As explored before, this whole thing bewilders me. Growing up, I was not "the cute one." My little sister was and people fawned over her with abandon, at times not even acknowledging my existence. And she took advantage of the attention, teasing me about how much cuter she was than I. To make matters worse, my mother gave me hair cuts I didn't want. I cried all night when I got them. She loved her "bi-level" (AKA Mullette) and longed to spread the joy, telling me I needed a bi-level too because my face was too long, my forehead too big and for some reason, to balance out all this ugliness, I had to get ugly hair cuts too. And on top of that, I had a teeter-totter accident which triggered my mouth to make extra teeth... er... an extra TOOTH, that perched in the middle of my mouth, a giant crack across it. I required multiple surgeries and years of braces to work it all out. In the mean time the kids called me "Saber-tooth Sara," occasionally breaking up the monotony with "Snaggle-tooth." And I didn't mind. Because that's all I saw in the mirror too. In addition, many of my clothes were hand-me-downs from the neighbor girl of a totally different coloring. I looked horrible in those clothes, but they were clothes and my mother always insisted that "life is not a fashion show!" and I had to wear them no matter how they made me feel. Although, it turns out that life is just a little bit of a fashion show, actually. I have always hated looking at photos of myself as a child because they slip me back in to these well-worn neural pathways: that ugly hair, that ugly tooth, those ugly clothes, ugly me. I have layers and layers, a veritable lasagna, of ugly-girl issues and being hit on has always been bewildering.
|10: Trying so hard to feel pretty in my neighbor's annoying clothes|
As a younger child, I was stung by my supposed lack of cute-ness, but my longing to be pretty was on the back burner and did not find a place in my ineffectual, fervent prayers. My mid-night pinings as a child were 1) to be wise as Solomon and 2) to have red hair (it's now black and gray). In my preteens, pretty would find it's way into my prayers, but those prayers shifted from the non-red-hair-granting dude upstairs, to the more real seeming moon beams that shimmered down through my sky-light on to my bed in my short attic room. I felt ashamed and shallow for my vain prayers of vanity, but now I understand, I was a biological being, wondering how I would fulfill my biological destiny.
|8: Just ignore the tooth and playground hair and tell me I'm pretty in my favorite dress|
This is just one of the many reasons I don't really like people any more. In theory, people are amazing. But the reality is iffy. I mean, there are some that I like because I trust them, but strangers, man, fuck strangers. I have no idea what I'm going to get from them. And my mind is not fast enough on it's feet to handle the wide variety of possible interactions. I also don't feel like explaining myself any more, which can increase awkwardness. I look normal, why don't I act normal? It's actually none of your business. I used to blurt out to people that I'd had a head injury and didn't understand things anymore. I can engage with people pretty normally now, with people that I know. But with people I don't know, or people I know I can't trust, I still talk very slowly and can get lost in my own sentence. The impulse to explain myself is still there, but suppressed under some amount of resignation and cynicism. There was a time I wanted to explain; I hoped that people would be better if they knew there was medical reason why my IQ points all seemed to be scattered like bowling pins. But I've come to realize that if you're an asshole, you're just an asshole, facts aren't really something that will transform you into being the good person I hoped you were.
At one store, the staff has to ask the customers what we're up to today. It's the new "how are you." So a while ago, I worked really hard to sort out the question and finally I responded honestly: "I don't know." I keep a list in my car and a pile of sticky notes on the dashboard. Each note has the time and place I need to be written in sharpie. When I get there, I discard the top note so that when I get back in the car I see the next place I am supposed to be and when. Without these devices that I organize the night before, I can get pretty lost. Although I am getting much better and can actually go without the sticky notes some days. But back then, I was not better and without looking at my cheat sheets, I really had no idea what I was up to. And just as I was leaving, I suddenly remembered, in my own head, all by myself, where I was going next, so I blurted it out, "Neuro-psychology!!!" "What's that?" the cashier laughed. "I have a head injury!" Oh goody! I was remembering everything! And in a grocery store with lights and noise! What a success! "I go to learn how to interact with people. She explains people to me and tells me why they do things! And how I can think better!" By the look on that cashiers face I realized that this is not something you yell about excitedly at the grocery store. But then she wanted to know everything: how I got hit, would I ever get better, will I ever work again. It was kind of weird and confusing and she was a little judgmental, with a dose of "Well, you look fine to me!" (Here I thought she was a cashier, but she's actually an expert both in medicine and me! You would not believe how many medical experts are peppered about disguised as cashiers and middle school teachers and office managers. Some days, I just want to draw a fake scar on my head so I don't have to explain or endure the 20 questions, I'll-be-the-judge-of-that-myself, and well-you-look-fine-to-me ignorant ridiculousness). There's a nice way to say this, actually: Coyote's Dentist, "Wow. I never would have guessed. You look great."
I am definitely better than that now. And also I would not bother to dig in my head for personal information for a format question from a cashier. But I am also not quite up to "flirty repartee" levels of human interaction. And that is where this little discourse brings us.
|7: Lucky Seven, freckled with love|
But then the cashmere coat said "hi." And there was no one else around, so I guessed it was either me, or his bluetooth. So, without really looking him in the eye, I cocked my head in his direction and said "hi." I actually have no idea what he looked like, really. I couldn't look him fully in the face because I had the distinct feeling that he was so beautiful that I would burst in to flames if I actually looked him in the face, like he was God. For all I really know, he may have been a wall-eyed, chinless salamander. But I couldn't risk exploding into to flames, not in the grocery store.
And I hoped that little "hi" would satisfy him and end this exchange because I noticed that I was wearing clothes completely unworthy of a cashmere overcoat. I was wearing jeans that seriously needed a belt ("Oh, that was it." Huck said later). I was wearing a slouchy, very old (but still quite serviceable) red bamboo hoodie, unzipped. And beneath that, the piece de resistance, a garish purple tee-shirt with a giant white unicorn on it and advice of dubitable merit: "Always be yourself, unless you can be a unicorn, then always be a unicorn." Blue got if for me for Christmas. Also, I had the feeling that I was breaking out, right at that moment.("I don't see a thing," Huck said later.)
|9: Unicorns FOREVER, Baby!|
So, carefully avoiding eye contact with the god, I groaned loudly. And ran.
What the hell is wrong with me? Discuss.
Kidding, Please don't.
I'm addressing this with trained professionals. If this little silly episode has one thing to show me, it's that I want to re-open myself up to goodness. In order to do that, I feel I need to be able to weather the bumps of general human interaction too. And I'm not sure I'm there yet. But with each positive interaction, I want to open up a little more to the world.
Around this time, some childhood photos surfaced... one's I've never seen before, ones without any standard neural pathways. And for the first time, I saw myself through my own eyes, unclouded by the opinions of the adults of my childhood. I saw myself without comparison to my little sister, as others always had. I saw the little girl in those photos and she was gorgeous, eyes full of dreams and mischief and life. Beautiful. Shame on the grown-ups for not having noticed. I'm not going to follow in their footsteps, step in line with their narratives. I wanted to reach through time, and chub that cherub's cheeks and tell her, yes, you are as beautiful as a person can be. She always has been and she always will be, forever, and nothing anyone ever said changes that. And I like to say that nothing anyone says in any grocery store can add or subtract to the truth. But that "hi" really did help and that "retarded" really did hurt. So lets say that I strive for a solid sense of inner beauty that's untouchable by this volatile world. That child, me, I am beautiful. And by beautiful I mean beautiful and loveable and worthy of all the good things life has. I feel ridiculous going on about my inner child, but it feels true, and it seems that the best way to dispose of that lasagna of ugly-girl issues and disability vulnerability is to go back in time, inside me. That precious child is still here. And she deserves
to know the truth.
|Chillin' at Bloedell with the Cool Kids|