“The fame thing isn’t really real. Don’t forget, I’m also just a girl,
standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.”
These words from Notting Hill are one of my favorite lines of movie dialogue, mainly because every time I hear them—in context of the scene—they make my eyes burn. It only takes a second for tears to start running down my face, every single time. I think it’s the heart behind the words, the desperation behind her meaning. Here she is, one of the world’s most famous movie stars, and all she wants out of life is for someone—namely this average guy in a bookstore—to see past all that exterior fluff to the girl hidden inside. In a world where looks trump everything all else, she simply wants someone to see past her perfect image to the messy soul underneath…and to be accepted for it.
I think we all struggle with this. Maybe today more than ever.
Our images are everywhere, whether fame is a fact of life or not.
Take me, for example. I’m not famous. A few think I am, but not a single person outside my hometown would recognize me at the grocery store. Other than at a bookstore or conference or online, no one asks for an autograph. There are no articles written about me outside of writer’s magazines.
But just like yours, my image is everywhere.
Google me—you’ll find all kinds of stuff. Get on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or this blog and there I am, smiling from a perfectly cropped little square box. I post things and people like them. I post things and people hate them. I post things and people cheer. I post things and people wish I would go away. I post things and people smile. I post things and people roll their eyes. I like to pretend all reactions are positive; I’m smart enough to know some are not.
But this is how the majority of you know me. This is how the majority of you keep up with me. But something to keep in mind: image Amy is not entirely the same as real Amy. I think this is where we all get confused.
I am not fake, and I don’t like to put fake things out there. But real Amy is not always smiling. Real Amy struggles. Real Amy doesn’t like to present a perfect image of herself because she does not have it all together. But real Amy isn’t a whiner, so the smiling, funny Amy is what you’re going to get.
But again, I think this is where we tend to get confused. This is where we blur the line between what we see and what is actually happening. For example:
Remember that cute teenage girl wearing the adorable outfit on yesterday’s fashion page, the one twirling that yellow umbrella and grinning from her spot on the rain soaked sidewalk? She looked so happy in her latest photo, didn’t she? I bet you didn’t know that she stayed in her bedroom crying the night before because someone said something mean about her at school. That she didn’t want to leave the house today because her eyes were all puffy and her nose was stopped up from sobbing and she was afraid she might have to face that kid again.
Or what about that actor who landed the new role in that book-turned-movie you can’t wait to see, that guy who was voted People’s Sexiest Man Alive last year and has dated three of the most beautiful women in Hollywood this year alone? He looked so lucky in his latest photo, didn’t he? I bet you didn’t know that this morning he’s struggling with the world’s worst hangover from the bottle of whiskey he emptied last night while trying to drown out the very real fear that his career is spiraling downward.
And remember that politician who won last year’s election in a landslide and was photographed celebrating with celebrities at a million-dollar after-party? He looked so put together in his latest photo, didn’t he? I bet you didn’t know that he got caught with his hand under the table yesterday, now he faces legal trouble, and he’s trying to figure out how to keep his family from falling apart and his friends from ditching him for some up-and-coming guy with a more promising future.
And then there was that woman at last weekend’s march carrying that sign and yelling real loud for equal rights. She looked pretty determined in her latest photo, didn’t she? I bet you didn’t know that she was just fired from her job, and that last week she found out her mother is sick and that there’s very little hope for recovery.
And let’s not forget that writer with the new book out smiling in that Instagram picture with the caption that made you laugh. She seemed so happy in her latest photo, didn’t she? I bet you didn’t know that she worried all afternoon yesterday after hanging up from a talk with a friend, and then she cried last night because she was convinced the book she’d been rewriting for the better part of a year was a waste of time and sucked even more than it did when she started.
I bet you didn’t know.
I bet you didn’t know.
So what’s my point? Simply this.
Because of social media, we’re all in each other’s line of sight every day. We’re all in each other’s minds every week. We’re all in each other’s homes every month.
But we’re not actually in each other’s lives. Not really. Our images might be, maybe even a few of our words, but nothing that is flesh-and-blood real. So if you can, try to separate the image from the person. Remember to differentiate the fantasy from the reality. Remember to check yourself when you get offended at someone’s post. Remember to think twice before you decide to go on the attack. There’s been a lot a vitriol lately. Maybe some of it is warranted. Probably most of it is not.
A post is not a person. An image is not a person. A statement is not a person.
A person is a person, and most just want to be understood for who they are, not for who they appear to be.
After all, when it comes down to it…we’re all just people. Standing in front of other people. Wanting just one of them to love us.
The real us. Eyes wide, souls bare, hearts open, hands out.
Image isn’t everything. Most of the time, it’s just smoke and mirrors.
It’s our choice whether or not to clear the air, smash the glass, and find out what’s underneath the reflection.