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Who' s pulling these strings, anyway?
by Jonas Micah

I had a startling revelation at around four o' clock in the morning. It was kind of a jumbled mess. Something about self-esteem, fitting in with others, allowing people to push me around, and a few other things tossed in for good measure. You see, I' m something of an insomniac. So I wasn' t asleep anyway, and I tend to do a lot of thinking during those times. I was sitting on my bed with the lights turned on, staring at the wall, and once again trying to make sense of this muddled mess I call my life.

In particular, I was trying to figure out how I got swindled into spending sixty bucks every month on magazine subscriptions I don' t want. Yeah, that' s right, I got pulled in by a smooth-talking telemarketer. Usually, I just hang-up on those guys, saving myself the trouble of actually having to tell them no. But the day I agreed to pay sixty bucks per month was different. The bastards tricked me. You see, some kid had been going door to door a few weeks prior, selling magazine subscriptions to raise money for his youth group. He was a nice guy and I felt like helping him out. Plus, he actually did have a couple of video game magazines on his list that I normally pick-up in stores. It was a good deal. The price was cheap, and I was actually getting something I wanted. So I gladly said yes. The only problem is, somewhere along the line my contact info was given out to other companies.

This telemarketer calls me up one day, and mentions my recent magazine purchases. I thought, " Oh, cool. It must be the same guys I bought from previously. I wonder what' s up with my order?" This caused me to get sucked in. I didn' t hang-up. I thought I was talking to people I' d already done business with. But it turns out their offer was totally unrelated. Hell, they weren' t even the same company. They just had my contact info and used it to trick me into listening to their offer. Well, needless to say, by the time I figured that out, I was already knee-deep in a conversation with a slick-talking hustler.

To make a long story short, I ended-up agreeing to a sixty dollar per month fee, to be paid over the next year, in return for a three year subscription to five different news magazines. Aside from the fact that I can' t really afford the payment, there' s another problem. I don' t read the news. Hell, I don' t even watch the news on TV. But apparently, I' m going to have a butt-load of magazines that discuss it. And lord knows I' ll be paying through the nose for that priveledge.

Anyway, this whole mess got me thinking about why it was so easy for those guys to talk me into it. I mean, it' s not like there were any hidden fees or anything. I knew exactly what I was getting into. I just couldn' t seem to make myself say no when I had the chance. It made me realize this is just one small symptom of a much larger problem. And that problem is that I' m constantly seeking affirmation and acceptance from the people I deal with. It doesn' t matter if it' s just a faceless salesman on the other end of the phone, a pizza delivery guy on my doorstep, or the cashier at a fast food joint. I always let them push me around, and I meekly accept the raw deals I receive, because I want them to think I' m a cool guy. You know, not like those other heathens who are always giving them trouble.

That' s what it basically boils down to. I have a deep-seated need for people to think I' m cool. So if I suspect, whether consciously or not, that saying no will get me on someone' s bad side, I say yes instead. Even if it costs me an arm and a leg. This was kind of surprising to me. I mean, sure, I knew that something was going on. I knew that I constantly bent over backwards for people, when no one else seemed to bother, but I just didn' t know why. It was one of those things I didn' t really think about. At least until tonight. You know, instead of sleeping like a sane person.

I think it all goes back to my childhood. And yeah, I know, everyone' s always bitching about their childhood. But just bare with me, okay? I' m going somewhere with this. I was never a popular kid. I was never one of the cool guys that people looked up to. In fact, I was pretty much the opposite. Yes, I was a complete and total dork. I wore glasses, watched Star Trek, read a lot, and got the crap beaten out of me on a regular basis.

So from the very beginning, I lacked a certain fundamental sense of being accepted by my peers. I knew they had something I wanted, that indefinable " coolness" that seemed to come so easily to them. But I had no idea how to get it, and was constantly trying to think-up ways to do so. Needless to say, this translated right into my adulthood. So that even now, when I' m just a hop, skip and a jump away from being thirty, I' m still buckling like a belt in the face of peer pressure. Yes, even when it' s just a telemarketer on the phone trying to convince me I need a bunch of stupid magazines. I want him to think I' m a cool customer, so I say yes, when I really should say no.

I' d always thought I gave out generous tips because it was the right thing to do, or just because it felt nice, but now I realize that it was a feeble, subconscious attempt to make the person serving me think I was cool. Trust me, this is a pretty sad realization on my part. You know, sad as in pathetic. I mean, just how bad is the condition of my self-esteem if I have to go looking to telemarketers and pizza delivery guys for affirmation of my personal worth? Yeah, that' s what I thought. It doesn' t look good, does it?

Do other people fall into this same trap? Do you ever find yourself buying some piece of junk from a salesman, just because he' s treating you like the High School Quarterback, and you don' t want him to stop? If so, what the hell is wrong with us, and what can we do to pull our asses out of this ever-deepening pit of quick-sand? I mean, come on! This is definitely a problem. I can only pay for so many magazines.

I guess the best I can do right now, at the wee hour of 4 o'clock in the morning, is to simply be aware of this pattern in my behavior, and resolve to overcome it' s influence. Maybe that' s enough. Maybe not. But it' s at least a place to start. And also, a suitable place to end for the time being, because if I don' t get my ass to bed pretty soon, I won' t get any sleep at all. And then I' ll be even less alert than usual as I try to pick my way through all those damn magazines on my way to the shower. We don't want any accidents, now do we?

Jonas Micah is a staff writer for AntiMuse. He's a high-school drop-out, an Army wash-out and a fool who strives to be less foolish with each passing day.



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