What is the word we call people who are being watched by the voyeur, stalked by the stalker?

No, not paranoid. (I have been reading Shirley Jackson …)

I only searched online for a few minutes but the term is not apparent. We name the active, traditionally male, party in this “relationship.” The passive, traditionally female, subject is just that – the recipient of the act. She is an empty, nameless vessel upon which the active aggressor places their vision.

Isn’t there almost always a persecutor? When we get that feeling we are being watched, it’s usually because we are. And if not today, then the haunt lingers from another time. When we felt insecure and threatened by someone who has taken a sudden interest in us.

I consider myself, in certain modest regards, to be a private person, confiding only in my inner circle. But I have put myself out there in excerpt, in print, and online, ephemera, scripts and scraps – bits and pieces of puzzle that would take years for anyone to assemble. I wouldn’t expect anyone to try – not even my poor children who I expect will throw some of the boxes I leave behind in the trash without removing the lids. Not because they don’t care, but they’ll grow tired. And really, I’d rather they spend their precious life’s time creating their own work, not drowning in mine.

In my teens and twenties, after I came out the other side of puberty, I actually enjoyed being on stage for a while. I sang and danced and didn’t care who was watching. It’s not that I enjoyed being watched. I don’t think I ever enjoyed that. I had been bullied and broken enough by a young age that I didn’t assume people would think well of me. But I did always want to be liked, to be admired. And later, desired. And so I tried to take control of my image, become the visible manifestation of a young woman that people would be inspired to treat the way I wanted to be treated. But this is not something one can control. As Anais Nin said, “We don’t see people are they are. We see people as we are.”

I did make a few friends over the years. Like-minded, beautiful, talented, brilliant people – most of whom I have failed to keep close. I didn’t make it easy to make friends. I wasn’t a desperate beggar out to please at all costs. The catch was I wanted people to like me for who I really am. I didn’t conform. I didn’t compromise my values or my vision to manipulate people against their will or better judgement. What I learned over time is that most people will like you for what you can do for them, for as long as you are in a position to keep doing it. If you can prove you walk the talk for long enough, they will respect you even if they don’t like you. And that can be enough.

There’s really nothing to be bitter about. Dare I quote myself? “This room can’t hold all of you who still live in my heart.” Don’t we regularly urge people to get rid of everything and everyone that no longer serves them? If it doesn’t make your life better … let it go and move on. Right? It’s okay. No hard feelings.

I wouldn’t say I try to be a good person. As in I don’t make a concerted effort against my nature to be good. I don’t enjoy cruelty or violence. I tend to share what I can with as many as I can. I am not a vengeful person. It’s my default to try and see from other people’s points of views. I want people to be safe and happy. It was never hard for me to see that other people’s needs are met before my own. But I am human, just like you, and I have done things that hurt people. I have done things some people probably think I should be ashamed of.

But I’m not a fan of shame and I beat myself up long enough for things that weren’t my fault to pick the whip up now that I’ve learned better. Shame is destructive rather than constructive and the people, perhaps, that should have it the most, have the least. Not judging anyone … but when a tool is used by the powerful to oppress the weak … they might want to test it upon themselves first to fully comprehend the damage it does.

What I try to do, is work daily within my means to give more than I take, to make more than I consume, and to be as loving and honest as possible. Simple responsibilities – no grandiose sense of debt – just paying the rent for this life I’ve been given. There’s an assumption we’re supposed to make the most of the life “God” gave us, yes? Point is, while I don’t broadcast every detail of my day, I have little use for lies or secrets. I can’t stop others from misleading or withholding, they have to make their own choices, but I believe in maintaining transparency.

So I am not too guarded about what I put out there. If I didn’t want anyone to know, I shouldn’t have done it. And I am a communicator. In my mind, life must be processed through art. That is what it means to me to be alive, beyond breathing and heart beating, art is the spirit. Art is a circle which is not complete until it is shared. I’ve never been too concerned with audience size. It’s more important that the act of art is fully consummated. The crowds of fame are a distraction I can live without. I am an introvert and better able to focus without too much fuss. The reality that most people are too busy with more important things than me to pay much attention suits me just fine.

So when suddenly it appears (damn you analytics) that someone is watching, closely, maybe even studying or scouring – I am caught off guard. I become fearful because I wasn’t prepared for this. I begin to see every word, every image I might present through the distorted lens of this stranger who might be looking for the worst, who wants to hate me or cause me harm.

How could anyone enjoy being this scrutinized subject for whom I can find no signifier? Tell me what pleasure is there in being the passive recipient of a gaze? To accept one’s lack of control is easy. To be confronted with the glare of curious agenda is dizzying. Paralyzed in the headlights. Is it safe to proceed? Will I carelessly create the evidence that will be used to destroy me? In the end, there is a survival instinct.

Nothing to see here. Move along.

-ag

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