I’ve always loved awards shows, both watching them on TV and, on very few occasions, attending them.
I have stayed up many times for the Oscars, revelling in their glamorous, opulent tediousness, waiting for one celebrity’s face to crack and their boredom to show. They never do, do they? They’re too frightened of what they’ll lose if they reveal even the smallest ingratitude at having all this luxury and privilege at their fingertips. But that’s showbiz for you.
I love the stilted delivery of dialogue as the autocue grinds, and the speeches, peppered with all the usual tics – a million “kind of”s (my own personal tic) and a grossweight of “ummmm” and “aaaaah”. The resigned faces of the losers and the euphoric shock of the winners; the gowns and the tuxes; the backstage gossip; the snafus; the wrong decisions; all that hairspray and expensive, uniform dentistry. I’ve been swallowing it all up almost as long as I’ve been able to sit in front of a TV.
Actors and singers are caught in a weird paradox when it comes to awards – they’re supposed to be “meaningless” and yet they’re also obliged to be eternally grateful and thrilled to be honoured. It’s always slightly disappointing to hear people, whoever they are, say awards don’t mean anything or have no point to them – it’s an extravagance usually afforded to only those who win them often, I guess – because they mean something to someone, even if it’s only your fans. They want you to do well, they want to hear your words, watch your face as the reality of your victory takes hold; they live to see you lift that gong, or weird glove, or lopsided icicle, or huge piece of slate, or whatever it is.
I wouldn’t say I was a particularly unlucky person, but my personal involvement with awards – either the handing out or the winning of – has been scant. I was shocked to get a prize for talent in modern languages when I was 15 – which was shared with another student, and in my heart of hearts I knew she deserved it all by herself. I received a book token, which I had to spend before the ceremony so the book could be presented to me. I refused to be involved in this fakery and have never liked being told what to do, so I pilfered a book out of the library – I was a school librarian, but more on that another time – and was handed that instead. It was Judy Blume’s opus Forever, complete with underlined passages and penis drawings throughout.
Subsequent awards were only mine by association. A website I edited won something for the period immediately before I joined, and, because I worked with a lot of agencies as a freelancer, I was invited along to a few digital industry awards ceremonies if there was a spare seat at the table and they wanted to look like they had lots of supporters. I’d usually only go because it was a rare opportunity to wear a tie, and free champagne is better than no champagne. And when we won – they won – I posed for pictures with the brutalist upturned witch’s hat or slab of marble or whatever horrendous design the award had been saddled with and smiled, but it wasn’t mine. They’d won for coding, design, or PR, and not my work in particular. They were thrilled, and blitzed social media with photos and hashtags, and bayed at the waiting staff to bring more bubbly, but I didn’t quite feel like I belonged.
But now something has happened, a game-changer, and I find myself nominated for an award. A real one, that I was put forward for independently – without my knowledge – and will be judged by strangers. It’s the prestigious Comment Awards, and I’ve been inexplicably shortlisted as Arts, Culture and Entertainment Commentator of the Year. Like, the whole year. It’s for my work on International Business Times, and I am up against two very well-known, respected and talented journalists. Once any surprise and elation died down, I debated whether to go. Will I again have the feeling I don’t really belong? Will I know anyone there? Won’t it be mortifying for me when they call out my name during the nominations, and even more humiliating when I don’t win? Because I don’t think I will win, and while I’m fine with that idea in principle now, I know I won’t be able to help feeling a little disappointed. This kind of recognition doesn’t happen to me every day; I don’t have the luxury of not caring whether people appreciate what I do, and it’s unlikely to happen again.
But then I thought, no. Go. And I am going. It’s on Thursday 23 November, which coincidentally is the first anniversary of my being offered a book deal. Do I believe in omens? No, but I’m going all the same, just to see what it’s like, and how it feels to be at an awards show for a reason. The boy who stumbled red-faced up to the podium to be handed the dog-eared copy of Forever back in 1991 deserves better, even if he has to stay seated all the way through this one.
I hid behind an eye for six years and kept most of my life under wraps so just for a change, until the awards are announced and we know for absolute certain I didn’t win, I’m going to let myself enjoy the feeling that I might.
This post appeared in a slightly different from – with more typos – in my regular-ish mailout, The Truth About Everything*. Sign up for future updates.