During a race a few days ago, a friend who I had not seen for some time came to visit. He currently works as a celebrity agent. He spent the entire weekend with my team in our tent. As we parted on Sunday, he told me I hadn’t developed myself properly and that my image was mismanaged. If a professional agent were allowed to clean things up a bit, my career would look nothing like now. “How about this: I’ll go home and send you an email to sum up how you can improve things,” he said.
He called me by phone a few moments later and said my problems were too numerous to detail properly in an email. “For example, on the day of the race you were ‘double backwards’ the whole time. Did you even notice?” I blanked. I’d heard of double regulations and single lens reflex cameras, but “double backwards”? I had no idea. After a long while, I finally understood what he was talking about. As it turned out, “double backwards” means wearing your clothes not only backwards, but inside-out as well. I left the house in too much of a hurry, I explained. I really didn’t notice. No one pointed it out to me, either. No wonder my neck felt a bit tight all day.
This wasn’t a big deal, my friend explained. “You’ve always been quite careless, and this makes it easy for others to laugh at you. But what’s really bad is that you fell asleep in the team tent and were tossing and turning. A total of twelve people came and took pictures of you sleeping. Five of them had press passes, four of them were your team members and three of them were other drivers. Two of those people purposefully took pictures from angles to make you look as ridiculous as possible. Five of them posted the pictures on Weibo: I checked. One of the pictures is really ugly. This is the kind of thing that affects your image. And you didn’t have anyone around making sure no one takes pictures of you. This would be absolutely unacceptable for us in the entertainment business.” But there was nothing I could do about that, I explained. I hadn’t been getting enough sleep lately, staying up late watching the Eurocup and all. How am I supposed to look like Sleeping Beauty?
My friend continued to educate me. My facial expressions were a minor problem. The major problem was how I was sleeping: in the fetal position with my hands tucked between my legs. Such a pathetic posture would surely affect my image, he said. Had pictures been uploaded to the Internet, it would surely get negative attention. “It’s not like I stuck my hand in their crotches,” I said. “What do they care if I touch my own dick? I’m not dicking them around.” It’s not that simple, my friend explained. “You’re a public figure, and this is the age of Weibo. Anyone can take your photo at any time, and the more preposterous the image, the faster it will travel. You have to make sure not a single photo taken of you will affect your image. For example, the placement of your hands as you were sleeping was all wrong. Images like that get shared thousands of times, easily.” But there really was nothing I could do about this, I explained. The air-conditioner was set too low, and as soon as I get cold, I automatically shift into this position. I’ve been like this ever since I was small. And there’s no way I’m going to hire some guys to make sure no one takes my picture while I’m sleeping. What kind of poser would that make me?
My friend continued to point out a whole heap of problems, like how I’m willing to take a picture with anyone who asks, or how I’ll autograph anything that’s put in front of me. There’s hidden danger there, he said. But I disagreed. If someone gave me a hundred-kuai bill to sign, I would refuse. “Not bad,” my friend affirmed, “At least you know better than to do that. One of our celebrities signed his name on a banknote that was given to him, and people really tore into him online. Defacing currency is clearly a bad idea.” “Not like that,” I said. “It’s because I wouldn’t want my name associated with Old Mao.”
Exasperated, my friend replied, “See? You can’t say things like that. You’ll offend too many people. You spoke with your teammates the same way, saying all kinds of things and cussing all the time. You should know, all it takes is just one person in the room who doesn’t have your best interests at heart to record you and put it online. That would make for some pretty bad press. Do you know how many people were in the tent with us? There were eighteen. Did you know them all?” There were a few didn’t know. My friend nearly dropped the phone. “You didn’t know a few of them, and you were still talking like that? Had you thought about the consequences? You had a mean cowlick going on after you woke up, too, yet you still took pictures with people. You looked like a Teletubby. And they used flash! Just imagine what that looks like. Not to mention your mismatched clothing. You looked like a hick. But the sloppiest part of it all was that you forgot to zip your fly! You’re too nonchalant, and you don’t have a professional agent there to help you. Without systematically managing your public image, you won’t be able to maintain any feeling of mystery or air of celebrity. If you set a good image for yourself and have qualified personnel help you with your take care of things and regulate your social media presence, you could make so much more money than you do now. Let me ask you: How do you plan to manage yourself? What are you thinking?”
I hung up. It was the dead of the night. I thought about what my friend had said. He was right about some things. I put no breaks on what I said in the tent, no barriers between others and myself. If someone did secretly snap a photo, record me or stream video onto Weibo, it would definitely cause trouble. Whether or not you’re on guard with strangers is determined by your default factory settings. I like to assume people are good, and then sift out the bad people as I go along. Some do the opposite. But my method for sifting out the bad is simply to wait for a wrong to be done to me. I believe in treating others sincerely. I also believe in admitting misfortune when it hits you.
As for clothing, I bought ten white T-shirts this summer. In the winter I usually wear just two leather jackets and one or two pairs of shoes. After all, I’m a racer, not a beauty contestant. I care about driving safely, not how my clothing looks.
Life as I see it is about creating all kinds of things, not just rumors. To me, good fortune is determined by the amount of culture I have created. Thirty years ago, I beat out 100 million other sperm. That I was born at all is pretty damn awesome. Having come into this world, I should at least leave my mark. Sure, fashion and elegance are a kind of creative enterprise, but I’m not very adept at them. Admittedly, there are many people in this society who believe that so long as you don’t swear, you can lie, talk idly, speak in clichés, start rumors—big rumors, crazy rumors—and your morals will still be intact. But I think the opposite. In fact, I would like to say one word to those stupid, self-righteous cunts out there: “fuck.” That’s right. This will surely get those sanctimonious assholes shaking with rage, ripping me to shreds, yelling and screaming, rolling on the floor. Then, suddenly, they’ll stand up straight and begin to judge—and the solution is to say “fuck” again. Just fuck it. I’m not fucking you, and I’m not fucking everyone in your family, I’m fucking this world, this world where it’s fine to frame someone as long as it’s done in a genteel manner, this world which allows people who don’t curse but who lack ethics to act as moral judges, this world which allows those whose words are clean but whose hearts and deeds are not to be in positions of power, this world where black is white and right is wrong, this world which believes that a public figure, or anyone else for that matter, should under no circumstances utter a single “fuck.” Let’s fuck this world upside-down.
Life as I see it is about doing what you like to do and taking care of yourself and your family. Living life isn’t about climbing tall mountains or diving into deep-sea trenches. Living life is as simple as sleeping your imprint into a standard-sized bed. I don’t think having regrets means having shortcomings. On the contrary, I think failure is beautiful. The things I enjoy are not limited to writing and racing. I do so many other things. Some of those things I don’t do well. Some I fail at miserably. I tell my friends directly: I really love to do this, I’ve done it before, but I’m not cut out for it, I embarrassed myself doing it. The most annoying thing in the world is to hear someone say, “If I were to do this, I’d definitely do it better than Blah Blah Blah.” Fuck off. You see me victorious on stage once, but I’ve failed at it ten other times. So what? I’m still alive. As long as you keep at it, you’re fine, and people will only remember that one time you succeeded.
Life as I see it is about being together with all the things you enjoy. One time at a fast food place I spotted a beautiful girl. I hesitated for five minutes and never mustered up enough courage to go talk to her. In the end she left, and to this day I regret it. In that moment, I was an idiot. What if I had talked to her? Worst-case scenario: her boyfriend walked out of the bathroom. If you were to die one day, it would be much better to brag and say you did something well or to jokingly recall your failures than to regret not doing this or that. I do plenty right now. I spend time with my family, my spouse and my child. I compete in around twenty races per year, and I’ve begun writing a novel and a travelogue. But besides the occasional photo shoot, I really don’t have energy to think about my style, let alone worry about my image. If I give a bad impression, I can only move forward. I’m only responsible for the writing, not the customer experience or after-sales service. I won’t change my writing based on other people’s preferences. If you like it, it’s a sunny day. If you hate it, it’s still a sunny day. I’d like to thank my friend for his earnest advice and meticulous planning. I know I’ll suffer immeasurable losses because of my character and lifestyle, I’ll swallow uncountable numbers of bitter pills. But at least, from my ideals to my passing thoughts, I haven’t let anything go. So even if my life is full of defeat, I still won’t feel sorry. My friend, I thank you for everything. There are hundreds of thousands of kinds of love and countless kinds of human hearts in this world. To win them over would be my good fortune. If not, I still have nothing to feel sorry about. But I do agree with one point: no matter how hurried I am leaving the house, I have to make sure my pants are zipped.
Translated by Little Bluegill.