I stayed up way later than I should have, the night that the nominations for the Stopies awards were announced. Secretly, I was hoping that my podcast, the one that I co-host and that I enjoy making with Ophelie would somehow have attracted enough attention to warrant being nominated for one of the many awards being given away by the crew of the Stopcast. I got there just in time to hear who was all nominated and to hear which award I, personally, was being nominated for: “Biggest Drama Queen.”
At first, it started out being something that I was proud of. I even came on the show after the nominations were announced and talked a little bit about how happy I was to be nominated and how I couldn’t wait to beat out the other nominees for the grand prize. I woke up the next morning and immediately spammed my Twitter feed with requests for people to vote for me as the “Biggest Drama Queen” and it was all fun and fancy free – at least for a little while.
The next day, I got into a scuffle with some people that I went to high school with, over on the Facebook page for our 10 year high school reunion. There were a couple of women I went to school with who were upset about the fact that they couldn’t bring their children to the festivities, which would be taking place on a Saturday night at a swanky hotel in the city. I made a comment that I couldn’t imagine why any parent would want to bring their child to such an event and that it isn’t the job of the organizers or us to entertain their children or to change things around so that the accommodations could be more to their liking.
Needless to say, this led to strings of trolling and some pretty nasty remarks about my lifestyle or my character. I left the group, when I sensed things were taking a turn for the worse and only re-joined a few days later, at the request of the woman who was moderating the page and who was basically organizing the event. Afterwards, people were reflecting on the sad state of some of our former classmates and I felt the need to apologize for my part in how things went down. At that point, one of the guys I went to high school with chimed in with, “You haven’t changed since high school. You’re still just a confrontational drama queen.”
There were those words again: “drama queen.” You are a drama queen. Not even that I am a drama queen, but that I have always been a drama queen. This implies that nothing has changed and that I have been something potentially negative all this time. From then on, it stopped being funny. It stopped being something to be proud of. Instead, it became something that I began to obsess over. I immediately texted my best friend, who I have known and loved since junior high. I asked her, “Was I a confrontational drama queen in high school?” She replied, “Um, kinda.” Clearly, she was not my target audience. I didn’t really want to hear anything even remotely biased or subjective, so I took myself to the only factual and honest resource that I could think of: Wikipedia.
Entering the words “drama queen” into their search engine brings up various forms of entertainment and interestingly enough, Histrionic Personality Disorder, or HPD. The definition reads a little something like this:
Histrionic personality disorder (HPD) is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as a personality disorder characterized by a pattern of excessive emotionality and attention-seeking, including an excessive need for approval and inappropriately seductive behavior, usually beginning in early adulthood. These individuals are lively, dramatic, vivacious, enthusiastic, and flirtatious.
Well, this isn’t looking good for me.
Like any sane person who tries to self-diagnose via the Internet, I immediately began to get sucked into the various definitions of a histrionic personality and finding ways that this disorder seemed to be a perfect explanation for the way that I am. Before I knew it, I had at least a dozen tabs open, full of home remedies, acronyms for how to describe people with this disorder, examples of histrionic personalities throughout history, differential diagnoses – you name it. I was going into histrionics just reading about the possibility that I could be histrionic. I had to take a step back for a moment and then it hit me. I started to view things from an entirely different angle.
When you’re a woman, you’re not allowed to just “be.” If you’re emotional, you’re hysterical. If you’re assertive, you’re a bitch. If you enjoy sex, you’re a whore. If you swear, you’re uncouth. If you get ahead in life, someone helped you get there. Being a woman means being forced to operate in extremes. You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. It’s very hard to find a middle ground in anything, as a woman. To me, phrases like “drama queen” or “slut” are really easy for people to turn to, when they can’t find other ways to label you or judge you. How many times have you met someone who has described their most recent ex-boyfriend or girlfriend as simply being “crazy?” What does that mean exactly? Were they boiling your house pets in water on the stove? Were they throwing pebbles at your window in the middle of the night, in a misguided attempt to wake you up and read you poetry? Crazy could mean any number of things, but when you hear the word “crazy” your mind usually goes in one direction and it’s usually not in a positive one.
I asked my shrink about this today, if she thought that I was a drama queen and she helped me elaborate a bit more on the subject. Drama queens do what they do for the attention, for the rush. I have been in conflicts where I have felt that adrenaline rush and let me tell you that I did not enjoy it. I did not enjoy the way that my hands shook violently and that I was so cold from anxiety that I couldn’t stop shivering, no matter how high I turned the heat on in my apartment or how many blankets I wrapped around myself. I did not enjoy the feeling of my stomach being wrapped around and around like a wet towel, so tightly that I could not even sit because of how uncomfortable it made me feel. I have experienced that surge of adrenaline, that feeling of fight or flight and it has never been something that I have wished or willed upon myself.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not avoid conflict. To me, there is no such thing as avoiding conflict. There is such a thing as avoiding resolution and that’s what avoiding conflict is, to me. I don’t shy away from an opportunity to defend myself or to stand up for someone else. I don’t let people walk all over me. I say what’s on my mind and I try to do the right thing. It may not always go down like that, but that’s typically my intention. I didn’t do that nearly enough in high school and I regret it, to this day. I was the doormat. I was the wallflower. I took it – all the jokes, all the bullying, all the judgment, and I didn’t say or do anything to defend myself. As I got older, I realized that I could have done something all along and so that’s why I am as outspoken as I am today. I know how it feels, to feel like you don’t exist because you do not have a voice and you cannot bring yourself to use it. So, if being silent means I don’t exist, then I will be as loud as I can to prove to myself and to anyone else that I do.
If standing up for myself, laughing as loudly as I can at a hilarious joke, or knowing what I want in life and not letting anyone get in the way of that and not settling for less makes me a drama queen, then I will be your drama queen. I don’t feel these are qualities that anyone, much less a woman should be ashamed of. We have become so afraid of rocking the boat and breaking the mold that we have to slap a label on someone who would dare to do otherwise. It’s easier for people to digest that way. It’s easier for people to understand, for them to figure you out and possibly dismiss you if they can throw a tag like that on you, as if to explain why are you the way you are in two or three little words. Well, I for one am not having it.
If I were truly a drama queen, I would have had so many opportunities with which to indulge in this kind of behavior that I have completely missed out on. I could have stormed up to people I don’t care for at the WoWInsider party and gave them a piece of my mind. I could have called a meeting with Beru to berate her for her alleged cattiness and how she spent so much time misunderstanding me. I could have thrown a shit fit when I woke up to a handful of strange men in my hotel room, courtesy of Ophelie. Were I a true drama queen, those would have been prime opportunities to lose my damn mind and to soak up as much attention as I possibly could have. Did I do that? No, I did not. Instead, I stayed with the people I came with at the pool party and networked with those that I truly wanted to be around. Beru and I had a lovely conversation in the lobby at the Hilton and I feel like we started on the path towards making amends. I had a hearty laugh at the strange men in our hotel room, a situation which Ophelie seemed to be more distraught or embarassed over than I was.
We can choose to take the labels that we are given at face value, or we can choose to adapt them to ourselves, to make them fit us. I may not have gone into this situation with that mindset, but it is where I am right now. And I can’t think of any other place, mentally or emotionally that I would rather be.