A Worry-Wart's Guide To Worry.
And why it's stupid.
“I drive way too fast to worry about cholesterol.” Steven Wright
First of all, I’m no expert on worry. I do it a lot. For all I know, I may be doing it wrong, but I am guilty of “worry-wart-ism.” My ideal time to worry is during holidays, blackouts and anything to do with firecrackers. I make a point of it. When someone says, “Don’t worry,” they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. Of course we worry. Truly worrisome things are out there (including me).
That’s not going to change, obviously (I’m still wandering around), but we can understand the root of worry, which is embarrassment. Life’s embarrassing. If it wasn’t, we’d be a bunch of rampant idiots, doing anything we please. Since we aren’t, and we don’t (I do), it must mean we’ve either learned to accept embarrassment, or we’re chicken shits, avoiding everything — including ourselves.
Now, what I’ve learned is this: A lot of famous people face worry and embarrassment all the time. They don’t hide or jump off bridges (if they did the rivers would be full of headliners). Instead, they put things in perspective. Even if they’re embarrassed as hell, they find a way to deal with it.
So imagine Dolly losing a Dolly-Look-Alike Contest to a man. No kidding, she lost to a man.
Let’s start off with Dolly Parton, a famed entertainer, known throughout the world as, well, kooky as all get out. Everything about Dolly is pretty kooky which, in turn, makes her memorable — or you’d think she’s memorable. So imagine Dolly losing a Dolly-Look-Alike Contest to a man. No kidding, she lost to a man.
Dolly entered a drag queen impersonator contest years ago in Los Angeles without revealing her true identity. At only 5 feet in height, she decided to exaggerate her already exaggerated features. “They had a bunch of Chers and Dollys that year, so I just made my beauty mark bigger, the eyes bigger, the hair bigger.”
Well, she got in line, walked across the stage, and guess what? She got the least applause. The guy who won was taller, didn’t have butterfly tattoos on his arms (which Dolly always hides, anyway), and didn’t even have a southern accent.
If that’s not cause to worry, I don’t know what is. Life’s full of unexpected surprises, though. As Dolly would tell you, you can’t take it personally. If some guy’s going to look more like you than you, accept the irony. Worrying about what bizarre thing will happen next in your life is like wondering if your dog is going to stand up one day and talk.
In fact, with the exception of parrots, macaws, mynahs — oh, and dogs sounding like they’re trying to talk — no domesticated animal is stupid enough to talk when they don’t have to.
It’s not likely to happen, but who knows with dogs? Maybe it’s easier to play dumb and wag your tail. You still get fed. Why add conversation to the mix? In other words, dogs know how not to worry. Cats do, too. In fact, with the exception of parrots, macaws, mynahs — oh, and dogs sounding like they’re trying to talk — no domesticated animal is stupid enough to talk when they don’t have to.
“Life is what you make it,” as they say, and most of us make it hard. We worry instead of accepting life’s many curve balls. Dolly understands this. When asked how she felt about a man beating her in a Dolly Look-Alike Contest, she shrugged and said, “He was prettier than I could ever dream of being.”
Wouldn’t it have been better if she’d never entered the contest in the first place? Probably, but that’s the easy way out. You don’t learn from not doing something. Better to be humiliated, and know you’re being humiliated, than escaping embarrassment by sitting on the sidelines.
Dolly would rather take the chance, just as many successful artists would. Accepting fate is far better than avoiding it, and Dolly’s not the only singer who’s suffered twists of fate.
Sure, it’s humbling being beaten by a drunk, but some drunks do okay when they’re drunk, which Plant might have been as well, so why get all stressed out, especially by some guy doing “Stairway To Heaven” when he thought he was singing “Whole Lotta Love”?
Robert Plant once recounted going to a Karaoke Night and being “out performed” by a guy singing a Led Zeppelin song. “He was quite good, actually,” Plant said. Sure, it’s humbling being beaten by a drunk, but some drunks do okay when they’re drunk, which Plant might have been as well, so why get all stressed out, especially by some guy doing “Stairway To Heaven” when he thought he was singing “Whole Lotta Love”?
Then there’s Ed Robertson and Steve Page, of Barenaked Ladies, who went to a Karaoke Night and were “booed” while singing “It’s Raining Men.” In an interview, they said it was “funny as hell.” Did the fact that they were performing the next night in the same city worry them? “Oh, we’ve been booed before,” Ed responded.
Now, some of you are going to say, “Hey, they’ve sold millions of albums and performed in front of thousands of people.” That may be case, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t insecure. We know for a fact they are. Most of the time, they’re more insecure than a drunk singing “Stairway To Heaven” thinking it’s “Whole Lotta Love.”
The difference is, famous artists don’t worry the way we do. Faced with touring schedules, recording contracts, and everything else, things like losing a Dolly Look-Alike Contest hardly compares to the stress of their everyday lives.
Well, having $500 million helps, but combined with all her other responsibilities, you can see how one drag queen isn’t going to bother her much.
Dolly, for instance, is the fourth of twelve siblings. Because of her success (about $500 million), she’s always taking care of some niece or nephew. “Nobody can ever make enough enough money for as many poor relatives as I’ve got.” She’s known as “Aunt Granny,” and she’s responsible for “giving all those kids cars when they graduate.” Well, having $500 million helps, but combined with all her other responsibilities, you can see how one drag queen isn’t going to bother her much.
Better to see it as one of life’s ironies. Dolly’s had plenty in her career. If anything, it’s improved her toughness and her sense of humour. “I’m not offended by dumb blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb…I also know I’m not blonde.”
Humour certainly helps, especially to a criminally obsessive worry-wart like me. Rather than kick myself repeatedly, I turn to comedians like Billy Connolly who’s relieved his own fear of embarrassment with a simple phrase: “Fuck off.”
“But you can be in a Singapore airport and tell someone to fuck off and they’ll know what you’re saying.”
In one of his more famous routines, he said, “You can’t mistake the meaning of ‘fuck off.’ Nobody even knows where it comes from. But you can be in a Singapore airport and tell someone to fuck off and they’ll know what you’re saying.”
This is true. Whether it’s intonation, or people hearing it endlessly in airports, it’s a darn effective way to relieve stress, and possibly get yourself killed or maimed by someone who’s tired of being told to fuck off.
On the other hand, just as it works on other people, it’s also effective on you. Telling yourself to “fuck off” works wonders. It’s possible even Dolly Parton tells herself to fuck off. It’s just another way to relieve life’s curve balls, which we all need, along with putting things in context. These are sound principles that every worry-wart should follow (me especially).
We need to be more more like Dolly and Billy Connolly and Barenaked Ladies. As embarrassing as life is, it’s still funny as hell.
Embarrassment, worry — these things won’t go away. As long as we’re here, they’ll follow us like dogs refusing to talk. We need to be more more like Dolly and Billy Connolly and Barenaked Ladies. As embarrassing as life is, it’s still funny as hell.
It’s also endlessly stupid, too. Not as stupid as a dog figuring we’re never going to realize he can talk, but it’ll come in time. The dog isn’t going anywhere. Once we’ve got ourselves sorted out, we’ll confront him. If he doesn’t own up, we can always tell him to fuck off, which dogs know exactly what you’re saying. The tail-wagging is just his way of telling you to fuck off.
Dogs are smarter than we think.
Robert Cormack is a satirist, novelist and blogger. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)”is available online and at most major bookstores. Check out Skyhorse Press or Simon and Schuster for more details.
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