39 is fine: Me, me, me and being Little Miss Popular
Anyone who knows me, and indeed who doesn't, is probably familiar with the fact that I like writing about myself.
Sometimes it works out well, and others it can be a bit odd. Like when trolls write the word TART under an article about giving up dating for lent.
But there's no denying the fact that partly it's about popularity. I want to be liked, to be popular as a writer, and a person. I want my words to be well received, and I love it when they are.
I got sent a new book recently, and clearly need to work on my pitching because it's appeared in the national press (some of whom I pitched it to).
So I decided to pen the piece for my blog, because I am my own favourite and nicest commissioning editor.
The book is Popular: why being liked is the secret to greater success and happiness by Mitch Prinstein and it makes for fascinating reading. It looks at why we couple together the ideas of being popular with being happy (actually, the most popular girl in school isn't always the most liked, or the happiest). It examines how far we'll go to achieve a certain status and popularity.
So what about popularity and me? Well, clearly been trying to fly my own flag since school if the pic is to be believed... (this is why I hoard old things, they make for fun pics and feature ideas. Coming one day, my school reports...)
Anyway. Popularity for me has developed over the decades since I was a child.
I've tried all my life to be popular, I think.
When I was younger I went to a lot of different schools as we moved around for my dad's job. We had a fab home life, but moving meant starting five different schools before I was 13.
The last one, I joined in what was then the third year - everyone else there had joined the year before so I had to go in as the only new girl in my class.
I remember a group of girls taking me under their wing. My first true clique. How lovely of them, I'll never forget it. But they chose me, I didn't choose them. I was glad to be chosen, to be deemed worthy, if you will.
I'd been in a group at another school before, because there weren't many girls, I think. Always trying so hard to fit in. It seemed that my flat chest (at the time) was a source of mockery, and I willed it to grow so I could be more popular.
Note to self: Be careful what you wish for!
Then there's the first days at uni, when I joined certain groups (house music appreciation society?! WTF? I'm an indie girl!) to try and be like others.
I met someone in my first house that has become a friend for life, and introduced me to a gang with whom I don't have to try to be anything but me. Lucie, hoorah for you. You also introduced me to some of my fave bands as I got tickets to Pulp and James to be popular and cool like you. So trying to be popular can work well! But I shall always love Wham! too.
The clothes I chose were often to be popular, I'd say. To fit in with the crowd I wanted to fit in with. To show what band I liked, to prove I was into cool stuff.
I always wanted to be thinner. I think I thought that'd make me more popular especially with the men. Looking back at old pics, I'm not fat at all. Not until third year uni, in France, when I don't remember being unpopular. We had a riot that year! There was a good clique - ex pat students in a group together. I don't think I tried so hard to be popular as the room I shared with a mate was the party room. We were THE popular ones because people could come there and party. Happy days.
Then there's first jobs, where I hoped that I'd pass an interview, thus making me popular and successful at my fledgling writing career.
As an adult I spend a LOT of my time trying to be popular. From work, which is basically the biggest popularity contest, constantly trying to make women I don't know like my ideas, to make people hire me, to get the 'cool girls' on websites to say yes to my ideas. It's draining, for sure.
Next, there's social media (enough said), and friend groups where I want, of course, like we all do I think, don't we? I am preparing dinner for friends this evening (the bunch Lucie introduced me to) and while I'm very comfortable in their company, I want them to like it, I've planned a nice menu. Because I want to be the popular one this evening, to be praised for my efforts.
(I bet they tell me it's rubbish now)
Now I'm older and out of school, I have other worries on the popular front. Does being overweight mean I'm less popular? Certainly when I was dating, finding Mr Right was, to me, a way of being popular, of being accepted and having a certain status.
Does the fact I'm not a mum and therefore not a cool mum blogger make me less popular in my industry? I often see mum bloggers and feel like I've missed some rite of passage. That I should know the 'woes' and 'reality' of motherhood. Hmmmm.
As the book's author Mitch Prinstein writes: 'Our species is programmed to care about popularity. But we may be searching for connections in the wrong places. What does this mean for our future?'
While I struggle to feel popular all the time (who doesn't?!) I do feel I search in the right places.
I search for it with friends I've known for decades, with The Boyfriend, who I trust implicitly. I know I am popular with all the dogs I meet. Hoorah for dogs. You'll always be popular with dogs if you have time for a walk.
But I also look for confirmation of my popularity from strangers - those who read my writing, those who click 'like' on my posts or re-tweet me.
Perhaps we are destined to live our lives in the shadow of who we were at school - living in what Mitch calls the 'adult playground'.
Perhaps it spurs us on, making us ever-challenged to be top of our game, to be a good friend and to be a nicer person.
Or at least to work hard and achieve in a competitive world.
As I approach 40, I can't help but conclude that I thrive on popularity - I love it when a Facebook or Instagram post is popular, and when my books sell, or my articles are commissioned. However, I know I need to be careful not to place all the need for this in other's hands.
After all, surely the person we need to be most popular with is ourselves?