RATE ME – Claudia Rose
June 4, 2021
For a time, all of my friends were really into joining rating communities on the predominant digital journaling platform of the early 2000s called Livejournal. I don’t know how or why this trend started, for sure there was something narcissistic about the website in general, but the rating communities took narcissism to the next level. I’ll try to paint a picture of a certain type of Livejournal user for you. They have a labret lip ring, a swoop haircut (long in the front, short and spiky in the back and possibly two-toned), are wearing a lot of eyeliner, skin-tight jeans, a stud belt, a track jacket, and either Chuck Taylors or Vans sneakers. They listen to sad rock like Elliott Smith and the Postal Service but also posthardcore like Norma Jean and Misery Signals. If they are *really* cool they listen to the Locust and pageninetynine but they can’t just *say* they listen to them they have to *actually* listen to them (believe me, someone will check).
This type of Livejournal user was usually the one who had the confidence and following to start a rating community. On the landing page of the journal they would outline the terms of joining. Basically you had to be hot, you had to be cool, you had to like the right music, books and movies, and you had to introduce yourself with a picture that made you *appear* hot, interesting and illusive. Usually, there was a questionnaire that you had to fill out.
Once you applied, members of the community would rate you based on the information you had given and, most importantly, your photo. They would make comments, ask questions, and then give you a rating of either A, B, C, D, or F. People who got an A or B were usually accepted. Cs were probationary, like, “defend your listing of Head Automatica as one of your favorite bands because you didn’t even list Glassjaw are you stupid” or “ew, Good Charlotte, what are you twelve but you’re really hot so I’m going to be able to overlook it.” Ds and Fs were obviously not accepted and were relentlessly ridiculed in the comments on everything including (and especially, in most cases) physical appearance.
One of my best friends, Kim, was really big in *the scene,* she applied to a bunch of rating communities and she always got in. I mean, she looked the part, she had gauged ears, a bridge piercing, double cheek piercings, and a labret. She had short spiky black hair and her jeans were so tight she couldn’t really get them over her butt. She liked all the *right* music and her Myspace top ten was full of really cool and important people like local musicians and the friends of the local musicians who couldn’t play any instruments.
I only tried to join one rating community. I don’t know what possessed me to do this because I never thought of myself as pretty or interesting, maybe Kim talked me into it, I can’t remember. I didn’t have a digital camera so I took a picture on a disposable that I bought from CVS and then scanned the photograph using the copier in the library at school.
The thing about using the disposable camera was that I had no idea how the photo looked until I got it developed. When I saw it, I wasn’t happy with it. For one, I took it at night and the flash was on. So, I’m standing in a halo of white light that looks somewhat paranormal and my pupils are red and demonic. I am wearing a pink, tulle strapless dress that was supposed to look *vintage* (vintage was also an acceptable subculture for joining a rating community but only if you pulled it off remarkably well which I did not), and red Chuck Taylors. I had outlined my eyes in black eyeliner – tops, bottoms and inner lids. My (very thick and unruly) hair was growing out from a botched pixie cut and was not flattering. I’m standing awkwardly in the middle of my pink bedroom in front of a gigantic radiator that has laundry stacked in haphazard piles all over it. I am too skinny, shapeless, and the dress does not fit me well. That was the year I didn’t have a bed and was sleeping on a mattress on the floor. In the photo, you see my collection of stuffed animals strewn about the mattress. That was the year my mom’s depression got so bad she had to leave her job. Our house was in a state of constant chaos, but it didn’t seem that way because of how slowly everything and everyone were moving. Piles of garbage just gradually accumulated, beds were not made, the TV was left on.
I didn’t want to go through the whole ordeal of taking another photo, developing it, bringing it to school, waiting for the library to clear out so I could scan it, upload it, etc. so I just thought “what the hell.” I picked a rating community to join, one that Kim was already a member of, I think, and uploaded the picture along with the questionnaire. I thought carefully about my favorite bands and books (was The Perks of Being a Wallflower cool anymore?) and tried to make myself sound ~interesting~ which meant making myself seem just like everybody else. I submitted the application and waited for the comments to flow in.
I don’t remember too much of what anybody said. I was given a lot of Cs, some Ds, a couple of Fs. I don’t think I got any As or Bs. The two comments I remember, and I remember them very well, were, “she looks like trailer trash” and “she’s trying too hard.” I felt ugly and embarrassed and ashamed.
I have no idea what happened in the rating community once you were in because I never tried again. I assume that you joined the “raters” and got to decide who would be able to join. You got to leave nasty comments on other people’s applications. You got to pick apart their personalities, judge them, belittle them, antagonize them. I don’t know why this was ever a thing and sometimes, when I think about having my own children, I get sad and nervous. I think about the way that teenagers treat one another and hope that the days of rating one another are over though I know they are not. They have just taken on a different form, migrated to a new platform, maybe one that’s worse. I’m in my thirties now and I don’t really use social media but I still occasionally feel the sting of those comments whenever I try to put myself out there with anything. I have inherited, among other things, my mother’s depression and I don’t know how my hypothetical child would cope with that, with my eventual and recurring emotional absence. Where will they turn? Will I make them feel attractive and interesting and special? I hope so, but I really don’t know.