I was going to title today’s post “attention whores”. I thought better of it when I realized that people who crave attention aren’t really like whores. When we think of whores, we think of people– usually women– who prostitute themselves for money. Many people think that prostitution is immoral. It’s illegal in most parts of the world, even if it is “the oldest profession”. But it’s not really about greed so much as it is about debasing one’s self for money. Or, at least that’s the usual argument I’ve heard against prostitution. There’s also the issue of human trafficking, particularly of minors, but not every prostitute is caught in situation like that. Here, in Germany, for instance, prostitution is legal and regulated. There are health checks done and taxes paid, and it’s an actual job.
When it comes down to it, people who are “whoring” are behaving in a transactional way by using their bodies. It’s not quite an accurate term for the type of people I’m writing about today. “Attention whores” aren’t selling attention to lonely people. They’re greedily seeking an endless supply of attention, most often from people who have an irrational need to be liked. To me, that’s less like prostitution and more like gluttony. I also appreciate that the word “glutton” has less of a misogynistic feel to it. So, today I’m going to write about attention gluttons. I’m sure you’ve encountered them. They’re everywhere these days.
I think most people crave attention sometimes, sometimes to the point of “gluttony”. We all go through periods when we need some extra TLC from friends and loved ones. Normal people are astute enough to know that not everything is about them, and after they get the attention they need, they’re willing to share the limelight with others. People who crave constant attention aren’t like that. They live for drama, and they are very good at creating it and attracting others to it. Or, if they can’t create it themselves, they will insert themselves into someone else’s drama and try to make it all about them. Even if pathological attention gluttons don’t treat the people they attract with much respect, those who are enchanted by attention gluttons keep coming back for more, because their drama is kind of like a trainwreck. It’s hard to turn away.
Like most people, I’ve been a bit of an attention glutton at times; but I’ve also had a few of them in my life. I recently purged a couple from my world because they finally went too far. Right now, a lot of people are under an unusual amount of stress. I’ve been fortunate in that my life isn’t that stressful right now. My troubles recently have been mostly psychological, but even those haven’t been that bad. I haven’t had to worry about paying the rent, for instance, or wondering where my next meal is coming from. I do have some friends who are in some legitimately scary situations right now, particularly when it comes to their finances. Most of them are handling things pretty well on their own. Or, at least that’s how it seems, because they aren’t constantly crying for attention on social media.
There’s someone I know who is always gunning for attention. She’s a very charming person, so she has a lot of people who are willing to supply her with what she needs. She’s funny, witty, talented, intelligent, and at least on the outside, seems friendly. But I’ve noticed that the friendliness isn’t particularly genuine. I get the sense that if I really ever needed any help– not even financial, but even just emotional help– she would not be available. Instead, she would turn it around so that the issue became about her and her endless problems.
And yet, she never hesitates to ask for assistance. Sometimes she’s bold enough to ask directly, but I’ve noticed that, more often or not, her requests are kind of indirect and passive. Like, for instance, she’ll casually mention that she doesn’t have enough money to buy food or medicine. Her friends will express concern and ask how they can help. Then, she’ll say something like, “No, I’m not asking for money. I’ll be fine. Don’t send me emails or private messages about this.”
The pragmatic among us will shrug and say, “suit yourself” and let her handle her own business. But deep down, you expect that she’s just waiting for that one person who must take action. There’s got to be at least one person who will insist on helping her, because they need to be a helper. Attention gluttons love those types of people– the ones who will do anything for a friend– even a really crappy, selfish “friend”. They seem to have a finely tuned mechanism for seeking them out, too.
I’ve noticed that she tells tall tales. A lot of the things she claims are true don’t ring true. Most people accept her stories at face value, though, because they probably assume that questioning her will lead to an unpleasant drama. In fact, I have, on occasion, seen this happen when someone dares to call her on the carpet for something outrageous she’s said, or some ridiculous claim she’s made.
I have noticed that these types of people are also very good at “Hoovering”. I’ve written about that phenomenon before. A person who “Hoovers” is trying to suck you back into the dysfunction. You will hear from them later, after the drama has blown over a bit. They’ll poke at you to see if you respond. Oftentimes, they won’t mention the event that led to the blow up. If they do, they’ll offer a lame non-apology of some sort, designed to make you feel badly for “misunderstanding” them. It’s happened to me a lot of times. I’ll be legitimately upset about something and the person will act like I’m overreacting or “crazy”. Maybe sometimes it’s somewhat true that there was an overreaction, but a mature person will at least acknowledge the other person’s pain. Attention gluttons don’t do that, because they don’t see other people as humans. They typically see them as sources of supply.
A lot people who are “attention gluttons” are also pretty narcissistic, although I don’t think they’re necessarily always that way. Sometimes people are like that because they never got the attention they legitimately needed when they were young children. They’ve grown up insecure and feeling unloved, so they seek security and love when they are adults. You could almost feel sorry for them… until they finally go way too far and you have to cut them off. Then they make you out to be a terrible person for not being able to tolerate their drama anymore.
My husband, Bill, is particularly attractive to “attention gluttons” because he’s a very empathic person. He feels what other people feel, and he genuinely wants to help. Sometimes he helps a lot more than he should, which leads to other people resenting him. I think his ex wife, who is very narcissistic, was attracted to him because he’s so caring and nurturing, and she knew she could eventually manipulate him by telling him that he wasn’t a good enough partner.
Bill is eager to please others, and he’ll try harder if he thinks he’s not doing enough, even though the truth is, he usually goes way above and beyond what should be expected of anyone. I often tell him how much I love and appreciate the way he looks after me and Arran. Ex, on the other hand, was constantly telling him that he wasn’t good enough. She’d shame him, and tell him that no one else would ever want him. After awhile, he believed it. Meanwhile, she’d resent him, because he was so good… and she knew she wasn’t his match and never could be.
I have also noticed that “attention gluttons” love a good cause. They love to jump on a bandwagon and promote their cause, which will invariably be something that is easy to support. For example, I’ve noticed a lot of people cheerleading for face mask wearing. That’s a cause that is easy to support during a global pandemic. People are rallying with their constant cries of “Wear the damn mask!” (which frankly, pisses me off, because it’s rude and dismissive and doesn’t take into account the people who have legitimate health and/or personal reasons for NOT wearing them.)
I’ve noticed that an attention glutton I know, who is not usually known for being compliant when someone tries to tell her what to do, is now on that bandwagon. Lots of her friends are cheering her on, too, because she’s good at spinning a sob story. Anyone who doesn’t jump on that bandwagon is an asshole, the way she tells it. She doesn’t respect the other viewpoint.
But… I would be willing to bet that this bandwagon will eventually crash. They almost always do with this type of person. They get tired of the cause, and start seeing reasons why it wasn’t such a good idea after all. They eventually abandon it, sometimes with a lot of drama and chaos. It becomes apparent that they never really were true believers of the cause; they just liked the attention it got them. And once the supply of attention is over, so is their support.
Bill’s ex wife was like that. She’d get all gung ho about something and jump into it full throttle. Then she’d get bored with it, or something would happen that would piss her off. She’d do a 180, and either abandon the cause completely or jump on the other side of the issue.
The person who inspired this post has met Bill in person. I remember the first time she met him; her tongue practically fell out of her mouth and she almost started panting. She said he was extremely cute. He is pretty cute, but I have a feeling her initial strong, positive reaction to him wasn’t just because she thought he was physically attractive. I think she could sense that he’s empathic, eager to please, and very kind, and she needs those people in her life. I don’t know for sure, but I’ll bet she was a bit envious of me for being married to the type of person she craves.
But if she had married Bill instead of me, I’ll bet that very soon, he wouldn’t have been enough. After a short love bombing phase, she’d start to complain about his shortcomings. The abuse would begin, and she’d devalue him to get him to the point at which he might start believing she was the best he could do, and no one else would want to be around him. That, to me, is the most tragic part. Because I know that’s not true, but after awhile spent with an attention glutton, a very kind and understanding person might start to believe it is.
Recently, I’ve found that I don’t have much time or patience for people who need to be in the limelight all the time. I can’t deal with the stress of the constant yammering for attention. I’ll bet those types of people are fine with the occasional departure of a usual source of supply, as long as there’s someone there to keep dropping worms into the hungry bird’s mouth. And sadly, there almost always is.