Friday, August 09, 2013

The joys of anonymity

The other day I was sitting in the food court of the local H Mart, reveling in the joys of Korean mall chow, when I had an odd thought. I'm not really sure what brought it on -- maybe it was something in the pungent aroma of the kimchi, maybe it was the many pairs of curious eyes on me (at the time, I was the only non-Asian in the place, and there were a couple of "did she get lost and wander in here?" glances in my direction) -- but whatever its origins, the idea took root and has continued to grow slowly.

Here it is, at its most basic: there are certain advantages to being anonymous.

And before you start yelling "SOUR GRAPES" at me, hear me out. I'm not saying it's a terrible thing to be famous (though there are certainly some disadvantages). I don't begrudge those who have worked hard to become well-known -- more power to them, in fact. But there are already a million lists detailing all the myriad pleasures associated with fame, and precious few that highlight the equally prevalent pleasures of being nobody in particular. I can't help but think some of these joys are worth stating and worth appreciating while you have them, because hey, who knows? If Andy Warhol was right, your 15 minutes are coming up!

So: a short list of privileges associated with anonymity.
  • I will never have to worry about a million people mocking my bad hair day, ridiculing my lack of fashion sense or discussing my "wardrobe malfunction" around the water cooler at work.
  • No one (aside from my husband and my doctor) will take note if I gain or shed 30 pounds.
  • I can pretty much say what I like, and not have to worry about it being taken out of context and used against me later on.
  • I can go to little hole-in-the-wall Korean restaurants that serve the most awesomely delicious haemul pajeon known to mankind, and no one will interrupt my dinner conversation or ask me to sign something (unless it's the check). And I can continue to go there, knowing my presence will not cause a surge in the place's popularity and subsequently ruin the service and food.
  • No one will ever spirit away the remnants of my meal and try to sell it on eBay.
  • I can run my own errands around town -- anywhere from Safeway to 7-Eleven -- without having to alter my appearance in any way, and no one will look at me twice.
  • I can shop secondhand stores without drawing a crowd.
  • Under normal circumstances, no one will ask me about my political convictions, my charitable causes, my thoughts about the ongoing civil war in East Crapgafistan, or any of an array of opinions that have nothing to do with my career.
  • I can live in a modest home or apartment with average security measures, no panic room and no security gate around the community, and sleep peacefully with the knowledge that no one is likely to invade my home or try to steal my spouse or children at gunpoint.
  • I have the option to take less expensive forms of public transit without being mobbed. (Not that flying coach is a privilege, exactly...)
  • No paparazzi will ever chase after me to take my picture.
  • Because people don't inexplicably expect me to look the same as I did ten or twenty years ago, I don't feel undue pressure to work out for hours every day, watch every little thing I eat or get elective surgery to improve my appearance.
  • I can read a book, watch a movie, listen to an album or play a video game, and no one will notice or judge my media preferences.
  • If I want to offer my services for free to someone, I don't have to jump through thousands of legal hoops to do it.
  • The world doesn't get to know how much money I make, nor does it get to judge how I choose to spend it.
  • Without a doubt, I know who my true friends are.
I'm sure there are plenty of other advantages, and I'll bet you can think of more. So tell me: what do you like (or, if you've had a measure of fame, what do you miss) about being anonymous?

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