Over a decade ago, I was in L.A. for a month at the Actor’s Bootcamp, a month-long intensive acting class. One day I was walking to Samuel French, THE bookstore for Actors and other entertainment industry types, when I was stopped by a couple of youngsters hanging out on the corner.
Side Note: March 31, 2019, after 90 years in business, Samuel French closed its doors for good. It will be missed.
The youngsters stopped me and asked, “Are you someone? You look like you’re someone.”
I said, “No, I’m nobody.”
But I took it badly. You see, I thought they were mocking me.
The 7-11 Gang
When I was a pre-teen, I used to make the ½ mile trip to the local 7-11 regularly. We all did in our neighborhood. Slurpees were the rage, even back then.
One day, I was with my brother Kelly, and two neighborhood friends, Jeff and Ryan, on a trip. As we approached the store, a gang of about 12 kids came from around the corner and circled us.
Now these kids were slightly younger than Ryan and I but older than my brother and Jeff.
My brother Kelly turned into a statue, and Jeff shook in his shoes. The group immediately targeted Jeff as the weak link and went after him, threatening him and calling him out to fight.
One thing you need to understand is that when people get into groups to attack others, they always attack the weakest. Why? Because they’re cowards, that’s why. Anyhoo…
Ryan and I were different. We swaggered around in the center of all of this, counted the number of kids in the gang audibly, and then had a discussion between the two of us about how it would be a fair fight.
Another thing you need to understand is that when bullies and cowards are confronted with a situation that makes no sense, they tend to back off.
Either Ryan and I knew something the gang didn’t, like we knew Kung Fu or something, or we were bat-shit crazy and couldn’t be counted on to act in a reasonable manner.
Side Note: One time, my mother told me that if was ever attacked, I should throw myself on the ground and start eating the grass. The attacker would think I was crazy and go away.
Crazy trumps strength, and numbers.
The gang backed off and we got our Slurpees, although Jeff may have been mentally damaged permanently.
I come from a hard past. It wasn’t until my 40s that I realized just how hard it actually was. When you’re in the middle of it, it seems normal.
When you live hard, it’s a matter of who is the biggest and baddest, or who is the craziest. You learn to make yourself bigger and badder than you actually are. I learned that lesson well.
I’m not very strong, even after years of Tai Kwon Do. Even after being in Security in the Navy. I couldn’t hurt a fly. Now that I’m older, I’m even weaker. “I’m old and weak.” I complain to my brother Kelly. All of my badassedness comes from my attitude. The way I hold myself.
I learned to walk big. I take space. Head high. I generate a “big” presence energetically. I can walk into situations where others flail. I’m not challenged.
This of course is a big problem on its own. I really do need to put myself into a position where I am challenged, so that I can grow as a person.
You can see this in people who live hard. Go downtown in any big city and just watch people. The more people feel threatened, the bigger they walk. Street people swagger around all over the place. People look huge, arms crossed, feel wide apart. Everything about them says, “Don’t fuck with me. You will die.”
It’s self-protection. It’s self-protection against others like themselves, and against others that might try and take advantage of them. Trust is low. Skepticism is high. There are dangers everywhere.
The same people who are swaggering around defending themselves are also often the sweetest people to those in their inner circle, when no one else is around.
It’s a stereotype that really big, scary looking men are actually pussycats. But it’s often true. My friend Ron was one of those people. He was trained as a nurse but ended up working in mental institutions because he was so scary looking. He was the least scary guy I’ve ever known. He was a gentle soul. He did his best to not walk big. But sometimes, it can’t be helped.
Other people walk big only when they are in their own social groups. There is a power in numbers. A group I was in, and stayed too long in, was like that. They walked big when they were the majority in any group, to the point that they were rude to outsiders and sometimes to each other. But if they were in the minority, the tended to say in a small group to the side. They didn’t walk big at all.
In L.A. everyone acts bigger and badder than what they actually are. Everyone is trying to convince everyone else of their worth. It’s expected that headshots are touched up to the point that they don’t look like themselves anymore. Sometimes it’s hard to sort through all the inconsistencies. It’s hard to find the truth.
Side Note: Some L.A. teachers will travel to smaller markets like Seattle and convince actors there that they’re big and bad in L.A. and that deserve to be worshiped. Actors in smaller markets aren’t as sophisticated as actors in L.A. and tend to get themselves in trouble with the wrong teacher. The one I’m thinking about is one who was ousted from his own school only 5 years after he founded it. <Karin shaking head>
We’re surrounded by people trying to assert their worth, their expertise, their superiority.
It’s fairly commonplace. People write a book, and self-publish if they have to, to get credibility. They will show you their diplomas, which are easy to get these days. I’m a certified hypnotist, yet I can’t hypnotize anyone. They’ll parlay a good review from a known person into a whole career. It’s the world we live in now. You have to do your research when looking for someone to hire either in a job, or as a therapist or coach.
I have been fired so many times by people in helping professions because they really don’t know how to help people who come from hard backgrounds. They were not trained well, and I suffered.
Everyone, in one way or another, is walking big.
“Are you someone? You look like someone.”
I took it badly. Like many people, especially from hard backgrounds, I have self-esteem issues.
I thought that they were teasing me. I thought they were saying, “Oh look, another Hollywood hopeful who has no chance of ever succeeding. Oh, you think you’re someone, do you? You’re not!”
That was before I realized the actual effect of me walking big.
It’s really hard to leave a hard background. I have been so lucky in my life. Grandparents willing to take me in. The Navy opening the door to college. Even though emotionally I’m a moron, I’m highly intelligent. I managed a miracle, I got out.
But I still walk big. It’s a habit.
Instead of finding me scary and deserving of being left alone, the people I’m around now see me in a different way. They don’t intuitively know that I’m subconsciously making sure they don’t fuck with me.
No, they see me as someone successful. Someone who has their shit together. Someone who might be “someone.”
Boy, are these people fooled.
Side Note: I’ve tried to change but I found my self-esteem dampened. I also end up acting like a wimp and tend to get taken advantage of. I can’t seem to win, so, fuck it. Maybe I can parlay it into actual success.
Now I have to protect myself in another way.
There are people who think I’m Ms. Money-bags and who they can manipulate in various ways. (I don’t make a lot of money and their manipulations piss me off.)
There are people who think I can help them in their careers in ways I just don’t have the skills for. (Then they get mad at me because they don’t believe I can’t help them.)
There are people who assume things about me that are just not true…
- I have prints on my walls; therefore, I must be an accomplished artist. (I’m not)
- I talk to people at parties; therefore, I must know everyone. (I don’t)
- And their own self-esteem problems tell them I must be above them somehow. (I’m not)
It’s a big part of the motivation for this blog. I want to be known as myself, not the “Karin” people have made up in their noodles.
That time at Samuel French was the first time someone in L.A. took me to be “someone”. But it’s happened a few times since. I walk into a restaurant in L.A. and I sometimes get the look.
It’s all due to me walking big.
“Are you someone? You look like someone.”
“Yes, I am someone, and I’m no one.”