifting competition t-shirt, usually because I went to the gym right before work. There’s a range, depending on the demands of the day… but the lowest common denominator is not a requirement!

  6. *grins* Yes, you and I, we’re dangerous monkeys not only because we’re not following the latest fashion, proving that it’s not vital to life and limb to do so… but because we value other markers and matters, and by doing so, create an entire alternate value system that threatens the pile of fakery, and all those who are so invested in climbing to the top.

  7. I think clothes matter a lot. Clean, modest clothing in good repair says you take care of what you have. Jeans pre-ripped from crotch to ankle say you’ve got money to burn and you follow fads. Dressing in public like you’re cleaning out your garage or have just finished digging a ditch (even though you never go near manual labor) says you *flagrantly* don’t care what anyone thinks of you because you’re a rebel and a free spirit although you do care very much. It’s caring in a different way.

    Clothing is so cheap these days, with mountains to choose from at every thrift shop, that it no longer sends a signal of wealth or status. When that changes, we’ll all be better dressed.

    Look at old but contemporary movies and newsreels. No one went out in rags like we do today.

    It also matters at public events. Do I respect myself enough to dress in clean, modest clothing in good repair that advertises my product? You bet I do.

    How else will the customer know who to give the money to?

    1. That’s exactly why I don’t wear Carhart’s. I like the look, but as a white-collar, desk person it would be lying for me to wear it (not to mention that brand new work-wear, like brand new leather, screams “poseur”). That said, I’ve been a lumbersexual since long before the word existed – before “grunge” even. I just like flannel and jeans.

      1. Of course, signals differ from place to place, and time to time.
        I recall visiting a big city and being shocked that my “respectable blue collar” read locally as “flaming homosexual “.
        (For the record: flannel, blue jeans, leather lace-up boots.)

        1. One of my characters is going to get grief repeatedly because she’s straight, and her hair is naturally* bright purple. SJWs demand that she dye her hair because THEY jump to the wrong conclusions and then look stupid. They also say nasty things about EEEVUL genetic modification.

          * Genetic engineering, dozens of generations back. She also has inactive genes for other interesting colors, which will be inherited and randomly expressed in her children.

  8. Glad I’m an old fart. I don’t care. My clothes are clean, I write stuff that doesn’t have perfect characters, or the right answers to all the questions. I also cross genres without using a pseudonym. If you don’t like it or me, don’t read it… 🙂 OBTW, I’m also blunt and honest. If you don’t want to know what I think, DON’T ask me… LOL

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