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People’s Award Association

August 18, 2012

give the people what they want

I talked with my folks tonight: slow, nothing-much, touching base. The dog has tapeworms, but seems more chipper since getting his medicine. Mom doubts Pop’ll make it through this weekend’s performance of Fiddler On the Roof without dozing off. At times the silences sagged between our phones. Tomorrow they (my parents) will be moving all the furniture so the carpets can be deep-cleaned.

Suddenly my dad’s voice brightened. Can I tell you one thing about today, he said.

As he was cleaning out the study, he came across a leaderboard from my golfing days. Based on our conversation I’m still not sure exactly what kind of object he’s describing (I remember leaderboards being huge, like billboards — not something you could fit in our study chock-full of files and wires and junk), but he said it had that fine, pristine writing (those gray, permed, chalk-wielding old ladies keeping public score always cut the most dashing sevens), and at the top, number one, my name: Katie Loncke. Shot a 78 the first day; 72 the second. Below me (my father’s voice grows incandescent) are players who went on to be really serious. Casey Gee, who fell just shy of the PGA, and now works at a bank. Christina Stockton, who’s gone pro. Danielle Civitanov — we think she’s in school to be a nurse. The top Sacramento girl golfers from my middle-school and high-school years. Proof that I had bested the whole lot of them at least once. Dad mused aloud about sending the board to my Oma. Your granddaughter, number one! I could picture his smiling apple-cheeks, shaped just like mine.

If you know me well you probably know that golf and I have had a fraught relationship. I once tried to break my own finger with a hammer to get out of playing a tournament. When that plan failed, I turned to a bottle of pills.

Enough time has passed that I’m not so tense about it anymore. I can even contemplate dusting off my clubs for fun, maybe with a couple of novice guy friends. I would probably run circles around them, even though I haven’t played in years. I used to be that good.

And I made my dad proud. If he shadowed me for a round, weeks afterward he could tell you every single shot on every single hole.

Tonight, despite a thorny past, I let myself rejoice a little in his shine.

not sure why my picture’s not there, but find it hilariously appropriate

I’ve been thinking lately: we need some kind of People’s Award Association. For those of us who might choose unconventional paths, or never have a real shot at mainstream prestige in this fucked up, pseudo-meritocratic, hyper-competitive society. Our unpaid work organizing against the prison industrial complex, or fighting foreclosures, or founding radical sanghas may not yield a trophy, medal, plaque or certificate, but our excellence still matters, and people in our lives should know about it. They should have more chances to be proud of us.

Ideally a real, beautiful object for display, but even just an email — to a grandparent, mentor, partner, whomever — stating ceremoniously:

Congratulations: your loved one, {____________}, has been awarded an Outstanding {What They Do Well} Prize.  This honor is conferred by the People’s Award Association in recognition of {___________}’s excellence in transforming oppression and building toward a better world: a world with freedom for all.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. jorge permalink
    August 18, 2012 7:25 pm

    Yes! It took me a long time to appreciate my talents, often spiritual, because they weren’t “tangible” crafts that had a prize category. <3

  2. August 18, 2012 9:34 pm

    Right! Was just talking about this today with a friend, and how we notice that a lot of times the (straight) men we date have these tangible skills, like playing an instrument or fixing bikes or computers, or even cooking, and it makes it difficult to value intangible skills that we ourselves might have, like emotional intelligence.

    To be completely honest, I also wonder if it’s difficult to value emotional intelligence or spiritual talents because sometimes there’s a lot of flash around these things but not a lot of substance. Like, sometimes what certain people think of as “emotional intelligence” seems to me like just a style of intrigue or entertainment, which often results in more drama or confusion, not less. Know what I mean? Of course, not saying it’s that way with you, :) as I’ve benefited personally from your intangible talents like putting people at ease, expressing self-awareness and respect for people’s boundaries, striking a good balance of positivity and honesty / realism, and on and on! But since spiritual talents are not like fixing a bike (less what-you-see-is-what-you-get), sometimes the jargon or superficial appearance of advanced skills, when they actually mask dysfunction, gives the entire realm a bad rep.

  3. August 31, 2012 11:21 pm

    that post was very affecting. i can relate to such thoughts of desperation. i also write a lot about “invisibility”…invisible excellence that isn’t measured by IQ tests or contests of any sort. the concept of invisibility is very important to me because recognizing the existence of invisible excellence can confer a lot of self-esteem. it’s a matter of survival, pure and simple. to me, visible excellence is a very male thing. not to say that that is in itself bad. it’s just that there are so many people out there who can’t recognize their own amazingness, their own brilliance, because their thought processes don’t fit the standard model. remember that graphic from steven pinker’s freshman year psych class? the one with women clustered around mediocrity and men squished to the extremes of genius and ignorance? that’s what i’m talking about. there’s something wrong with this picture.

  4. September 5, 2012 3:17 pm

    Aw Erin! You are someone with multiple types of brilliance (intellectual, rational, artistic, emotional, spiritual), some visible, some invisible or less valued, so it seems to me that you’re in a particularly good position to insist on recognizing excellence of all kinds. I hella appreciate the ways you genuinely find the amazing qualities in others. And yes, I know exactly the Pinker lecture you’re talking about! Yeah, defining “genius” is not so simple!

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