When one is playing the darling, everything is going one’s way. Needs are taken seriously. People listen. One’s strangest thoughts are given due consideration, even merit. Compliments come in bushels. One feels special and worthy. Other humans who do not know the darling very well wish to know them better.
In contrast, when one is not a darling, things can get quite dark. No matter how much one hustles, no matter how much one struts, people fail to notice. Humans fail to care. Depression and fear move in and put their grimy horse-hooves onto the kitchen table and demand cooking. Debts are called in, everything comes due at once and the sun will not come out tomorrow, no matter how loud the orphan sings.
For those stuck in the mire of the non-darling, let’s examine how darlings come into being, and what one has to be and do in order to be counted among them.
1. Children are Darlings
When one is a child, every tiny thing one does, from walking across the room, to defecating in the toilet, is met with smiles and cheek-patting. The meagerest of accomplishments are hugely rewarded with candy, gifts and the adoration of others. In addition to this wonderful state, a child’s discomforts are taken very seriously. Every boo-boo and cut is met with Spongebob Bandages and kisses. Strange aunts from distant lands give you birthday presents. The odd cousin lavishes attention on you at the family party. The world, it seems, revolves around what you want.
2. Single People are Darlings
When one is single, and fortunate enough to be even mildly attractive, one can draw the same kind of attention, devotion, and cheek-patting as a child does. When someone is interested in a single person, they listen attentively to every story, validate every idea and compliment even the smallest of actions. Annoying traits are labeled as adorable. Hobbies, even odd ones, are given top Saturday afternoon slots. An interested party can become a chameleon, patterning their actions after their lover in order to seem like the perfect match. In the early stages of any fledgling relationship, one can be many people’s darling.
3. The Rich are Darlings
Fortune, even the artificial kind obtained by credit, can make one a darling. It is well-known in our culture that one is not only worthy of darlinghood by lining up enough fortuitous circumstances and obtaining money, one is also moral. To obtain money implies one has been clever, creative, trustworthy and intelligent. That kind of person, we assume, could help us along our path, either by imparting wisdom or parting with a little cash. Just like single people and children, these rich darlings are given serious attention because of the financial power they wield. An undercooked chicken is whooshed back into the kitchen. A slightly out of square tile is cause for the contractor to miss his lunch. Paradoxically, free things are given to the very rich in order to secure sponsorship or at the very least, a loyal customer. To that wealthy man or woman, everything is always coming up Millhouse.
4. The Accomplished are Darlings
“Accomplished” is a word defined as, “A person who has done something that others find valuable.” It goes without saying that if the culture has judged your works to be fine enough, then money and prizes are soon to follow. It is an important distinction to show that other people have vetted your “something” and have decided unanimously that it is worth pushing above the chaos of human creation and into its elevated and exhausted state. This elevation comes in many forms; it could be an Academy Award, a fancy corporate title, a slot on the New York Times Bestseller list, or a plaque on the wall of an elementary school.
The accomplished are free to enjoy their darlinghood because, no matter where their star may fall in the future, at the very least they have reached a height that the normal and boring masses cannot reach.
It is the nature of human beings to attempt to stay in a state of darlinghood for as long as possible. Some attempt to prolong childhood well into their thirties by adopting childish hobbies and keeping their company young. Some couple up and break up almost as fast as the turnstile swings so they can practice darlinghood over and over again on new partners. Others go to the fancy schools and endure the 60-hour workweeks to buy the house in the right neighborhood and drive the right car. Others sacrifice their social health, their sanity, and their entire life to the god of accomplishment, hoping the darlinghood will shine upon them again.
One last brand of darling remains.
5. The Giving are Darlings
One can be a child and give. One can be accomplished and give. One can be rich and give. But another breed of person has none of these things. Their resources are limited, they have little protection against the whims of fortune. They are often poor. Often, they are all alone.
But this breed of darling gives anyway. They give to people who need care. They give to friends who need encouragement. They give knowledge to those who are ignorant. The giving darling does not rely on external validation, approval of others, ephemeral cash, age or relationship status. The giving darling is held in high esteem precisely because they don’t have those things. The giving darling simply chooses to give plus-one to others in order to give plus-one to themselves.
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