I’ve known two men in my life who were the kind of man everyone loves because they were outwardly friendly to absolutely everyone. Both of them were public activists and even went out of their way to befriend folks that were nothing like them as a demonstration of how beloved they should be by the world. In private and around trusted confidantes both of these men were cruel, scorchingly judgmental, hate-filled misogynists. One of them, I know first-hand, was both a rapist and a pedophile.
But boy does the world love a man who gives the people what they want.
I’ve been reading a lot on the subject of marketing lately. After all, I do have a small business that I would like to keep afloat. And a lot of the advice I’m hearing is to stop trying to be someone everyone loves and spend your time loving the smaller group of people who are already invested in what you're offering. Because… the old saying is true, “a friend to all is a friend to none.”
Someone who needs and wants everyone to love them is not okay. Someone who chameleons themselves to be palatable or lovable to whomever they are with in any given moment is lying to someone, probably lots of us, and almost definitely themselves.
As a survivor of various traumas, I always thought the only way to be safe was to seek everyone’s love and acceptance. But that’s not safety, that’s cowardice and terror. In this way, I almost feel bad for those two duplicitous men I’ve known who lived their hate-filled lives in secret while presenting the “lovable guy” face to the world. Those men were probably the two weakest people I’ve ever known in my life. They were also probably the most ruled by their own fear and insecurities.
I have never had the option of pretending to be a “friend to all”. Like the character Candy on the television show Pose, “my loudness walks into a room before I do.” But I am no longer worried about some people disliking me, or my message, my product, or my work because I know the only safety, love, health or freedom from fear comes from knowing, accepting and loving myself.
JodiAnn Stevenson lives in the U.S., in the Northwest Corner of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, on The Big Lake. Her writing has appeared in numerous venues since 1996. She is the author of three published chapbooks of poetry: The Procedure (March Street Press, 2006); Houses Don’t Float (Habernicht Press, 2010); and Diving Headlong Into A Cliff of Our Own Delusion (Saucebox, 2011). Her mixed-genre work Marina Abramovic Is My Mother is available in the form of a short-run podcast. She has also produced eight chapbooks of poetry for The Broken Nose Collective which she co-founded in 2013. JodiAnn was founder and co-managing editor of the feminist micro-press, Binge Press and its sister journal, 27 rue de fleures, from 2004 until 2017.
A (more or less) complete list of publications and appearances: