"You're nicer when you're ill."
"You're nicer when you're ill."
I was told this a long long time ago by a very close friend on meeting him whilst suffering a terrible head cold during my gobbier days in art school.
I believe he was relieved to see my weaker side when being a brass-necked, laddish 'towny' was de rigueur and something which I loosely embraced.
On recalling this I began to ask myself if vulnerability was a prerequisite to being liked on a personal level and more importantly for the purposes of this blog, in an artistic sense.
First I considered a handful of the vulnerable artists who I admire.
Woody Allen. But has Woody Allen ever really shown vulnerability? He is too famous for that I think. He has always made movies the way he wanted to make movies. Total strength. Zero vulnerability.
Tony Hancock. Same thing to a point but he lost his charm when he went to the big screen because of exactly that; he had gone to the big screen. When that failed his genuine vulnerability rose to the surface and made him ineffective as a performer and lead him to his tragic end.
James Dean made vulnerability acceptable and cool when in fact he was one fucking tough cookie in tinsel town. Even the character Jim Stark, the most famous of vulnerable teenagers, participated in a 'chickie run' AND fought a bully with a knife.
Syd Barrett. His vulnerability lead him away from the limelight when his star was just rising. In this instance his vulnerability was also a weakness!
Unfortunately I have been lead to believe that vulnerability is only an attractive, acceptable thing if you appear strong 99% of the time.
Perhaps I am afraid of being unattractive. Is this the strength I see in other's show of vulnerability? The ones who are strong enough to SHOW their 'ugly' side? A Richard Pryor or a Sylvia Plath?
Vulnerability in the art and entertainment industry sells but what if your vulnerability makes you a terrible salesperson?
'Strength' is something you are obliged to invent.
'Whatever gets you through the night.'
Jung, Lennon and Allen
With this sentiment Jung, Lennon and Allen basically imply that holding on to a myth in order to validate our place on earth is better than being constantly face to face with 'the void'.
I can only assume that my subconscious has decided to agree with this premise because my consciousness definitely denies its validity.
Speaking with another friend one time she asked what my natural state would be if all of my 'obstacles' to success were removed and I gained everything I wanted.
"My natural state? Lying alone in the corner of a room curled up in a ball," I answered.
She seemed surprised.
I told another friend that I am much happier alone in the studio than performing/reading on stage; that I am too self conscious. He also found this hard to believe of me.
And so I act. And what do I do with this act? I spend most of my time trying to talk, write and paint myself out of the act.
I think the real me, the ugly me doesn't like being around people.
As a child I once hid under the living room table the entire time an uncle and aunt came to visit. I could hear them talking about me over tea and coffees wondering where I had got to.
I still feel like doing that sometimes.
A case of arrested development? A fundamental distaste for small talk and pleasantries?
The ugly me can manage to stay alone in unwanted company by drinking too much. Whether I am 'acting' or not on these occasions no longer matters because the feeling of being drunk takes precedence.
But here's the kicker; give me three days alone to myself and I turn into a gormless, glum, unhealthy, twitching cabbage of a person.
I need people.
Nice, attractive me likes reading and writing and thinking on trains.
Nice attractive me is polite as fuck and gets on with nearly everyone and anyone.
Ugly, real me kills dear in the woods with his bare hands and eats the flesh uncooked.
Nice, attractive me invites you for a bite.
Ugly, real me gets touchy when you turn down the offer of raw dear meat.
Nice, attractive me lets you cook half of it so it's pallatable to your big baby gob.
Ugly, real me then cooks and eats you.
Nice, attractive me resents you destroying the lovely raw meat which I could have had and holds the anger in till he gets an ulcer the size of a baseball and then dies in terrible pain.
So much for Mr Nice Me.
Vulnerability is an essential ingredient to an artists’ work but you better make damn sure you have the neck to deal with the baseball bat wielding morons whose particular weakness is power and money.
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