I have this pathological curse that I want to be please everyone. Call it Sally Field Syndrome (when she won the Oscar for Best Actress, her acceptance speech started with “You like me! You really, really like me!”). I am always surprised when people like me or recognize me or even want to talk to me. Yet, I obsessively try to be nice to everyone so that they will like me. It is an endless and exhausting loop.
Sometimes I just want to say, “It doesn’t matter if you like me, so there!” but that would be a lie.
For example, I have been volunteering at my older son’s school. The fabulous office staff is always happy to see me because I will hopefully sort some mail or organize files or otherwise accomplish some busy-work that has been sitting around waiting to be done.
What do I do? Bake them muffins. And cookies.
“Yay!” says The Husband. “You made us some cookies!”
“They’re not for you,” I hiss, apparently not worried about whether or not The Husband likes me. “They’re for the school.”
“Oh. Is it for a Bake Sale?”
“Duh, no. The cookies are for the school office ladies.”
“Why?” he probes. “Is it someone’s birthday?”
“How should I know?” I say impatiently. “I’ve only volunteered there a couple of times so far.”
“Uh-oh. Is this part of your I-am-such-a-nice-person campaign?”
“Of course,” I confirm defensively.
Our little psychotherapy session is cut short by the kitchen timer beeping.
“MOV, seriously? The school office people must already like you because you are helping them for free. I don’t think you need to bring cookies in.” The words are accompanied by the surreptitious theft of a cookie, perhaps eight, while I get the next batch out of the oven.
How can they possibly like me from just talking, getting to know me, and me helping them? I must bribe them with delicious foods to cement their approval of me.
This carries over into other aspects of my life as well. I hold the door for people at the dry cleaners (who will soon enough cut in front of me in line, and then I will never see them again) so that they will like me. I take the next-door neighbors’ newspaper to their doorstep when I go out for an early morning run, even though the delivery guy puts it at the end of their driveway which is not really that far to go. I volunteer to coordinate our moms’ group dinner club for several months, even though I have just started my Top-Secret New Job and am actually quite busy.
I want people to like me! I obsessively need people to like me!
When I find out through the grapevine or Facebook (“I Hate MOV—here’s why”) that someone does not like me (say, a previous co-worker from my airline career), I ruminate about it for days. That’s not true: months. How dare Deena not like me? I traded flights with her to accommodate her schedule! I helped her distribute the Duty Free forms on that London flight that one time! I held her place in line at Starbucks at the airport while we were delayed for two hours for that Boston flight! I’m nice! Damn it, I am!
The Husband shakes his head when I try to explain this to him. “MOV, why do you care what other people think? You know who is really important in your life. Your immediate family, your close friends. A few other special people.”
That’s right: my blog readers.