When I was 12, I had a dream that I was a famous movie star and author, and I was thus signing autographs. Everyone in line to get my autograph was from my kindergarten class (my family had moved away after kindergarten, so I hadn’t seen any of these kids for six years). In the first part of the dream, all those in line were still of kindergarten age, though I was now 12. I was so upset that they hadn’t grown up even though I had, so I started crying.
In the second part of the dream, the setting was the same, with me signing autographs and everyone in line was again from my kindergarten class. In this instance, however, they had grown and we were all the same age but I didn’t recognize any of them. This made me so sad that they recognized me and knew me but I didn’t recognize or know them, that again I ended up crying.
Ever since this dream, I have abhorred the idea of autographs. I couldn’t imagine anyone having such an exalted sense of self that simply signing their name on a piece of paper would be considered a gift to someone else, that it could be valuable. However, I now understand that when most people sign their autograph, they are doing it out of obligation. They are being asked for their autograph and are considered rude if they don’t provide an autograph.
So why do we, as people, want autographs? Is it because that person has touched the pen that has thus touched the paper, and now we are two steps removed from our said hero? I would prefer a handshake from someone I admired, but I know that has no lasting worth in the collections world. A photo would also be nice, as a way to preserve the memory of meeting that person, but I just can’t wrap my head around the autograph. It just seems too condescending to me, too superior, too king-to-his-peasant subjects.
Yes, a signed painting is more highly esteemed because we know that the artist actually painted it, but beyond that, what is the value of a signature not attached to a document? How is it important to sign your own name? Or, in Marilyn Monroe’s case, your self-created name? It is just ink on paper. What does it reveal about the mind behind? People can analyze signatures, but autographs are usually done hurriedly. What is there to analyze?
We learn to write our names in kindergarten. An adult writing his name, therefore, is nothing special. So why do we as people want that? Why would anyone want to provide that for anyone else?
And it’s a little ironic when an autograph-signer personalizes the autograph, like “Dear Susan, all the best, Love So-and-So-Famous Person.” Why would you want someone you don’t know to write a personal note to you, especially when, as is often the case, you’ve dictated to them what to write? How is there is any meaning, then, in what was written?
Now, again, I would certainly want an autographed copy of a book from an author I really love, like John Steinbeck, because the author is signing his work, but I can’t understand wanting a simple autograph alone. Whenever I am at a book talk, I always request the authors to sign the book and date it, as a historical document. I don’t like them to personalize it (though they usually ask me my name and then address the book to me), but I do understand the value in having the author of a work sign and date it.
Question: would I want a signed record album by The Beatles or The Who or Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd? I love original, vintage albums, but do I need the signatures? Would that take away from the purity of the album design? Or am I being too rigid and ridiculous in my own indignation?
For instance, if I had an original signed sketch of one of Leonardo da Vinci’s scientific endeavors, I would be ecstatic. Would a stand-alone autograph by this great man cause me to make an exception for my loathing of autographs? Would I then see meaning in a single signature, devoid of context?
I don’t remember if the idea of signing autographs left a bad taste in my mouth before this dream, but certainly after. When I wanted to be famous, I hoped that I could get out of signing autographs. The whole notion of autograph-signing made me too uneasy. I decided that I would be fine with someone wanting to take a photo with me, but I just couldn’t stomach signing an autograph.
I even came up with a solution for the (to me, at the time!) inevitable: that when anyone requested my autograph, I would oblige, but would include something cheesy and uplifting, like “laugh often!” or “be kind!” (I just cannot stomach a stand-alone autograph, but is an autograph with a cheesy “message” any better?).
Another option I gave myself was to continue my music evangelism and write “Zeppelin rules!” or “Listen to The Who!”
In addition, I would also ask them to sign my notebook and write something that made them happy or write a favorite quote. Although I wanted to be famous and widely admired, and I accepted that signing autographs is part of the deal of fame, I still thought signing autographs was one of the most debasing (to the fans) parts of fame.
Point of clarification – even though I stopped wanting fame, I have never given up wanting to be in lesbian porn (in college, one of the football players even asked me if I was in porn – I guess at the time I looked like someone he’d seen in a porn film, because it took some convincing to get him to understand that it wasn’t me he’d seen, but at any rate, it wasn’t lesbian porn).
I still hope to get involved in lesbian porn somehow, especially from a woman’s perspective (a lot of the lesbian porn out there is clearly filmed for a man’s viewing, and that needs to change). However, I need to make sure I’ll look good on camera, with my entire body and face exposed to the unforgiving lens or I won’t even be hired in the first place, so there is work to be done before I can actually get into lesbian porn.
Even if I am able to make good money doing this, I won’t reach a level of fame where I will need to deal with autographs. Some porn stars do become quite famous and have many fans, but since I want to only do lesbian porn, not any heterosexual porn, I don’t think I will ever be known as a porn star.
Although it’s been five years since I’ve last wanted world-wide fame, the memory of it is still close enough that I know I cannot begrudge those who do sign autographs. They are providing a gift for their fans, something their fans want, and something that in the future could be worth money. I shouldn’t find fault with autographs, but it is still a practice I would never feel comfortable doing.