One of the major perks of living in San Diego is the proximity to Los Angeles, the celebrity mecca of the world. I get a little bit giddy every time I see a freeway sign reminding me that I am just a couple of hours from the homes of my favorite celebrities. After all, the only famous people that I had access to in my hometown of Toms River, NJ were the stars of Jersey Shore. And I’m not complaining, because Snooki is a sight to behold and I was incredibly excited to see her that one magical night at Karma. But she is D list at best, and Los Angeles is home to the real deal, the A listers. So when the opportunity arose to head up to L.A. this past weekend, I jumped right on it.
For me, being in L.A. feels akin to what I imagine being on safari feels like. My senses are heightened and I am at the ready with my iPhone, in case I need to snap a quick pic of an exotic creature. Driving on the PCH through Malibu is my version of riding a Jeep through the Serengeti. I am constantly on the lookout. Every passing Range Rover is an opportunity to see Kendall or Kylie illegally text while driving. In my mind, every Prius is potentially being steered by Leonardo DiCaprio. (And if you’ve ever driven in southern California, you know that there are A LOT of Prii.) I think I probably developed a case of whiplash from all of the head-turning that I had to do in order to make sure I didn’t miss any potential sightings. Every time I see a tall blond with oversize feet, I do a double-take to see if it’s Paris Hilton. And every time I see a tiny little man inappropriately jumping up and down, I hope that it’s Tom Cruise. Then I realize that it’s just a 7-year-old boy on a sugar high.
Unfortunately, I didn’t see any celebrities this time around. But I did get to wondering… why am I so obsessed with the whole celebrity culture? I devour the latest episode of Us Weekly in under 15 minutes. I check Perez Hilton at least 5 times per day. And I probably know more about what’s going on in the Kardashian family than I do about what’s going on in my own actual family. I’m not alone in this. I see other women perusing the tabloids in the grocery store checkout line. And even my very successful cousin-in-law who is an M.D. finds the time to engage in text conversations about the latest khronicles of the Kardashians. So what is it about celebrities that is just so compelling?
Maybe following the lives of celebrities allows us to escape from our own lives. It’s kind of like driving through the ritzy part of town and looking at the mansions, imagining what it would be like to live there and forgetting, just for a moment, that you live in an 800 square foot box where the thin walls offer no protection from the incessant barking of your neighbor’s dogs. Watching how Jessica Alba manages to wrangle her children while still keeping up with the latest trends and looking perfectly polished out in public allows me to escape, just for a moment, from my own bleak reality of yoga pants, unwashed hair and blotchy, foundation-less skin. I get lost in the pages of Life & Style because it’s more interesting than listening to my husband tell me about the ins and outs of the NASDAQ. (I’m just kidding, honey. I LOOOVVVVEEE listening to everything you say!) When I have a rough day at work, it’s sometimes nice to just zone out and watch the Rich Kids of Beverly Hills debate about what Instagram filter to use. Some people escape with a good book or a movie. It’s not much different than escaping through People magazine and E! news.
After doing some research, I found that there may also be an evolutionary explanation for our fascination with the famous. Prestige may be a trait that has helped our species to survive. Our caveman ancestors needed to recognize the individuals who possessed superior skills and knowledge, so that they could learn from them and/or mooch off of their successes. It’s just like in high school when the less popular students follow and imitate the practices and rituals of the popular students so that they are more accepted and included. It’s basically a way to survive. So the next time my husband judges me for the amount of time I spend following Justin Bieber’s legal proceedings, I will tell him that I’m trying to save our species.
There may be a psychological or scientific reason behind our celebrity-crazed mindset. But regardless of the science behind it, the fact remains that it’s fun. And if I ever forget that, luckily I am just a hop, skip, a jump, and a 2-hour L.A. traffic jam away from Hollywood to get a reminder.