The virtues of being ordinary

There is more recent evidence for those who quietly lust to be a celebrity that it ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. Call me nuts, but if you ask me being rich, beautiful and famous is just not worth it. I will take turnip farming any day of the week.

No doubt, you are aware of two recent cases in point. Pop star Britney Spears checked herself out of rehab today, a day or so after shaving her head, which was a day or two after she checked herself out of rehab the first time, which was shortly after she was photographed at Club One in New York City, trying on the skimpy attire required of its erotic dancers.

Perhaps these incidents are not surprising given that her personal life is in shambles. She recently divorced the dancer Kevin Federline, some years after a 55-hour Las Vegas wedding with Jason Allen Alexander. Here she is at age 25, the dysfunctional parent of two young children, both of whom, no doubt, are being raised by nannies. Mommy has little time for temper tantrums, poopy diapers and 3 AM feedings. I hope that she sees very little of her children; they are probably better off hanging around with their completely ordinary nannies than with their wacky mother. Oh, and then there is her career. It is unclear to me where her income is coming from. She is no longer popular with the teen crowd, and she never had much talent to begin with. She appears to be living far beyond her income. We know she smokes, but going to rehab twice suggests that she is trying to shake a problem bigger than a nicotine addiction. Most likely, Britney is quaffing or snorting something very pricey. She seems to be trying to emulate Madonna’s bad girl act, except she has neither her talent nor her ability to stand on the precipice of a cliff without falling off.

And then there is the recently deceased Anna Nicole Smith, former March 1992 Playboy magazine playmate, proud 8th grade graduate, ex stripper and wife of the late oil billionaire J. Howard Marshall. She married Marshall in 1994 when she was 26 (a year older than Britney) and he was 89. You would have to have been living in a cave for the last dozen years not to know about her dispute with Marshall’s family over his estate when he died about a year into their marriage. For some mysterious reason her case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Her marriage to Marshall, in addition to making her the nation’s premier gold digger and bimbo, led her into unmemorable parts in various movies and TV shows. She had a son when she was only 18, who unsurprisingly grew up to become drug addicted. Clearly spaced out on something, he died at age 20 in his mother’s hospital room. What a way to introduce himself to his new baby sister, whose paternity, incidentally, is still being argued. Ms. Smith had a “commitment ceremony” but apparently not a legal marriage with her attorney Howard K. Stern. She died ingloriously on February 8th at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Florida. She reportedly had a very high fever at the time of her death. Until yesterday, her body sat on ice. The most honest income she probably made was for being a spokesperson for TrimSpa, which was reputedly her means for losing the 69 pounds that she put on during her court challenges.

Certainly not every celebrity is a walking train wreck, but they do seem to end up doing a lot more stupid and foolish things than the rest of us. Money gives them the means. Talent and/or good looks also ensure they are constantly showered with attention.

As I alluded to in another entry, underneath the façade of course they are fallible people just like us. Unlike us though, they have the means to keep tripping over themselves. The evidence suggests that their talent and good looks are often a deadly combination. “All the world’s a stage,” Shakespeare told us. That is certainly true for celebrities. Like it or not they are always on stage. They do not have the privilege of living with their shields down. Even if they try, the paparazzi are just around the corner. Instead of being an advantage, being a celebrity becomes a prison for which death is the only final escape. There is always a fan that wants to tell you how wonderful you are. There is always a queue of people wanting to sleep with you. You need a staff: a publicist, a hairdresser, a personal trainer, an agent, accountants, bodyguards, servants, chauffeurs, and personal shoppers. If you want to do something ordinary like run through the drive thru at a Burger King, you need to don a disguise, and hope your dopy disguise does not give you away.

Thankfully, I am ordinary. I do not have these problems. With the exception of the office or within a couple hundred feet of my house, I can go anywhere and I will likely be unrecognized. While my average looks ensure that glamorous women will not be making passes at me, they also ensure that I do not need to deal with the stress that such constant attention would cause.

Truly, I am blessed to be unnoticed and so are you. Being a celebrity is simply too much stress and too much of a hassle. Britney and Anna Nichole are recent and somewhat egregious examples of the hazards of being a celebrity. They suggest that Darwin was right and that being a celebrity itself reduces your odds of survival. My ordinary life comes bounded by reasonable constraints. These constraints are not evil; they provide a structure that allows me to reach my natural potential.

I do not wish to be a celebrity and I believe neither should you. Celebrate how fortunate you are that your life is ordinary. Celebrate that because you are ordinary your values are likely magnitudes better grounded than Britney Spears’. Celebrate that you are likely to make it to an old age in good health, instead of being in rehab at age 25. Celebrate that your parents, while flawed, likely filled you with more function than dysfunction. Because they cared, you had enough common sense to wait until you were ready before you tackled major life chores like marriage and children.

If you truly aspire to be the next Britney or Anna Nichole, American Idol is likely taking auditions in a city near you. Just be careful what you ask for because you may get it. The package may look all nice and pretty. However, if your dream is actually realized then beware: it may be momentarily thrilling, but it is more likely to be descent into hell.

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