When I was a kid my brother liked to call me Superstar after Molly Shannon's character Mary Katherine Gallagher on SNL. In case you weren't a 90's teen like I was, here's a clip of the skit-turned-movie from 1999: http://tinyurl.com/pxyqds8. So, what exactly was it about me that reminded my bro of this particularly memorable (and by the way, the web tells me one of the top 10 all time best of SNL) character? Was it her Catholic upbringing? Her inability to land a date? Her mood swings or general clumsiness? Perhaps it was her incessant talking and social awkwardness? Or was it her desire to be one of the cool kids? Ah yes, and her self-proclaimed title, Superstar!?
Before you start thinking my brother was a total jerk, let's keep in mind, I was his little sister and what little sister isn't the thorn in an older sibling's side? It's likely that I had a little of each of my MKG's characteristics, yet my guess is that the one that stuck out to him most was my ability to talk and talk and talk, about myself, and my desire to be the center of attention in any possible situation. While I did nothing in particular to drive real honest attention my way, I always wanted an adult watch me do a handstand or look at what I colored. I'd shove an A+ spelling test in my mom's face as quickly as possible and enjoyed wearing an ace bandage for a "broken ankle" in hopes to get a little extra attention from a family member.
Beyond my little tactics to gain attention I really had nothing to show on my brag sheet going into college beyond decent grades. I wasn't a good athlete, I wasn't student body president. I wasn't a naturally gifted musician. Yet, I still hung onto the hope, in the back of my mind, that I'd find my unique talent before graduation and I'd be somebody. I'd finally be a Superstar!
As I got older, and settled into a generally bragging rights-less, average existence, I have found a comfortable role as the Superstar with my friends and family. I love to make jokes and be really silly. I'm highly extroverted and,like MKG, I have a tendency to monologue at the expense, or, I like to think for the enjoyment, of those around me. (If anyone needs a filibusterer, I'm your girl.) I say nutty things and people think I'm drunk when I'm not. I'm a bit of a loose cannon and that gets me attention. Even at work, I'm not quite as crazy, but my co-workers know when I've entered the office suite because they can hear me. I talk loudly and laugh loudly. I enjoy running meetings because I'm right in the middle of the action. I like being the boss because my staff come to me many times a day for support and assistance and I'm gratified that they need me to guide them in doing their best work.
I haven't changed the world or broken world records, but in my little world I still strive to be the best that I can be. And when I think I've been my best, I want to be recognized for it.
This makes me weirdly competitive. I say weird because I've never been good enough at something to really be truly competitive. I'm never going to win a race, but I want to beat my last time. I want to be rewarded at work when I've worked hard. I'm very proud to have reached the Director level. If I'm told I need to do better at my job, I'll fixate on it and not give myself a break until I know I've improved. I want to be a great parent. When criticized for my parenting choices, I've felt like a wounded dog. I want you to like this blog, and every blog I've ever written.
To be honest with myself, in certain situations, I also enjoy a little competition with others. If I'm racing, like I said, I'm never going to win, but I sure like to beat the person who has been in front of me for most of the race. After one local race, I was semi-angrily talking up my annoyance that this one woman beat me by 30 seconds. A friend suggested that next year would not only be a racing re-match but also a wrestling competition. At work, I have found that I'm a natural coach and supporter. I value helping others succeed, both my students, and my colleagues, but I also want to hold my own. I've had to learn this the hard way over the years and, on many occasions, I have stepped outside of my comfort zone to say, "HEY! Look at me! I'm doing good things! I deserve to be recognized for this work!" Self-Advocacy pays off. Sometimes you just have to get down on one knee, throw your arms out, and shout out that you are a Superstar!
There is another situation which brings out my inner competitor and it's in my marriage. You don't have to be a marriage therapist to tell me that's kinda fuc@*d up but I can't help it. Andy and I met one another in graduate school, which can sometimes feel like a shark tank. We started our professional careers at the same time. We were in the same field. We had similar professional goals. Even before having kids I felt a natural inclination to outdo him. I had jokingly suggested that our wedding song be Anything You Can Do. It was almost fun. Then we had kids and it made the competition harder. I chose to work part-time to be with the kids and he didn't. I became more focused on home matters. He kept working and increasing his focus on community activities.
While I feel fortunate to have kept one hand in my profession for those years, so I could advance when ready, I resent the fact that I'm not doing more. I don't go to many after hours events to network or serve on local committees. It's not necessarily because I can't but making these choices would mean I'd spend less time with the girls and it would likely cost us a lot of money in childcare because Andy is always at after hours events and attending evening meetings. I'm either at work or home while he has been making a name for himself. Outside of my campus, I'm not very well known, professionally. Every time I introduce myself to someone, the person asks me if I know Andrew Marietta. It irks me, I just can't help it. Recently, someone, after learning I was married to Andy, said, "Oh! Andrew! He's such a good guy." While this is indeed true, I couldn't help myself and responded, "And I'm a really good girl!"
I try to beat him in my own little ways. I can do more pushups than he can. I'm certain I'd beat him in a mile run despite the fact that he won't take me up on the idea of a little friendly competition. Our friends think I'm funnier, and prettier, than he is. My mom likes me more than him and I've tried to argue that I'm his parents' favorite, too. Yet, none of these seem to place me ahead of him in the competition. Last week, we attended Santa's Breakfast and the local newspaper editor asked to take a family photo of us to use in an article on Andy becoming the new county representative. The kids were crazy and the editor was quickly and efficiently trying to get the girls to look at him and smile so he could get a decent shot for the paper. He asked Andy to sit in a chair with Charlotte flanking his side. He placed me and Caroline behind the chair, I assume so we would all fit into a vertical photo. I felt that this moment was the symbolic crescendo of my competitive feelings of late, as this quote popped into my head, "Behind every successful man is a great woman." I never thought I would be the great woman behind a man but here I am.
You can call me an unsupportive partner. I'm Mary Katherine Gallagher, remember? If I'm the Superstar how did I end up marrying one? Don't get me wrong. I'm so proud of him and all that he has accomplished. I don't think I'd be happy being married to an underachiever. I guess I'm just jealous that I haven't over achieved and somehow that's easier to blame on Andy than to blame on myself.
I was recently speaking with a mentor regarding my conflicting feelings over whether to be the supporter or the star. I enjoy being both, depending on the situation. We talked about the pros and cons and how each relates to my personal values. At the end of our conversation, he told me only I can decide if I want to be Keith Richards or Mick Jagger. I'm still trying to decide which role is best for me and where I fit. I'm just happy that he didn't call me Mary Katherine Gallagher.