April 10, 2011

Attention, by Any Means Necessary

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As I may or may not have mentioned before, I grew up an only child. It’s a loaded term, I know, but let me allow myself to confirm in this column all your preconceived notions on what exactly it means to grow up sibling-less.

In a nutshell, I was a brat. Now allow me to elaborate:

When I was three years old, my mother worked part-time as an art teacher at a nearby school. Though I usually had a sitter, one time my mother brought me to her school because she had to set up an art project with a fellow teacher after hours. Being an only child, I was able to entertain myself quite well at first; but being a three year old, that lasted a grand total of 13 seconds.

Seeing as the teacher was the only person in the room besides my mother, I decided he would be a good person to entertain me. Fancying myself the cutest thing to ever walk the planet, I waddled over to him and attempted to converse.

(In case you’ve never read one of my columns before, here’s a little spoiler: it did not go well.)

Aww, Wil’ Babay: Hello!

Uninterested Teacher: (No response).

This was unusual … I had never been ignored before. I didn’t know what to make of the situation. So I reacted the way any only child should:

This Man Must Be Blind: (Waving arms) Hello!

Uninterested Teacher: (No response).

Nada. Zip. Zilch. And other words for nothing. Oh yes, this was a very strange case, indeed. I had to try a more strategic approach.

This Man Must Be Deaf: (VERY LOUDLY) HELLO!

Uninterested Teacher: (No response).

Okay … this man would clearly be a challenge. Luckily, my I.Q. could probably (maybe) kick old Alberto Einsteino’s I.Q. in the posterior, so I rebounded from my dilemma very quickly.

No Habla Ingles, Duh: ¡Hola!

Because in my small but highly functioning three-year-old mind, if somebody wasn’t speaking to me, it wasn’t because they were ignoring me. Rather, it was because they did not speak English, plain and simple. I should have thought of it sooner.

Being unwilling to learn from the errors of my ways, my narcissism boldly persisted throughout my youth.

When I was about 9 years old, I developed this psychotic tendency I’ll refer to as “By Any Means Necessary.”

Basically, I made it my life’s goal to gain 100 percent of a superior’s attention 100 percent of the time. Unfortunately for my 9-year-old self, I was in a gifted primary school which meant I was constantly surrounded by a great deal of students who were great deal more talented than I was.

Herein lay the beauty of “By Any Means Necessary:” I didn’t need talent for attention; I just needed a little bit of creativity.

Playground time, for example, was one period I did not excel in. How, you ask, does a nine-year-old struggle with playground time? Two words: Annie Planer.

Annie, at the tender age of 9, was already a world-class gymnast scheduled to join the national team once she hit puberty. She was also an attention whore. This did not bode well with the inner only child that lurked in my soul.

Every day, I would struggle for attention amidst Annie’s incredible talent. And usually, the combination of my wit and childish good looks could hold my classmates’ eyes and ears until the lunch bell rang. But one day, Annie unleashed a monster.

It was a sight to behold. She spun 360 degrees on a jungle gym bar, showing off the new skills she had learned on the parallel bars. She would leap from side to side like a gazelle, if a gazelle could hold onto monkey bars and leap.

The students were in awe. I was in awe. Seriously, how the hell was I going to compete with that?

And then, as if their attention wasn’t already completely locked in, it happened: she fell and broke both arms.

If you’ve ever seen a forearm split between the wrist and the elbow, you know what I mean when I say this is the coolest thing a nine-year-old could ever dream of seeing. When she finally came back from the hospital the next day, Annie was a hero. She had two casts, one pink and one purple, and everybody wanted to sign them.

Everybody, that is, except for me. I just sat in my chair, brooding with disgust.

“‘By Any Means Necessary,’” I wondered, “How the hell are you going to get me out of this one?”

EUREKA! It’s so simple! I can regain their love and affection! I just have to break both my arms too!

Needless to say, I got as far as an ace bandage around my wrist and only because I begged the school nurse to put it there.

I’m proud to say that I’ve since overcome my only child syndrome for the most part.

But every once in a while, I find myself squeezing every drop of wit into these columns. Though I suppose I could suggest that all my efforts are just to entertain you, gentle readers, I’d be lying. Because really, I’m just trying to get you to stop reading Judah’s bi-weekly masterpiece and focus your eyes on me.

Cristina Stiller is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at cstiller@cornellsun.com. Believe You Me appears alternate Mondays this semester.

Original Author: Cristina Stiller