On Approval

I have a friend with whom I’ve shared many years of experiences, both high and low under the large umbrella that is Friendship. One of the most significant memories I have of the two of us (which is probably incredibly insignificant to him) occurred one bright shiny autumn morning in 2000. We were in a scenic design class and our beloved professor, to help us pass our tedious drafting time, often played clips of musicals and classical music compositions and awarded a big ol’ bag a’candy to whomever answered the most correctly. He played a particular piece (what, I don’t remember) and I thought I knew the answer, but wasn’t quite sure…”I think it’s so and so…” I mused. The music played on. “I think…I’m not sure…should I just say it?” and my friend said in a particularly harsh tone, “Why do seek my approval on everything?!”

Stung, I went back to my drafting table and didn’t speak to him for the rest of the day (which I’m sure he did not notice.) But what stung the most was the fact that he was right. I did seek his approval on everything, which had not been, up until that school year, true in my life. I hadn’t sought out anyone’s approval until I met him.

I actually ended up skipping my next classes and going home and crying for a really long time. I was mad at him. I was mad at me. But I had yet to answer his question. Why did I seek his approval all the time?

Because he demanded it. Because he made my life miserable without his approval. Because I was written off until I regained it. It was a slippery slope and I often slid down it. I had never met anyone like him in my entire life and I wanted to keep watching the show.

The reason I air this particularly dirty laundry is because history has repeated itself, not so much in my life but in one of my sister’s and in the theatrical world. Certain types of people demand others approval, and will not rest until they either obtain it or they have obliterated those who will not succumb to their demands.

It would be very easy to write these souls off as “weak” or “ineffectual.” And perhaps, some of them are. But “weak” in what regard? “Ineffectual” in what regard? In the Strong Man contest between demander and demandee?

I find that between the ages of 18-22, people are particularly suceptible to demands for approval. Not in the high school sense of clothing or popularity or taste in music, what have you. In the sense that they are exposed to new people and new ideas and exciting new occurences and events and seeking to be a part of it all. This is true in dating, you meet someone who rocks your socks off…not in the love sense, but in the sense that you never thought there would be someone out there who digs the weird shit that you dig and remembers the obscure things you remember and gets the weird references and when they shout your triumphs to the high heavens and disregard your lesser attempts or even loudly write them off, approval becomes a drug. A really really addictive one. One that it can take years to quit. One that you will feel pangs for for the rest of your life. Approval feels so fucking good.

So when I see somebody pulling that shit on a family member of mine, or a friend of mine, this little fish gets pissed. The buck doesn’t stop at your desk, dude. Even if your desk is very big and loud and painted hot pink with little testicles all over it. Even if it’s blocking the exit. Even if your desk has more money. Even if your desk is imported from a strange land. Even if your desk has a lot of ideas about what, exactly, women are for and how they should be treated.

Your approval, like my approval, reminds me of an old adage about assholes, and while the conjugation may not fit, the sentiment does, “Everyone has one, and everyone thinks everybody else’s stinks.”

So out there in the ether, you can turn your snot-nosed face away and be rude. You can deny someone your support or endorsement. That’s your prerogative. But being loudest or proudest or the most refined doesn’t equal being smartest, or most savvy, or most tuned-in, or most innovative. It equals just that, being loudest.

I’m in an industry, career-path, community, whatever the fuck semantic thing you want to call it, where approval and denial are par for the course. I’m either right for your show, or I’m not. You like how I direct, or you don’t. You want to collaborate with me, or you aren’t interested. Whatever. That’s fine. I actually kind of like the cut and dried-ness. I’ve never been “iced” but I feel like that would almost be harder for me than a straight up, “Don’t call us.” So I’m not talking about approval where approval is due. Decisions where decisions need to be made.

I’m talking about killing ideas before they are full-grown. I’m talking about cutting off your nose to spite your face and everybody else’s faces but fuck you and you pretty! I’m talking about being 18 and adopting a love ’em and leave ’em attitude. I’m talking about being a goddamn adult. Fruits and vegetables grow in manure, my friends, so roll up your pantlegs and step on in. Plant seeds.

Good or Bad isn’t up to you. Good or Bad doesn’t have to pass your muster. Because out there in idea-land, honey, it’s all opinion. Give somebody else a chance to play. It isn’t your way or the highway. It’s your way or…perhaps…a pretty little country road with produce stands along the way. Or perhaps an army trail with cots and wool blankets. Maybe it’s an obstacle course. Maybe it’s kitten farts and moonbeams (nod to Telfer). Whatever floats your boat. But I’ll be goddamned if your boat is the only boat out there.

Evey, there are other boats out there. And they have manners.

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