• Harlow in Monte Carlo

The Sum of All Harassments

Whenever I get bored I go through the different social media accounts that I have. And I know this is cliche, but every time my phone buzzes with a message from strangers, I feel the electric thrill of being a teenager bantering with their crush. So when a guy slid into my Instagram DMs yesterday morning, it did not unnerve me in the least.


Besides, I have been in the mood for casual encounters—not in the sense of meeting my future husband, but rather just aware of the fact I’m at a point of my life where it’s now or never for me to lose my virginity. The irony, of course, being that I once came across a porn site named “Meet N Fuck” a few years ago, at which time I found the idea loathsome. And yet for the past few months I’ve been meeting strangers online.


A guy slid into my Instagram DMs last morning. My phone buzzed. I made myself some coffee and I went on Instagram. I clicked on the name of the guy and was led to his profile page. For a moment there, I thought it was a hot guy. I just woke up and was hung over, blocking my bloodshot eyes from the sun, rubbing sleep out of the same pair of eyes. The notification that had appeared on the screen of my iPhone only relayed that there was a new message. It didn’t show the text itself or the user’s image.

In other words, I gave myself the benefit of the doubt, thinking that some cute guy found me attractive and wanted to buy me a drink. Which was why I was flabbergasted when I realized I was staring at the derelict, unexciting profile of a middle-aged actor.


If I’m being honest, at that point I didn’t even want to check out the message anymore. It was, however, a morbid sense of “Let’s see how bad this could get” that impelled me to click on the message anyway. The middle-aged dude wrote:


Just followed you here on Instagram. One photo. Half a leg. I laughed.


He was referring to a photo I had taken last week and put on Instagram. I jolted awake in terror. Instagram must have relayed on his end that his message had been read, because I saw the “Typing” indicator appearing on my end, which gave another jolt. It was not just my morning that was ruined. The air of confidence that took me years to build was shattered. This message along with the guy that sent it rendered me queasy.

One near-death experience and you realize you have to make changes in your life. I blocked the guy on Instagram before he had the chance to hit SEND on the other message he was typing. I put away the phone. I realized the real horror of my life is not that the people I’ve loved didn’t love me back. The real horror is that I've had zero interest in the people who were interested in me. And at some point the sum of all harassments I received just screamed This is enough. I can’t feign interest anymore over people I don’t care if they bought a new car last week and was planning on trying it this week, or if they just wrapped the filming of their low-budget flicks.


Yes, I am a filmmaker living in LA, daydreaming about winning an Oscar whose pure absence of awareness of the fact that one has to get nominated an Oscar first in order to win is enough to make Leonardo DeCaprio crack up. A wannabe sick with aspirations is who I am, only I don’t have a last name like Coppola or Ellison, or a cousin who owns Tiffany & Co. (yes, the Tiffany & Co.). I might feel superior from time to time due to my non-filmmaking background. I might feel superior because I actually possess a few pieces of Tiffany jewelry while fellow filmmakers couldn’t even afford a fucking vacation.

But the truth is I am just like those filmmakers I despise. Some of us have to get side hustles for income and some of us don’t, but at the end of the day the concept of Hollywood is as simple as either you are famous or you’re not, and all of us are not. We are all struggling, not to win an Oscar, but just to be famous. And that explains why I was being harassed by a nobody instead of getting discovered. When you’re not famous, that’s just what you deal with on a daily basis, regardless of how superior you think you are.


This begs the question: Is there a point in being a filmmaker (or an actor, or basically any position in this industry) if you’re not a famous one?


I wonder how many people in the entertainment business fail to see this. And even more ghastly, how many learned too late and have spent the span of their lifetime striving to be a nobody.



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© 2020 ANNIE CHEN