“You know, I guess I have noticed body language from people before with you where it’s like ‘Whoa, that girl is out there.”
My husband said this to me Saturday morning during a discussion about our tendencies in social situations. This is the kind of deep, meaningful stuff that we mull over during our runs together or when tackling a diaper so poopy that it takes the two of us just to clean it all up.
“Does that make sense?” he asked, seemingly hesitant in his fear that he’d offended me. He hadn’t.
“Well…yeah,” I said. “I notice it, too.” I’m a bit of an open book, you could say. I know, I know…you’re sitting there, reading this, thinking “You, Becky? But you’re the most low-key and mild personality I’ve ever come across in my life! So even-keeled! So poker-faced!” (po-po-po-poker face mah-mah poker face)
I’m completely joking. I mean, I’m not sporting multiple personalities and hoarding ferrets here – I’m “healthy weird.” Quirky, kooky, whatever you want to call it. Compared to a lot of people, I am booooooringly tame and normal. Actually, I think people sometimes dramatize my eccentricities to a really extreme level. But yeah, clearly I’m not Ms. America and vanilla ice cream.
One of the reasons that I didn’t necessarily excel (but rather simply existed) in the corporate world (or as I perceived it at the time – given my tendency to have numerous, nagging insecurities about my professional capabilities – failed miserably and unforgivably) is that I am not the world’s best when it comes to “holding back.”
Even when I don’t say what I’m thinking (which, contrary to popular belief, is about 75% of the time – I’m completely not joking about this), I just have one of those faces that sort of betrays my silence in some situations. I could never do stand-up comedy, because I’m that person who would giggle midway through every joke that I thought was funny (even if nobody else did, which is pretty darn awkward). I’m that person who simply must cry when someone else is crying (in most cases, anyway), because I’m just an emotional, sentimental ol’ sap. And if I’m embarassed by something, you will know, because my face will get so red and hot (not in a sexy way) that it starts emitting radiation. And even in some situations where I’m perfectly fine and content, my face just sort of does things without my permission. This always made picture day really fun and enjoyable, as if the rest of my student life wasn’t already enough of a Pandora’s Box of enjoyable and totally not horrific and bitter memories. Just ask somebody I attended school with if they have the 1997-1998 Conway Middle School year book and you’ll get a great idea of what I’m referring to.
That year book picture – in which the photographer captured me just as I was turning my head and opening my mouth, telling him that I had a sneeze that was about to come out, just in case you need the mental image to really grasp what a total Glamour Shot it was – is a really good symbol for how I am in social situations with people that I don’t know very well: goofy, maybe even a little bit spastic, completely unkempt, not remotely poised (especially when compared to my counterparts), and always just a teensy bit kooky. Teensy bit. Just a smidge.
As Jonathan and I continued our discussion of my natural propensity for creating awkward moments (I admit…I do sometimes relish an awkward moment in a very twisted and highly inappropriate way), I had one of those cliche moments of self-realization that have been the hallmark of my mid-to-late 20s.
“You know, I think I used to do that by accident, but now I just do it to get it out of the way,” I said. “I guess I just learned when I was younger that I wasn’t fooling anybody by pretending to be someone less ‘quirky’ (unhinged) than I really am.”
I thought about this for a moment.
“To be honest, I think I do it so I can figure out where people stand with me.” Jonathan looked at me and I immediately knew what he was thinking – Yes, please, I am just dyyyyyyying to discuss your screwed up grade school experience some more. Really, the only reason we haven’t expended boatloads of cash on therapy for me is because Jonathan is way better at it than most Ph.D. psychiatrists ever thought about being. Jonathan has a Ph.D. in putting up with me…that has to count for something.
But the truth is, I think I really do kind of prefer to lay my cards on the table – because I know I don’t have long, anyway. I’m one of those tragically uncool people whose mouths can sometimes move faster than their brains. Not always, but it definitely happens. And these little things about me are often just things that pop into my head, knocked loose by a random idea pulled from an even more random conversation with someone whom I might know well enough, but who I may just as likely have known for approximately 72 seconds. I swear…I have no idea where this comes from other than pure nervous energy. Why nervous, you ask? Who knows. I come from a long line of high-strung, moody, emotional, sensitive, worrisome, anxious, intensely gregarious folks. It is in the DNA as much as the wayward and inexplicable fat deposits on my knees and the jawline that I inherited from my paternal grandmother’s side of the family.
God bless my parents, Jonathan, and a lot of other people for loving me, even though I am “out there.” But I think I’m learning to like being that way. In my experience, if you were going to love me, hearing “my life story” (as some very small-scale thinkers have put it before) wasn’t going to change that. If anything, it was just going to make you love me more. Conversely, if you were going to hate me, hearing “my life story” was really just going to speed up the process. You might as well know who you’re hating anyway, right?
While we’re on the topic, I just want to say that I love (i.e. absolutely. freaking. abhor.) when someone claims (i.e. complains) that I am telling or once told them “my life story.” Really, dude? Jonathan has been my best friend and my partner in everything (*nod nod* *wink wink*) for almost six years now and he gets new stories from me all the time. I don’t plan it this way, I’m just someone who likes to share, I guess. The stories aren’t usually big productions.They are more often little, insignificant snippets of the girl I used to be (or the 16 year old that I try to forget).
Like how I was hit by a caregiver at my first daycare for having an accident on the slide when I was about two and a half years old (my mom switched my daycare shortly thereafter). Or the time when I was in first grade and I slapped a grown man (one of my classmates’ dads) who I thought was hitting on my mom during a field trip.
Here’s another one: When I was little, my brother and I used to set up lawn chairs upside down and make a “tent city” in the backyard. We’d string a bucket over a tree branch and fill it with water to make a “well.” We made “macaroni and cheese” using broken twigs and the yellow filling from oak acorns that we’d cracked open with mom’s pink-handled shovel. I’d cook mud “pies” for our “dessert” (we didn’t actually eat the stuff, by the way – seems obvious, but you just never know what people are going to think) and when we were really lucky, a hurricane would come. It would knock down a few big tree limps. And we’d build a fort – complete with rooms! A kitchen! A foyer! It was free entertainment back in a time when your largest imaginable expenditure for a toy was a first-generation Gameboy.
You didn’t ask for that story. Unimpressive, average (maybe even below average, in some cases!), not-remotely-compelling tales of the person I am. And I tell people these things because I might as well. And because I’m out there. And I guess, it might seem to some, because they’re “my life story,” whatever that means.
I’m feeling pretty blessed that now, in my late 20s, I’m finally starting to compile the contingent of folks who let me run up and hug them, who chuckle when I’m a little goofy or irrevent, who accept – or even love me more – for all my little oddities. My family and a few friends and Jonathan were always that way. But there are more now, and I know that I am lucky beyond belief to have them.
Because I am out there.