Here’s a confession: I want to be famous.
I’m rather particular about the sort of fame I want, which is I why I haven’t gone and done some tremendously humiliating thing in public. I don’t want notoriety, and I have an over-developed sense of shame, so negative attention isn’t acceptable. I’d like the fame to arise from something I’ve accomplished rather than something that happened to me. I would very much like to be a best-selling writer, but I’d also be happy with recognition of any other talent; say, finishing a jigsaw puzzle in record time, or the ability to cobble together relatively impressive costumes with cardboard, duct tape, scrap fabric and safety pins.
I am not very proud of this desire. Pursuing fame for its own sake is pure folly. I know this. I try to seek for nobler motivations. If I can get my books published, maybe they can have a positive impact on a wider number of readers. If I have any kind of notice from the public eye, perhaps I can use that platform to speak up about things that matter. If there’s any good reason to seek greater acclaim, it should be in that direction. But there’s a childish, all-too-pushy part of my brain that cries shrilly, “I want people to notice me! Lots and lots of people! And I want them to looove me!”
If I have any sense at all, I should be glad that I’m unlikely to ever be famous. Any celebrity could tell you that fame is rather a two-edged blade. For all the acclaim and adoration, there are plenty of other people who despise you, resent you, criticize every single thing you do. You have no private life. Everything is scrutinized. Of course I don’t want that. I want an imaginary scenario wherein I receive all the pleasant perks of fame and none of the downsides.
But because I’m an overthinker, I want to pick apart this desire and figure out what’s really motivating me. I don’t have to look too far. As I explored earlier, in my heart I’m just an insecure little girl seeking validation. Fame, from that simplistic standpoint, seems like the perfect solution — an endless source of enthusiastic approval.
And even though I know I can’t set on my hopes on external approval, I could really use a little now and then. Motherhood can be a thankless task. The long-term rewards are significant, but in the moment you’re not likely to get much acknowledgement or validation for what you’re doing. In my personal situation, with my children at school most of the day, my role is more of an all-call type. It leaves me a lot of time to wonder what, exactly, I should be doing with myself. If I were a famous writer, the answer would be easy. Write. Provide my adoring readers with more of the books they love. (Now is the time for any hypothetical published writers to laugh hysterically, because the truth is, getting published just makes everything more complicated.) Instead, when I write, it’s with the looming awareness that it might only be for two or three readers. I might never get published. I will probably never be famous.
There is a quote from historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich that has been, I believe, a trifle misused. “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” The assumption seems to be that it’s a dig at well-behaved women, living their meek and quiet and unimportant lives. Now, if it’s used as a rallying cry to fight injustice and call out oppression, that’s perfectly fine. But never to disparage those meek, quiet women. If they’re not recognized by history, the problem lies with the historians, not the women. Do we only value someone because they were well-known? Do we really believe that’s the only measure of a person’s worth?
If I want to recognize and honor the worth of obscure women, I should do it for myself as well. I’m not likely to “make history.” I may only ever be important to a very small circle of people. My husband, my children, my extended family and friends. But what I do matters. It matters to them. And it matters to me. No amount of fame can add to or diminish that fact.
Though it would still be awfully nice to get noticed…..