Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
LJI:19 kindling
Cindy learned at an early age that being herself wasn’t a smart idea, not if she wanted to fit in and have friends right away.  Her dad had a job that meant they moved a lot so she changed schools almost every year.  That meant every year she had to start over.

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.***

Great job capturing the vacancy of this sort of life.

Thank you. What struck me about the topic is that being able to begin a thing doesn't necessarily mean being able to keep it going or make it grow, which would lead to a pretty empty life as you said.

At first I was happy for Cindy since she found a way to channel her ability to find what the people around her liked into a successful career, but by the end I just wanted to go back to the beginning to give her a hug and tell her there's nothing wrong with girls liking bugs.

Yup exactly, it's okay to like bugs and to be alone every once in a while.
I wanted to play with the idea of someone being able to begin relationships but who couldn't ever get them to deepen into anything more meaningful.

I loved the last line, great story.

Thank you so much. It took me a while to figure out how this should end, I'm glad it worked.

So sad, and yet so understandable.

Moving kids around a lot is SO hard on them, and while Cynthia adapted to having shallow friends as a survival technique, she never got to stick with friends long enough to find out if they could become real friends with the real her. :(

Yup. Luckily we only moved once when I was a kid, but it was 3/4 of the way through 1st grade and I remember feeling so lost. But we stayed put after that so I had the time to figure things out.

Thanks for the kind words.

It's sad that in her desire to be liked and accepted, she lost the real Cynthia in there somewhere...

It is. I don't think she even knows who the real Cynthia exactly is anymore, she's been posing for everyone else for so long...

I know, I feel bad for her. When I was first working on this I thought she'd have a brilliant moment of realization and fight back, but it turns out she's been in this groove for so long she can't get back out.

Cautionary moral tale for modern times! :-) I liked this a lot.

I didn't start writing a cautionary tale, but you're right, that's just how this came out.

Thank you!

I liked this a lot. It made me sad, but I could completely understand it.

Thank you so much. I was always okay being an oddball in school, and I wondered sometimes if the popular kids were really as effortless as they seemed. Cynthia was that thought taken to an extreme.

first, my name is cindy so reading this was a little weird. second, it's so sad! the thing that helps her fit in and makes her life socially easier and that leads her to a successful career, is also the thing that makes it hard for her to get to know people well enough to share with them. well done!

It is always weird to see your name in something, isn't it? I needed a name that could nickname in two different ways and Cynthia was what came to mind.

Yeah, it's hard to feel bad for her because she's hugely successful, but at what price?

My kid used to get taunted because she liked manatees. She learned to hide that fact. Luckily, by late high school (in a small community where people always knew who she was), the jerks were the ones who moved away, and she could be herself more and was finally happy. AW

Manatees are awesome! I was always a bit of an oddball, but lucky enough that there was usually one other kid who shared each oddity so I wasn't particularly singled out. I'm glad your daughter was able to finally be who she wanted to be.

A sad story about abandoning yourself for the sake of popularity. Very nicely done! I liked the last sentence. It was a great way to end the story.

Thank you! This turned out sadder than I thought it would, honestly.
It took me a while to find that last sentence I'm glad you liked it.

I've often thought that the two great curses of life are loving doing something one isn't good at, and having great talent for something one doesn't love to do.

That is so true. Working in the arts I saw people on both sides of that coin, and always hoped they found someone to sustain them.

This is wonderfully written, even though I find it very sad. Never being yourself always putting on facade. That is a very miserable experience.

Edited at 2014-08-30 12:22 am (UTC)

Thank you. I think we all put on a facade sometimes, but to do it all the time would be exhausting.

Brilliantly done.

Encapsulates well how being popular can still be so sad and lonely if you don't get to be yourself.

Thank you so much. I always wondered if the popular kids were having as much fun as they seemed to be.

She just needed one person... just one...to tell her it was ok to be her. She must be the lonliest soul... Thank you for writing this piece. :)

Yup, one other kid to mention their pet stick insect or something, so she knew it would be okay. Staying at surface level can be safer, but there's so much you never get to see.

Thank you for your kind words.