On the first day of second grade Cindy waited impatiently for the teacher to get to her name in the roll so she could introduce herself, she was always at the end because her name started with a Y. When it was her turn she proudly announced that she had a full collection of star cards, and had caught lightening bugs in a jar. They laughed at her. At recess Cindy found out that at this school star cards were only for kindergarten babies, and girls weren’t supposed to like bugs. Her class decided she was weird, and she ate lunch alone for most of the school year.
At a new school for third grade, Cindy used being at the end of the alphabet to her advantage. She listened to what everyone else said about themselves, and used that to shape her own answer. She didn’t lie, but she made herself more excited about the cartoon that half the class mentioned, and didn’t bring up camping at all. She fit in; everyone talked to her and liked her, even if she never got invited to sleepovers.
Through high school Cindy kept refining her technique. She still liked insects and the outdoors but she rarely talked about that with any school friends. Instead she learned to like what they liked, at least enough to make conversation. Every time they moved Cindy would go to the library and skim the local newspapers and ask what books got checked out the most so by the time school started she was ready. At each school she attended everyone knew Cindy’s name, and everyone liked her. She never had a best friend, or a boyfriend, but she was accepted.
When Cindy left for college she decided things would change, she would talk about what she liked for real. It was a disaster. Her assigned orientation group rolled their eyes when she talked about hiking or her favorite book. Cindy didn’t want to wait to have friends, so she asked to change orientation groups. When she joined up with the new group she told them she was called Cyn, and she talked about music to the boys and clothes to the girls. Once again, everyone liked her.
In her junior year Cyn accompanied a friend to an audition. It turned out that all of her practice watching people and showing them only the parts of herself they’d like best made her a good actress. She could carefully read a script and talk to the director and see who the character needed to be to fit into the world of the play. She’d never been very excited about her Communications major, chosen to fit in, so she switched it to Theater. She enjoyed being good at something, even if it wasn’t her favorite thing.
Cyn graduated from college and moved to LA. She started using her full name, Cynthia, and was getting steady work. She was a very good actress, but even more importantly, everyone liked her. All the word of mouth said she was friendly, talented, and well-prepared. She started getting bigger and bigger roles because she was capable, but also because people liked being around her.
Every time she started a new movie Cynthia treated the set like a new school. She stayed quiet and listened at first, and only when she knew what things interested and motivated these people would she start to engage. The People editors did a behind the scenes story about her latest film and everyone they spoke to from her co-star to the camera operators to the set dressers said the same thing: she understood them. As she got more famous producers began to ask her how she wanted to do introductions at the start of a project. Cynthia always suggested they just stick to alphabetical because that was simple. People were amazed that someone so famous was willing to sit and listen to everyone else; not knowing how much she relied on it.
Cynthia bought a house in the hills and paid a decorator to furnish it tastefully. Other than magazine shoots no one ever stopped by. The guest room remained unused. There was some gossip about her never having a date, male or female, at industry events. She just smiled and said she was too busy.
Cynthia was nominated for an Oscar. She saw her own picture everywhere, accompanied by stories about moving so much when she was young, and how fortuitously she had found acting. It didn’t matter who the journalists talked to the stories were all the same – everyone liked her. Cindy/Cyn/Cynthia was so friendly to everyone, so interesting and kind. Her agent told her she should practice an acceptance speech because she was certain to win.
Cynthia sat at a hotel the day before the award ceremony practicing her speech. She watched a few past winners and they were so passionate, so exuberant, thanking people who meant everything to them. Cynthia knew she didn’t have that fire, didn’t have anyone to sit in the audience and look up at her adoringly while she held her award. She looked around the tasteful, expensive hotel room and sighed, she needed to not just practice a speech but create a persona to deliver it. She researched what critics had said about previous speeches and thought about what the audience would want to hear from her. Cynthia carefully crafted a speech that would make her a little more likeable to everyone who heard it. She never even noticed the butterfly that was flying around her room.
***Here's my entry for week 19 of LJ Idol, we're under 100 folks still playing now.***