I want people to like me. There, I said it.

You know what I’m not? Cool. I care too much.

Being cool is all about not caring. It’s been that way since someone invented coolness, back in, like, the late fifties, I think. Wait– I feel like there were a few cool people in the Great Gatsby, so maybe it goes back a few decades farther.

There are a lot of variations on not caring. Kids are really obvious about it. They’re constantly standing around in mall parking lots rolling their eyes, going, “Whatever…” People in their twenties show how little they care mostly by wearing slouchy shoes. And then later on you prove your coolness by getting drunk the way you used to get drunk when you had less responsibilities.

I’m pretty sure.

(these should do it. source)

Sometimes I worry about myself, because I want to impress people. I want them to like me. It’s a little pathological. It’s a sign that I will not succeed at things. I am always hoping that I’ll grow out of it, and so far, that hasn’t happened, so I’m concerned that it might be permanent.

 

I want to  be kickass. How you do this is by not caring what other people think of you. That’s how you become great. You blast your way to the top, and if some sucker gets incinerated in the flames, then, yeah, whatever. Too bad. That’s life. They got what was comin’ to them. You’re not really livin’ until you’re livin’ on the edge. (I don’t remember what it sounds like to be tough, which is why I can’t write it. I always think it requires a lot less g’s.)

(she doesn’t care what people think. She’d wear that even if she was alone. It’s part of the superpower… source)

People in movies almost never care what other people think. They snatch a newspaper out of a stranger’s hands because they need to see the wedding section, in case their ex-fiance is getting married. They knock people over, running to catch the plane the person they’re in love with is leaving on. They yell at people just because they feel like yelling. They ignore people who are talking to them because someone gorgeous walked into the room. They stand up and give an impromptu mean toast at their ex-fiance’s wedding, which they’re now crashing.

People in real life are sometimes fantastically rude, too. They go on three dates with someone and then disappear without a word. They punch someone. They don’t hold the door. My own brothers have mastered the right amount of rudeness. I’m so jealous.  They can ignore people who are bothering them and focus on people who make sense to focus on. They can fight back when someone picks a fight. They can come out of it feeling good, pretty sure they won.

I can do none of these things. There will never be a movie about me. I am the person who fishes the newspaper out of a snow bank and hands it back to the person it was snatched from. We then share a quick conversation about the wretched weather, and I realize I am late for an appointment with my gynecologist, but stay a few moments longer, anyway, so that I don’t have to cut the other person off.

I’m not sure how I got this polite, but I know it has to do with caring too much.

There are plusses: I will always leave a generous tip. I will listen to your problems even if you’re a stranger who is telling them to me on the subway when I have to get off in one stop. I will probably be a good mother of babies, before any discipline is involved.

But I will probably never be a force to be reckoned with. Or a force of nature. There’s a decent chance I won’t be a force of any kind. I will never be badass. I will never be super chill. And this is really disappointing. Sometimes I hate going through life being so affected by the world. It’s lame. At any moment, my eyes might get misty– because something is beautiful, or delicate, or just sad. At every moment, I am vulnerable, because someone might yell something cruel for no reason, or push me out of the way to get to the subway turnstile, or cut me off midsentence to go to an appointment at the gynecologist.

I’ve been told, over and over, that people need thick skins. And mine is so thin. I can see the veins right there, just under the surface, a complicated, faint blue webbing under the translucent pale skin of my side. As though I am not fully evolved. As though, if scratched in passing, I might lose too much blood.

I have always wanted people to like me. People seem important. They seem full of possibility. Who knows where someone might lead.

To this day, when someone gets on the elevator with me, my mind starts to race. What should I say? What can we talk about? We should have a conversation! And then, when they get off, I chirp, “Have a good day!” after them, and they turn halfway back, started, and grunt something before continuing on their way.

I wonder, do I really have to start a conversation on the elevator? How much does it matter, in the scheme of things? Why does anyone bother to be nice? Why does anyone care what the woman behind the counter at the grocery store thinks of them? Or the friends of a friend who are most of the way to totally drunk at a party. What is the point of caring?

But then someone rushes to unlock the building door when I’m carrying too many things.

And then a woman in the elevator awkwardly strikes up a conversation, and suddenly we are talking about how weird it is to live in a building where no one ever wants to talk. And how weird we feel sometimes, being the ones who try to talk. Who fail again and again, embarrassing ourselves.

And I am smiling when I go inside.

Those tiny, seemingly insignificant moments of connection– I admit it— they make everything worth it.

I can’t help it. Even though I’m not an elderly woman, lonely and alone, or a guy who’s about to jump because life isn’t worth living anymore, or an orphan out of a traditional cautionary morality tale, or someone who’s lived through a war. Even though I’m this totally regular twenty-five year old who lives in the big, fast, rude city, has friends, has love, and has plenty to do, I care.

I care a lot. I hope we all get along. I hope you like me. I hope it all turns out right, in the end. And right now, in the elevator.

(let me get that for you! brr…it’s so cold out! isn’t this weather annoying? source)

*  *  *

Unroast: Today I love my clothes. I think that maybe I’ve finally gotten to the point where I have something to wear.

P.S. I have been sick the whole weekend. I am a machine of endless snot production. I have watched so much Planet Earth that the  music that plays on loop during the menu is playing on repeat in my head. I know a lot about bat droppings. I had to share this with the world, because it’s hard to bear it alone.

47 Comments »

Kate on January 9th 2012 in life, new york

47 Responses to “I want people to like me. There, I said it.”

  1. Jen responded on 09 Jan 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    It’s so funny that you post about caring and being vulnerable right now. Just this weekend I saw a fantastic TED talk that made me feel really good about my ability to care and be vulnerable, and I think you might enjoy it. http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html

    Mostly, though, I totally agree that caring matters. It’s important. And if that makes me wholly uncool – well, I accepted that fate long ago. The people who matter will think I’m cool anyway. The people who matter to me think caring is cool.

  2. San D responded on 09 Jan 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    There are simply too many compromises to be made if you want everyone to like you. Their requirements will give you no shape at all. Here’s how I feel about life. I am like a skeleton key. And sometimes my key doesn’t fit all locks. But I rest easy knowing that other keys will fit their locks.

  3. Melanie responded on 09 Jan 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    Love this post! I think it’s lovely that there are those of us with thick skins, and those of us who are sensitive. It creates balance. My biggest thing is being compassionate and caring, without being a doormat. I used to *win* fights but now I avoid them, or just concede and tell the person, “It must be really important for you to be right. So I’ll go ahead and let you be.”

    I detest drama and strife, so I avoid it where I can. Life is a more peaceful place now. Until old snarky me comes out, which sometimes happens. When it does I just laugh it off, and promise myself to be better tomorrow. :)

  4. Rachel responded on 09 Jan 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    I am really glad to hear that you appreciate awkward encounters with people who like you. . .because whenever you post about living in DUMBO, I’m like ‘ahh, I’m gonna run into her sometime and recognize her from the photos on the blog and start a really awkward/potentially stalkery-sounding conversation about how awesome she is’. So, you may have that to look forward to at some point :)

  5. lik_11 responded on 09 Jan 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    Kate- I don’t know you… but I really like you! Everyday I look forward to reading your posts and learning what you’re thinking about. I think the world is a better place because you’re in it and you care.

  6. Krystina responded on 09 Jan 2012 at 1:27 pm #

    I agree with Melanie. There has to be all sorts of different to create that balance. It would be pretty boring if we were all the same:) I am a compassionate person but I don’t let anyone walk over me. It took me years to get to this point but now it’s who I am, and I’m proud to be me.

  7. Erin responded on 09 Jan 2012 at 1:39 pm #

    I like you. You’re rad. And it takes a significant amount of badassery to talk honestly about your life on the internet, so don’t sell yourself short.

  8. Carol Hess responded on 09 Jan 2012 at 1:50 pm #

    This is such incredibly good and clever and funny writing, that I will always like you. :) Really. You don’t even have to talk to me in the elevator. And I identify with what you’re saying — although old age or rather older age does seem to turn down the volume on the Want People to Like Me button.

  9. Niha responded on 09 Jan 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    Hi Kate,
    I’m SO glad you posted about this! I thought I was the only one! Okay, me and one friend were the only ones. I used to think it meant that people like us were naive. But that’s such a negative word, it makes it sound like you know nothing at all and because you know nothing, you are dumb enough to be so nice. But that’s not it at all. It’s that knowing what you know about the potential to get hurt, you disregard that for the potential stranger who WILL chat with you. The person who holds the door open. Just like you said, those little things make up for all the other times it didn’t go your way. And besides, even if I continued being this way and never got it in return, I wouldn’t stop. It’s who I am, and it’s something I love about myself. Since when is being distant and cold attractive on a person? So there, this is me NOT caring if people care that I care :)

  10. Kate responded on 09 Jan 2012 at 2:25 pm #

    @Jen
    I’m working on not caring about not being cool :-)
    And thank you for the link! I love TED talks. I should really watch more of them.

  11. Kate responded on 09 Jan 2012 at 2:26 pm #

    @Rachel
    Yay!! I can’t wait to run into you! Although now I’ll try to dress better when I go out.

    Recently, I actually got recognized at a party because of this blog. And it made me feel really great, and also like I then had to be ten times cooler. I think I held up, but it might’ve been a fluke :-)

  12. Lynn responded on 09 Jan 2012 at 2:27 pm #

    Kate, we haven’t met in person, but I really like you! If we lived in the same city I would totally want to hang out with you :)

  13. Kate responded on 09 Jan 2012 at 2:28 pm #

    @Erin
    Thank you! That was a cool way to put it. And I mean cool like what I think is actually cool. There are clearly too many definitions of cool.

    Now convince my mom that me talking about my life on the internet is cool :-)

    P.S. Why do I feel the urge to use so many smiley faces?

  14. Kate responded on 09 Jan 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    @Niha
    YES. Naive. That’s exactly how it feels.

  15. Kate responded on 09 Jan 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    @Lynn
    Well, come visit my city sometime!

  16. Katie responded on 09 Jan 2012 at 2:30 pm #

    Totally agree with first commenter about the Brene Brown TED talk. Brilliant.

    Also, I’ve never been cool, and I definitely care too much. And this is particularly funny because when we (you and I) were having a funny little twitter conversation the other day, I was simultaneously enjoying it and feeling anxious that I was not cool enough to hold up my side of the conversation. Your tweets were all pithy and non-chalant sounding, and I was like “Oh my god, how do I sound so relaxed and cool about things?!” because I don’t normally have twitter conversations, especially not with people whose writing I admire so much. Anyway…just thought I’d share. :)

  17. Kate responded on 09 Jan 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    @Katie
    LOL! I worked really hard on those tweets. It was totally nerve-wracking, and also totally fun. I usually don’t write back and forth with people on twitter either, and I feel like I’m probably bad at it (I’m so long-winded!). So this comment cracked me up and made me feel momentarily great about everything in my life.

    This is why I will never be cool– because I admit stuff like this. But honestly, I think you’re awesome for admitting it first.

  18. Angela responded on 09 Jan 2012 at 2:45 pm #

    I feel like this all the time, i am trying to increase my badassery by lifting heavy things at the gym and practicing fancy arm balances at yoga. I like you very much.

  19. Melanie Kristy responded on 09 Jan 2012 at 3:00 pm #

    Wow, I feel like you wrote this post about me! And you know what, I tend to like people who care more. I like the people who are considerate and polite, the ones who pay attention and aren’t rude. I get so tired of everyone else and their crap and their general assholedness that I wish there were more people like me and you. So by default I like you. I also enjoy your blog posts, which makes you automatically cool in my book.

    ~Melanie

    ps I hope you feel better!

  20. bethany actually responded on 09 Jan 2012 at 4:06 pm #

    For what it’s worth, my mom is the same way, going out of her way to be kind and caring and considerate, tearing up at the drop of a hat and always worrying about hurting other people’s feelings. (All of which, by the way, are generally very good ways to be.) But when she had babies she became a force to be reckoned with. She said it was kind of weird, because her whole life she’d been shy and meek and then she had kids and suddenly there were things she cared about a LOT and stood up for without hesitation.

  21. Emily responded on 09 Jan 2012 at 5:11 pm #

    Idk. You have always seemed like a cool force to be reckoned with to me. you actually have all the ingredients. you just don’t believe. You are way more talented than the majority of people in this world and you just need to own it! Go look at the paintings you’ve done or the books you’ve written or the music you write and say that you aren’t cool. At a certain point you’ve just got to give yourself credit for the things you’ve accomplished, and stop judging yourself based on non- existent ideals. Don’t stop being volnerable just recognize yourself.

  22. Lynellekw responded on 09 Jan 2012 at 5:41 pm #

    You know what bugs me about “being cool”? It’s not just that you have to not care, you have to be… actively disinterested. Dismissive. Distant. Cool girls sit on the sidelines and wait for someone to come talk to them. Even just LADYLIKE girls do that. They’re not the first ones on the dance floor, they don’t introduce themselves to people, they definitely don’t sing karaoke. Not unless someone works really, really hard to persuade them, anyway. They go places in little groups and they don’t do anything unless it’s what everyone else is doing. And it’s boring and I’m no good at being that sort of girl. I never was and I never will be. I’m going to turn into one of those women who holds up the checkout line by talking to the operator and makes random jokes to strangers on the bus.

    Besides, you never know who you might meet in the elevator.

  23. Linnea responded on 09 Jan 2012 at 6:55 pm #

    I was just thinking that all of the people that we think are really cool, are probably thinking that we are really cool…and hoping they are cool. I’m 45, have always wanted to be cool and felt like a complete failure (as in…”Did i really just say that?”). I’m such an odd bird.
    However, it does make me feel better, when I am trying to impress someone and attempting really awkward conversations with people to imagine that they are having the same inner turmoil…no matter how laid back they may seem. Makes me feel a little like we are all in it together. Oh, and thanks for the post!

  24. Kellie responded on 09 Jan 2012 at 7:39 pm #

    Kate, I love your blue veins through translucent skin image and this line:
    “As though, if scratched in passing, I might lose too much blood.” Your description of being senstive (and caring) is so right on. I am the same way. I cry at people on the streets who look like they are in need…one day recently, while stopped at a busy intersection, I saw a very angry looking man on a bicycle with a dog on a leash, he was trying to get himself balanced and get the dog in sync with him. He looked homeless by his dress and his expression; I smiled at him, because his dog was cute, and I thought he could use a smile. From my cracked car wndow I then heard him talk sweetly to the dog, in spite of a grimace I am certain was permanently etched in his face. I felt misty as you say. I then called my sister and told her this story and her reply was, “He probably went home and kicked the dog.” She thinks I am waaay too senstive but I think it’s a gift. :) You definitely have the gift that’s why I really like you! :D

  25. Spelling responded on 09 Jan 2012 at 7:44 pm #

    Coming from a person who is often told they’re rude (what can I say, I like to speak the truth), you don’t want to be one of those people in the movies. Besides, life is never like that, anyway.

    It’s better to care to much than too little, just like it’s better to trust everyone and get hurt sometimes than to never trust and never let anyone “in.”

  26. Sooz responded on 09 Jan 2012 at 8:46 pm #

    Uh…I like you so damn much. I swear we must be twins. Or you’ve mastered the ability to get into my brain. I care way too much as well. Just this weekend I was depressed b/c everything gets to me. I overthink everything. I worry about everything. I get emotional about everything. I wish I wasn’t this way…many many times in a day. It makes life difficult to deal with and I would like it to be easy. But I am what I am (didn’t Popeye say that?) and I just try to accept it and keep putting one foot in front of the other. :)

  27. Birdy responded on 09 Jan 2012 at 8:47 pm #

    Don’t worry, we like you too! My mom and I both read your blog religously, every time we talk one of us always says “did you read what Kate wrote today?” :D
    But I know exactly what you’re talking about, always worrying about the impression you leave on people who probably weren’t really paying attention to begin with! Its very frustrating.
    As to the elevator – you could do what my dad AND my husband do… they just start telling why they’re in the elevator and where they’re going and what they’re going to do later, and on and on. Of course this sometimes freaks the other person out, but sometimes the other person seems to enjoy someone being that randomly open. But they dont get on elevators very often as we dont live in the city, so maybe its the excitement of getting to take the elevator that gets to them. ;)

  28. Kristine responded on 09 Jan 2012 at 10:14 pm #

    i used to think this too. but i’ve realized being “badass” or “cool” isn’t really about not caring what people think it’s about not letting what other people think control you. i think it’s ok to care what people think for the most part. you can be sad or mad about what people think. you can cry over it. just don’t let it change you or make you do something that’s not true to who you are. in fact, i think most people who “don’t care what people think” are lying or have something to prove more often than not. i even think it’s a bit immature. you do not live in a vacuum, how people feel about you effects a lot of important things like your career and your social life. you should take those things into account and allow for the possibility that maybe people are seeing something you are missing but after you have analyzed the situation you should ultimately do what you think is right.

  29. San D responded on 09 Jan 2012 at 10:24 pm #

    Just as an aside, my father used to do magic card tricks in the elevator with the people in the elevator, much to my delight and to the embarassment of my mother.

  30. LeeH responded on 10 Jan 2012 at 6:55 am #

    I try to say ‘good morning’ to people I run in to in the elevator or otherwise, then let them turn it into a conversation if they want to. At least I was friendly first. Somehow that makes me feel better

    I’m sure I would like you if I met you. I like your honesty and openness about life’s crap. I feel like I know you and I like that. Reading your blog is like a little visit with a friend

  31. melissa responded on 10 Jan 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    omg I care so much that it is definitely my biggest weakness! Those people who get everything they want? They don’t care so much. I wasn’t always this way but then things kinda went to hell and I got burned. Sometimes, it would be great to be able to turn it off and then maybe I could make a phonecall for once!

  32. Kate responded on 10 Jan 2012 at 12:47 pm #

    @San D
    Really? That’s kind of fantastic.
    My dad talks to everyone. Sometimes it’s embarrassing. Mostly it’s great.

  33. Kate responded on 10 Jan 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    @Sooz
    I like you back!!

  34. Kate responded on 10 Jan 2012 at 12:50 pm #

    @Birdy
    I am so thrilled that both you and your mom read this blog!
    And that’s hilarious about your dad and husband. I have several family members like that, too, and I always like going out with them. I roll my eyes a lot, but they crack me up.
    Bring them to the city and we’ll all take an elevator together :-)

  35. Emily M.M. responded on 10 Jan 2012 at 3:21 pm #

    i finally got here.
    Those “moments of connection”? They nail me too.
    They are life. They are energy.
    Being a force of nature – overrated.
    Caring is the new cool.

  36. Deb responded on 11 Jan 2012 at 12:16 am #

    I loved this post. It made me smile :)

  37. Jo responded on 11 Jan 2012 at 12:27 pm #

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a force for good, rather than a force to be reckoned with :)

  38. Mandy responded on 11 Jan 2012 at 12:34 pm #

    There are degrees of not caring what other people think.
    Not caring at all isn’t cool–it’s COLD.
    Trampling over other people to get what you want isn’t “kickass,” it’s being a selfish, self-centered asshole.
    And being a cold asshole is about the farthest thing from cool I can think of.
    Of course, caring TOO much isn’t desirable, either. You don’t want to be cast into agonies of self-doubt if some random stranger says something mean to you in passing. You want to be able to shake your head and wonder “who peed in that guy’s cornflakes?”
    In my experience, sweetie, it’s not so much about not caring, as it is about not taking things personally. I also find that being able to laugh at myself helps a lot. I have accepted that I’m not capable of being perfect, and that I’m occasionally ridiculous.
    And I think that you totally kickass for being brave enough to put yourself out there every time you post a blog. THAT’S being cool!

  39. Mandy responded on 11 Jan 2012 at 12:35 pm #

    Ha! What Jo said!

  40. Kate responded on 11 Jan 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    @Mandy
    Exactly, about the cornflakes. I’m working on it. Not peeing in them, but, you know, thinking that, instead of wanting to cry a little.

  41. Hannah responded on 13 Jan 2012 at 3:24 pm #

    I think Emily MM said it best–caring is the new cool.

    You know the people I like? The people who care about me and seem to consider me in their actions and words. The people I know who truly don’t care about others’ opinions are jerks. I knew a girl once who would get snippy with bar security and waiters for doing their jobs. If she didn’t like it, you heard about it, and a lot. I try to spend as little time as possible around people like that.

    And I try to remember, especially when I’m with strangers, that they might feel just as awkward and desperate for approval as I do.

  42. JessB responded on 17 Jan 2012 at 2:36 am #

    Oh boy, I am way too nice. In fact, I just finished up a temp position, and my manager there told me in the final conversation that we had, that I was too nice sometimes.

    I am working on it.

  43. eSeN responded on 19 Jan 2012 at 12:17 am #

    Hi! I just found your blog, through yesandyes, and I’m so glad I did! I love the way you write; you describe things so spot-on, and I also like the way you don’t hide the “bad” stuff. You talk honestly about vulnerabilities and you are just matter matter-of-fact about it, because they are just a part of you. And then other people don’t feel so bad about their vulnerabilities. That’s what you do.

    And this post? It made me wish I could run into you in an elevator or on the street, and maybe we could be friends :) I don’t live near you, but at least I get to visit you here!

  44. Eat the Damn Cake » Little Victories: asking for a raise responded on 19 Jan 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    [...] that maybe I should fight for more– push them. But then I accepted. Enough for one day. The “thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” was coming [...]

  45. Eat the Damn Cake » what the hell is success, anyway? responded on 23 Mar 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    [...] negatively. If someone gives me a weird look on the elevator, I am more likely to think, “Why does she hate me?!” than “Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I’m carrying fourteen [...]

  46. Eat the Damn Cake » the women who don’t care responded on 26 Apr 2012 at 12:51 pm #

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  47. Marco Polo responded on 27 Apr 2013 at 9:24 am #

    I Googled “why don’t people like me?” And your post came up.
    I like you. Even though we’ll never meet, rest assured if we were on an elevator I’d have a fun chat with you.