I recently received an email from Barnes & Noble titled “Announcing the 2014 Discover Great New Writers Award Winners.” I was unfamiliar with this particular award, and my curiosity was piqued. I wondered if I was a winner and this was my official notification. Of course, I had no basis to be optimistic, since there was no reason to think I had even been nominated. Undeterred by common sense, I hopefully double-clicked to learn if I was, in fact, a Great New Writer. I was not, at least not as far as Barnes & Noble were concerned, which makes a lot of sense, as my books are not available there.
I was not crestfallen by the snub. It’s arguable whether I can be considered a new writer. I should set my sights on the “2014 Been-Around-a-While Witty Memoirist Award,” assuming Amazon.com bestows one. Awards – or the lack thereof – aside, I do appreciate validation via public recognition, though it’s not a frequent occurrence. I’m terrible at marketing my books, and my laziness ensures recognition for my literary accomplishments is kept to an ego-checking minimum.
On rare occasions, validation is thrust upon me. A friend at work has organized a beginners’ running program dubbed the Running Yodas. They gather a few days each week to run together and support each other. They have team t-shirts and invite guest speakers to a monthly colloquy/pep talk. I was asked to be the featured talker this month based on my experience as a runner and the fact that I wrote a book about it. I was delighted at the invitation and spent a big chunk of the weekend working on my remarks. I have a decent outline but need to spend another weekend polishing my humblebrag. I want to maximize the recognition by generating as much laughter, intentionally, as possible from the audience. Good comedy takes preparation.
During the workweek, I try not to think about it. Instead I’ve gone about my normal routine of email and meetings, with a lunchtime run to break up the day. On Wednesday, I returned to the locker room after my run and, before showering or even taking off my shoes, I retrieved my phone from the pocket of my pants hanging in a locker to check for any texts. This behavior is symptomatic of my desire for validation described earlier. Most often, there are no new texts waiting, but this day was different. I had two, each from a different female co-worker/friend. Then, when I did remove my shoes and running togs, shower, dress, and walk back towards my office, I was stopped by another woman in the hall. Next, upon entering my office, I found a handwritten note stuck to my monitor by a fourth. More communications, digital and in-person, were to come over the next two days. This was an almost unprecedented amount of feminine attention for such a brief period of time. The message delivered by each woman was the same: they found it intriguing, and slightly creepy, that I was watching them in the women’s restroom.
Normally, this would be troubling, as I avoid entering the women’s restroom at all, let alone intentionally to ogle women. However, it was explained that I was staring at them figuratively. My visage appears on posters advertising my upcoming talk and are hanging from every bathroom wall in the building. I confirmed the posters – and my face – are not hanging on the inside of the stall doors, which would be truly disturbing and, potentially, actionable. Curiously, the men either didn’t notice or care. While the same posters are hanging in the men’s rooms, I have not heard a single comment from a male co-worker. Apparently, they are more accustomed to my appearance in the restroom.
I’m unsure how the bathroom stalker poster will affect attendance at my upcoming talk. While I’m hoping for a big crowd, I would be happy with even a single person to offer a bit of validation. Either way, I think I’ve got great material for an opening joke.