I wonder what it would be like to be Britney Spears.

She’s quite the legend, equally known for being the biggest female pop icon of the century (more so than Madonna? Maybe?) and for shaving her head bald during a mental breakdown. That little display was enough to challenge even Olivia Pope’s PR skills, but here we are seven years out of the crazy hole and Brit Brit is the ultimate comeback kid. Whoever the real life Oliva Pope is- if you’re out there reading this- I commend you. We all commend you.

The extent of my knowledge about Britney includes what I just wrote, along with any facts I learned on her E! True Hollywood Story. Oh, and my ex-boyfriend used to work at a hotel where she stayed and said that she didn’t leave her room in the best condition. She also requested an extra microwave so that she and her possy could heat up their frozen meals simultaneously (at least I assume that is the reason one needs an extra microwave). I’m not going to hate her for that. Can’t say I’ve never been impatient while waiting my turn for the microwave.

I call her by her first name, can tell you about that time she got married in Vegas, and might even feel like I’m in the room with her during televised interviews, but I actually know more about how my roommate’s skittish cat thinks than I do about the inner workings of Britney Spears’ mind. I don’t know the real reason she shaved her head or who her closest friends are or what her favorite Lean Cuisine meal is (again, assuming she eats them because of the microwave thing). I have no idea what she regrets, who broke her heart, or what she thinks about when she’s falling asleep.

Britney Spears is an extreme example of something we all experience. People think that they know you because they follow you on Instagram or heard a story about you from a friend’s ex-boyfriend’s new fling’s coworker. This is flattering and all (or maybe terribly unflattering depending on your life choices), but let’s keep a tighter grasp on reality, shall we? On a regular basis, I bump into a total stranger who gives me a giant hug and gushes “It’s soooo good to see you!” Where am I. How do I know this person. P Sherman 42 Wallaby Way Sydney. Bingo. Fabio. Elmo. Nemo?

I’m not saying that I’m super popular or anything. That would be false- just ask the fine folks on my high school prom court or anyone from my freshman year hall. Actually, don’t ask anyone on my freshman hall because I’m pretty sure none of them would recognize my name…unless you mention that I was the girl who had a “no cussing” sign taped above her mirror, strictly wore oversized sweatpants, and hoarded oreo pie from the dining hall. I wasn’t exactly a social butterfly. What was I saying? Right. Although all of us have had strangers exclaim, “Hey! I know you,” I must say that the stranger-hug thing became a much more prevalent part of my life post Miss New York. I’m sure the same goes for anyone who has taken part in a somewhat public activity.

hug

When people think we know each other because they saw me give a speech, heard my name mentioned as “the girl who went to CNU and then became Miss New York,” or simply because they’re pageant fans (which do, in fact, exist), I don’t get annoyed or proud or feel much of anything. Mostly I think it’s kind of funny as I smile and pretend like we’re old friends (once I move past the initial Dory moment of wondering how I’m supposed to know them). On occasion, however, someone will say, “Oh my gosh! What are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be off being famous or something?” These scenarios tend to take place in a bar, so I immediately feel a mixture of amusement and embarrassment. Um, nope. I’m just your average 26-year-old trying not to make poor choices. I appreciate the assumption that I have my life all figured out because I guess that means I don’t appear to be in shambles, but we’re dealing with some major life misrepresentations to those who only see me as a former Miss New York.

I’m not going to write a laundry list of things that make my life a little bit of a shambly mess because A) That’s super depressing and B) They’re mostly first-world problems, however the above comments have really set my wheels spinning. On a much smaller scale than Britney Spears (I don’t mean to compare a house cat to a lion…not sure why I keep referring to cats in this post), people who only know me from a distance think they have an idea of who I am. Maybe they have an overly positive view of me, or perhaps they think I’m a stereotypical dumb, catty beauty queen. Who knows? This uncertainty of who people have made me out to be in their heads makes me reevaluate my own perception of people I only know through social or mainstream media. This covers everyone from my best friend’s ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend to Britney Spears. Just because I recognize their faces and know a few facts about their lives doesn’t mean I actually know them at all.

I started thinking about this concept of recognizing someone vs. legitimately knowing them a few weeks ago and have decided that it’s time to wipe my brain clean of opinions I have about people I don’t know. Very few things presented to us in packaged interviews or filtered photographs are reality. Even second hand stories give a one-dimensional impression of a person rather than an all-encompassing understanding of who they really are. In certain circumstances, I’ll take my friends’ warnings or endorsements to heart, but as a whole, I think it’s time we all start forming opinions based on organic, personal interaction. Don’t you think?