I’ve always had some sort of problem with my identity. Everything about my outer image is a mess that I’ve never been comfortable with.
The shallowest of those messes is the way I dress. I’m horrendously picky when it comes to shopping for new clothes, because I can never find the kinds of things I like that look decent on my 5’4″. So I settle for less, and come a few weeks, tell myself I need more clothes, because I seem to be wearing the same thing every day.
When it comes to fashion (or anything, really), people like to throw around the words “Express yourself.” Unfortunately “expressing” myself comes at the cost of pick-and-choose from somebody else’s expression, to say nothing of my limited budget.
Make my own clothes? I’m afraid of sewing machines.
Okay, well people also say “It doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside; it’s who you are on the inside.” This is even worse of a situation. Let’s use, as an example, a soft-boiled egg.
The shell, the image I think I project to the outside world is quiet, in a don’t-mess-with-me-or-I’ll-rip-you-a-new-one way. Well I try. It keeps most people away. I’m also picky about the people I interact with, and very quick to judge others. While the shell keeps out unsavory sorts, it also prevents me from interacting with new, interesting characters. To be honest, I really don’t know how to make friends. I don’t know the science of how it happens. I end up falling out with a lot of my ‘friends’ and now I’m really wary of this whole process.
The white of this egg, is kind of soft and squishy. You get to it by tapping through the shell with a spoon. Now and then I run into some people I really like, who actually tolerate me in return. These are the kinds of people I want to keep around me, but there’s always a part of me that worries I’ll end up pushing them away.
I’ve had a lot of little fights with my very best friends, but we’ve always patched things up and moved on together. Actually, if I think seriously about the spats I get into with others, it seems like it might just always be my fault. Friends grow apart slowly, don’t they? Is this a natural part of life? Or is it a fault of mine that I am intolerable of others’ faults?
I don’t really know if anyone’s quite gotten to that runny yolk of mine. I’m sitting on my bed, talking to a close friend on the phone; I’m writing a letter to one of my favorite guys; I’m having a heart-to-heart with a great girl friend over lunch… but at the same time, I always feel like none of them really get me. Of course, this is because I don’t want anyone to ‘get’ me.
Maybe it’s because I watched too many movies at an impressionable time in my life. Maybe it’s because of something my parents did. A lot of other factors, I’m sure, contributed to the basic idea that if you hand another person a knife, they could very likely stab you with it. All my friends lived on the internet at one point in my life, because if you tell Johnny in Singapore that you like So-and-so whom you see in the hall every day but never talk to, Johnny won’t show up at school one day and tell a hundred of your classmates about it.
School counselors and teachers are ineffective at dealing with asshole kids who like taking it out on little Chinese girls. I cannot justify their actions. When you get your hair pulled on the first day at a new school, that’s no big deal, right? When they pull up their eyelids and chant in pseudolanguage, it’s all a part of trying to get your attention, right? Why don’t you be a little more understanding and forgiving?
When you make the mistake of speaking to quickly, and what should have been a small, easily corrected misunderstanding results in a year of being taunted at recess by all the boys in the class, who will defend you? Why do you have to swear on your religion to be let in on a secret? How can you not have a religion?
Why is it okay for a girl you don’t know to shout “stupid Chinese” at you from the gym bleachers? Why is it okay for a guy to throw pens at you from across the room? Why is it okay for a girl to shove you into a locker, causing you to tell her loudly to ‘fuck off’ in front of your algebra teacher?
Dear junior-high guidance counselor, why can’t you see that she’s fake-crying while she’s trying to explain how I threatened her friend who claimed he just “dropped” that pen. Why can’t you do more than tell her to stay away from me? Why don’t you realize that this will just mean all her stupid friends get no holds barred on me in French class, on the staircase, with rolls of toilet paper on my front lawn?
What does this make me? It makes me want to break the barrier of race, religion, sex, and image. It makes me withdraw into myself, makes me reflect, search, and contemplate. It makes me judgmental, self-conscious, and avoidant.
It makes me cling singularly to female classmates who project strength, stability, and openness. I change my image, my thoughts, personality, words, in an attempt to find those traits I am in desperate need of. Naively, this does not in any way contribute to my maturity level or help me interact with others beyond the shallowest layer. Obviously this is not working.
In reaching high school, I am thrown into a class that stops me short in my tracks. A group of the most intelligent and beautiful people I have ever met. I am not the only one to be sucked into daydreams of that kind of glamour. I can’t interact with them on any level. My two attempts end disastrously.
I change my image again, project my thoughts into two years of poetry and stories. I cling to strong friends, try to shake off the weaker ones, and grow in a haphazard fashion. I am not the only one to dive into that source of high school glamour. Trying to be the illusion breaks the illusion, as we found out.
I think realizing this was worse for me than for my companion in the process. I spent a year in the misery of floundering in other people’s ideas and personalities. Clothes-shopping in a way. Having never had an entire role-model, I’ve been picking out pieces of other people that I want for myself. I’ve been doing this for so long, I don’t know what I want anymore.
Should I worry about looking more feminine? Should I not bother with it, because it’s just another ruse to objectify females? Should I read classic novels so I can present myself as an intellectual? Should I date a stoner friend because that would be rebellious/cool? Should I not bother with guys because high school relationships are shallow and a waste of time? Should I become a lesbian because that’s edgy?
It’s hard to say whether all these years were or were not a waste of time. On the one hand, I could have done something with the what-ifs I have now. On the other hand, I’ve probably learned something, and those what-ifs wouldn’t exist otherwise.
Still, nobody knows much about that yolk. Even I prefer to stay on the white, because frankly, the inside holds things even I don’t want to deal with. It’s mostly a jumble of fears and confusions. Things like spiders and needles, that I won’t say in French, because frankly, my French class doesn’t need to know about them. Things like despite how the word “Renaissance woman” keeps being tossed in my direction, I actually don’t know how to do anything for myself. It’s probably not dumb luck, but who can say for sure? Things like how I pretend to know more than I really do, how I secretly feel inferior to a lot of my friends, and how I’m probably a hypochondriac.
I don’t talk to people who have realized that I’m all talk and no action and called me out on it. I don’t date my male friends, because it always looks like they try to convince themselves that they are in love with me, regardless of what they say otherwise. I’m afraid that within one or two years I’ll have lost contact with the friends that did support me this year, the ones that I have very seldom hung out with outside of school, but have bonded with through stuff like physics or diffeqs. I would trade all the time spent with forgotten friends to get to know that vertically-challenged, brilliant-minded girl, or that vitriolic, enigmatic boy.
College begins in a month, and I’ll try not to fuck up majorly. I don’t know if I’ll be posting here again, unless it’s another late night with nothing to do and too much to sort out.
I’ll see you when I see you.