Monday, January 19, 2009

I Forgot, I Hate Politics

© 2009 Leighann Lord

I’ve been so caught up the inaugural hoopla, I almost completely forgot that I hate politics. In the seventh grade, we set up my school’s first student council. Being a shoe-in for valedictorian I naturally planned to run for president, until I found out that my best friend, Jennifer, was running too.

I was smart, but Jennifer was smart, pretty and popular; the trifecta. I’m not being self deprecating about my appearance or aggrandizing about my intelligence. It was what it was. And in the harsh realities of grammar school politics the run for president really was just a popularity contest. No matter how good my platform (better school lunches, reduced homework, longer recess) I feared I didn’t stand a chance.

In retrospect, I should have had more confidence, but at the time my self esteem was under constant assault from the awkwardness of puberty and the ravages of hormones. I didn’t have the courage to find out if my classmates didn’t esteem me as highly as they did my friend. If they didn’t, I doubted I could have survived the knowledge.

I also didn’t want to damage our friendship. In the hostile and heartless world of childhood I was terrified of losing one of the few friends I had. Would Jennifer still be my friend if I won? More to the point, would I still be her friend if she won? Knowing, but not liking the answer, I settled for being Student Council Secretary. I took the coward’s way out and I hated myself for it. I’ve never been sure if this was a character creating or clarifying moment. I hope for the latter.

In subsequent years all of my competitive pursuits were strictly academic. I competed for nothing of political or social consequence. If my friends liked a particular guy, I immediately lost interest in him. He was dead to me. Career-wise I chose solitary pursuits – standup comedy and writing – where the only real competition was with myself.

But alas no career path is immune from politics. The amount of political wrangling in the entertainment industry is staggering. It’s the biggest popularity contest there is. In a painfully familiar scenario I’m often up for the same jobs and gigs as my friends. The kid in me cringes but an ever so slightly more mature version of me knows resistence is futile. Play the game and let the chips fall where they may. The best way too really win is by being yourself. I don’t know if that’s really true or not, but it helps me and my inner adolescent, sleep at night. I’m also grateful that Jennifer is not a standup comic.

I sometimes wonder how my life would have been different if I had chosen to tough it out and run for Student Council President. What if I had won? Would that have been the start of bright political career? Law school? City Council? Senator? President? A personal invitation to Barack Obama’s inauguration? Maybe, maybe not. At my core – Obama, notwithstanding – I still hate politics.

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