A couple of weeks ago a man told a story to a friend of mine. It was an odd story. He said that he was responsible for a series of anonymous markers, distributed around his hometown each one heralding a forgotten historical event that he believed should be remembered.
Why did he tell her this story? Why did he reveal his secret to a woman he barely knew? You guessed it. He wanted her to find him intriguing. Perhaps he didn’t think she found him physically attractive? Perhaps he just wanted an edge—in marketing terminology a unique selling proposition (USP)—so she would find him interesting.
He made a point of telling her that the anonymous nature of his campaign had already caused a stir in the local press. Town residents, local government officials, and the media wanted to know who was responsible. He was proud of what he was doing and proud that he was doing it without credit. Well, not exactly without credit, since he was claiming credit in his conversation with her.
The story intrigued me. It got me thinking about the lengths we go to attract attention. Often it’s romantic attention, but we also want general popularity—in the office or any other organization. Dressing well, or in a particular style, draws attention. Other modus operandi include: a dramatic hairstyle, cultivating an eccentric manner, maintaining a fabulous accent, discussing a passionate hobby or collection, dancing barefoot, bringing homemade pastries wherever you go, etc. I’ve seen all sorts of strategies to distinguish an individual from the crowd.
The man’s story—the story he hoped would fascinate my friend—was an extreme measure. Yes, I’ve already drafted a story inspired by the idea, but I’m still mulling this need to dissemble, for people—and characters in fiction—to dress up their truth with fantasy versions of themselves.
Are we the stories we tell?