"My name is Marissa, I am 26, and on a scale from 1-10, I am a 7 of ticklishness."This was an actual email that I sent to a stranger from Craigslist. It was almost winter break of a particularly busy year, and I was starting to feel that emptiness and dread that I usually feel approaching breaks. I figured I’d try something new, so I went to Craigslist and searched “gigs.” Paid, unpaid: it didn’t matter. What I needed was something to eat up my free time.
And that’s how I ended up sending an email to a stranger offering to pay me $15 to be tickled for 45 minutes for their documentary.
It was around the time I saw the movie Craigslist Joe, so part of me was believing in the usefulness of humanity on the internet. I was hoping that by accepting random gigs, I might get to try out something new, like Reiki, or get something for free, like a haircut while I’m sleeping. (Just kidding. But that was a popular gig offer at the time.) I just wanted to be a part of something. To participate. To contribute.
Ultimately, after my experiences with the site, I felt like Joe was either using a whole different Craigslist than I was, or the documentary was entirely staged.
Sadly (depending how you look at it), the tickling thing didn’t end up panning out. That one was actually on me--the more I told my boyfriend (now husband) about it, the more he insisted that it didn’t exactly sound like a safe activity. But it was through George Mason University, I said! It was for science! But when we looked at it further, we realized it gave an address of a building near George Mason, not actually affiliated with the university in any way. And besides, Jake reminded me, didn’t I despise being tickled? Wasn’t there a time recently where he tickled me until I couldn’t breathe and started crying?
Okay, he had a point.
But other than the tickling one, there were several gigs that just completely fell through for one reason or another. These things included:
Voicing over a nature documentary--I actually sent audio clips of myself to audition for narrating someone’s film on poison dart frogs. I guess, despite what I might have thought, no one can take me seriously when I say the words: “Deep in the rainforests of South America lies a creature with a dark secret.”
“Alternative/Goth girl” modeling--I attached a photo of myself before Goth/Industrial Night, where my friend and I successfully infiltrated a highly exclusive gathering of goths in a basement on Charlottesville’s downtown mall. We thought that goths, of all people, would have decent radars for posers. Well, not these goths--at the end of the night, a chick in black leather with a dyed white mohawk told us that it was “very cool” that we came out to the event and that she really hoped she’d be seeing more of us in the future. We ran all the way to the trolley stop screaming, “We got hit on by a real goth!” I don’t know if we’d ever felt more impressed with ourselves. Anyway, needless to say, this stranger on the internet had better goth-dar than a real goth at a goth party. They never responded to my embarrassing email.
Rap video girl--This is one of my greatest regrets. I found a posting from a local rapper named AP (I think, because he regarded many of his lyrics as fairly intellectual, like an AP class?) He wanted some video girls for his new banger, “Party Hard.” It was a hard 180 from his previous woke single, “Please Stop the Abuse.” I wanted to be in his video (out of boredom, not out of appreciation for his sick flow), but I had a scheduling conflict. I told him about it, and he said it would be okay even if I came for ten minutes, and for whatever reason, this was the point where I got sketched out. In retrospect, I really should have gone for ten minutes to see what it was all about. What was the worst that could have happened? AP turning me away because he’d already filled the role of Token White Girl Dancing Awkwardly?
The very serious student film--I got further with this one than most, because I actually met the person putting it together and went to a community center in Alexandria to audition for it. It was called “Two Lives,” and it was about two teenagers--one seeking an abortion, and one willing to do anything for her baby. The parts that I read seemed pretty much like garbage from a dialogue-writing and believability standpoint--as the angsty teen girl who doesn’t want to be pregnant, I had to say “No. God no!” multiple times to the kid who knocked me up at a party, and then there was a part where my babydaddy was pushing drugs in the parking lot of Mom’s Organic Market. So thug! I definitely didn’t get the part, partially because I was like 9 years too old and partially because I totally sucked and forgot all my lines. Looking at the final product, I have gained respect for the project -- there’s a bit of a twist ending that at the very least makes things interesting.
There were way more failed attempts than that (33 total by my count in the gmail archives), but those are the most interesting ones.
So why did so few things pan out, after all of those emails? Why is it so hard for a person with so little to give to make a meaningful connection with someone who has so little to gain? Why was it that every single time, it wasn’t exactly the right gig for me or I wasn’t exactly the right girl for the gig? How can someone be so picky when they have virtually nothing to offer?
Maybe Craigslist is a place for dreamers...people who have a dream and want to get it validated but have no ambition of ever following through with that dream. This would account for the many emails I exchanged with people who claimed they were “just getting started, not sure what direction the project’s going to take.” Or maybe Craigslist, as unprestigious as it seems, is more like the slushpile at The New Yorker than we estimate. Idealists who, if everything is just right, can move forward with their vision.
So did anything ever work out for me in my quest to participate in something? Well, there was one thing: a music video shoot for a local pop punk band. After I got over the initial awkwardness of one of the band members saying “Oh! You’re the girl who responded to our Craigslist ad!” by drinking a sizable percentage of the beer they brought, it was a really memorable, fun experience.
That’s all I ever wanted, Craigslist!