I would like to wish a very happy blogiversary weekend to the wonderful Miss Conduct, who is not only a consummate advice columnist but also one of the brilliant minds behind the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists (which Dan will be joining as soon as I can get his luxuriant hair and his rather awe-inspiring experiment into the same picture). If you’ve been reading for a while, you’ve see Miss Conduct’s comments and you know that this isn’t the first time I’ve plugged her blog, because basically I luff her. She’s an advice columnist with her head screwed on straight about fat! She’s an advice columnist, period! (I’m a bit of a connoisseur.) She’s funny! She’s a huge nerd about science! Her blog almost never allows comments, so I can avoid the “Web 2.0 can fucking suck it” white-hot rage I go into almost every time I read comments anywhere on the web besides the fatosphere! She likes Aunt Fattie! She dislikes Cary Tennis!
Anyway, in honor of Miss Conduct, I’d like to proffer a Friday Fluff that jumps off from one of her recent posts. She writes:
Meeting celebrities is an awkward thing and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a handle on it. I have figured out, at least, a working theory for why it’s awkward. See if this makes sense to you:1. To show polite respect for someone, you are supposed to let them talk about themselves rather than talking a great deal about yourself. This is a cultural norm.
2. However, there is also a cultural norm that knowledge is power, and that the more “important” person in an interaction should know more about the less important person than vice-versa. (E.g., your doctor knows more about you than you do about her; teachers know more about their students than their students know about them.) So you are also supposed to show respect by allowing people their privacy.
Now, when you meet a celebrity, by definition you know more about them than they do about you. So the #2 dynamic is unbalanced. But you can’t rectify that imbalance, because that would violate rule #1.
There’s more musing, but it would be rude to quote at more length; instead I suggest you go read it. Then come back here and tell me: Have you met any famous people? How did you approach talking to them? Did you talk about yourself? Did you establish yourself as a fan? Did you treat them like a normal person? What celebrities would you really like to meet, and what would you say to them if you met them?
Miss Conduct already quoted my answer to this question in the post:
I’ve found with the celebrities that I’ve met that I end up talking about the same things I talk to anyone else about — food, alcohol, family, politics. Probably in that order. After of course establishing that I am a fan. If I want to be sneaky and let them know that I am a fan because I have a more sophisticated understanding than all their other rube fans, I will sneak in something like “So how do you feel about fans who only like you because x, and not because y?”
I will also add that the only person I’ve actually tested that last part out on is Jonathan Coulton. (Turns out he appreciates the geek type fans who just like Code Monkey and the other novelty songs, but he feels that people have a fuller appreciation of what he’s trying to go for if they listen to the more serious songs as well, which is why he plays them at shows even when they’re not necessarily what people want to hear.) Truly, though, we mainly talked about drinking, New York, his kid, science… the kinds of things you talk to people about. I’ve applied the same theory to Jim Watson, Katha Pollitt, and… um… what other famous people have I met… Kate Harding. And Dava Sobel. I meet really, really nerdy famous people, okay?
I’d like to meet John Hodgman. I think we’d talk about how I know I can’t possibly say anything funny enough to make me worthy to talk to him, and how I am humbled by that. Not really though. I think we’d probably talk about pie. And possibly Linnean taxonomy or something. I feel the conversation would bestir itself in a nerdly direction.
Also, I know I think four people who have all met or at least corresponded with former members of The State, and I haven’t, and that’s not fair. So I want to meet them too, and probably talk entirely in State quotes until they all look really uncomfortable. (Especially if I’m quoting the excellent “Sleep with the State” sketch from Season 2.)
Also, I would like to meet Miss Conduct and her husband. Seriously.