Sunday night, I was happily procrastinating in front of my computer. An oral presentation due Monday, hundreds of pages of reading and a new episode of Glee all sat in my lap, chaotic and demanding — but my eyes were right on an open, even more commanding presence: Facebook.
There I was, buried in the shame of an unproductive night when suddenly a string of notifications began to appear on my mini-feed — the same words repeated over and over, echoed by friends too distant to have shared a personal bonding experience. Taylor Swift. Kanye West. A list of expletives I would be censored for using.
Now, everyone and their brother knows that I’m no fan of Taylor Swift. A sweet girl? Yes. Someone I would want to share brunch with? Possibly. Talented? Not so much. But regardless of any opinions I might have had on my favorite female music video of the year (not hers, not by a long shot), she deserved a night of praise, well wishes and adoring, screaming fans. She deserved a speech and applause and a moment to be the modest, humble and beautiful girl she is. She definitely did not deserve, however, someone stealing her microphone and dismissing her glory in front of millions.
It’s funny, the ways in which children demand attention and do horrible things to obtain it. When I was two and my parents had another child, I used to push my sister away and sleep in her crib so that they would bestow the same baby talk and googly eyes upon me. I know of kids who bullied and misbehaved, who painted on walls and imagined monsters in their closets, who told lies, feinted illnesses or unleashed pain in order to secure their few moments in the spotlight. Funnier still were the justifications sometimes used to explain away these behaviors — when a boy pushed me off the monkey bars and broke my arm in the second grade, it was because he had a crush on me. True story.
What’s funniest are the ways in which people refuse to let go of these childish antics, even when they leave adolescence behind like a shed, forgotten skin. Every female I have ever met knows how, either in extreme situations or in everyday life, to utilize passive aggressiveness, the silent treatment and face-to-face confrontation. These were all persuasive, adaptive measures learned in the wild, concrete jungle of elementary school to ensure attention.
What is hazing (oh, um, I mean a brotherhood’s attempts to civilly embrace new kin) if not double-dog dares gone horribly wrong? Lots of my friends drink alcohol like I used to bathe myself in chocolate milk. I have seen office memos and emails infused with high school’s social hierarchy, lab groups drafted like recess dodgeball teams and text messages sent like those flimsy pieces of papers you would sometimes find in your locker after third period: Do you like me? Check yes or no.
I want to say that we have all grown up. To a certain extent, we all have — but many times, when it comes to demanding attention, people still rely on childish maneuvers. The boy who sits in the back of class and raises his hand, only to ask silly questions and immediately high five his adjacent bro. The senator who screams “You lie!” as Obama addresses the nation. The professor who will embarrass you in class because you once pointed out a mistake he made during lecture. West, a man who felt the need to put down a sweet-hearted girl in order to hear his voice echoing across the Internet.
But you know, maybe I’ve got it all wrong. Maybe this is West speaking his heart, professing his love to Swift in the way that only prepubescent boys can. “Boo, you suck” equals “I love you.” Don’t you know, Kanye, that all you have to do is make your way through the crowd and say “hello?”
Tiffany Yang is a junior majoring in comparative literature. Her column, “Alphabet Soup,” runs Wednesday.