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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Mirrormask

I think there's something wrong with me.

I say this in my mind as I gaze at my reflection in the restroom mirror at work one afternoon. I'm getting ready to leave for home -- for real this time -- but I can't get the weirdness of the earlier exchange out of my mind:

"See ya, Sra!"

"I don't think she's leaving."

"..."

"Sra?"

The ellipsis is me, not knowing what to say. I wasn't leaving for the day then, I was just putting some mail in the outbox next to the door. But they mistook me for leaving, and so they said goodbye, and then spoke about me in third person instead of to me in second person, and then I just didn't know what to say. So I didn't say anything and just went back up the stairs to my desk where I had a few things to finish up. This spurred the questioning vocative from my Boss, but still I said nothing.

I didn't know what to say.

What would a normal person have said?

Somehow I think this is the type of thing a normal person wouldn't have even had to think about. They'd have paused in the doorway to the kitchen and cracked some joke about how they're not really leaving. But I can't think of a joke to say in that situation. I can't think of a damn thing to say.

So I'm staring at myself in the mirror, feeling awkward and wondering why social exchanges are so difficult for me. They really always have been, I know that, and I know that I've always felt different from everyone else, even since I was a child. Social things that other people understand naturally are completely foreign to me. For instance, though I do have a sense of humor, it's a special kind of sense of humor that isn't really compatible with most people's. Frequently I can't tell that someone is joking about something, and I end up looking foolish by taking them seriously. Also, I don't understand how to make small talk, I don't enjoy doing it, and I don't even see the point of it. Why should I want to talk to someone about little details of their lives when I don't really know them that well and I don't plan on getting to know them well? These are some of the things that make me different from most people.

There was a brief period in which I was able to overcome my different-ness somewhat. I have alcohol to thank for that. Now that makes me sound like a real lush, so let me just clarify that I didn't drink my problems away. Rather, I was able to see myself through the uninhibited, fearless eyes of a girl who's had a few too many drinks... well, alright, a girl who got completely, stupidly, and sing-on-the-street-corner-in-the-middle-of-the-night-at-the-top-of-your-lungs-edly trashed. And by seeing myself like that, I was able to say, Hey, this being confident and socially fearless stuff isn't as hard as it seems!

So for awhile -- about two years give or take -- I was able to apply the same uninhibited attitude of my drunken self to my sober self. I felt much more normal. I almost even felt like I could see social situations in the same way most people probably see them.

But that period ended shortly after I was hired on at the Law Firm. Luckily, it lasted through my interview, because I'm confident that if they had seen me how I really am -- timid and shy and scared am I -- they never would have offered me the job.

I'm different from other people, I know that. And I want to be ok with that. I want to not care what other people think of me. But I do care. I hate that I care, but I do.

Maybe one day I will learn to embrace the awkwardness that is me, and not be afraid to show myself for who I really am behind the mask that I awkwardly try to wear for others. I hope one day I find the courage and the way.

Until then, there's the person in the mirror staring back at me, trying hard to be brave, and hoping that nobody notices how scared she really is.


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13 comments:

Natalie said...

i know what you are saying. i am an outgoing person by nature, but as i've gotten older i seem to have gotten pickier about things and people. i know what type of person i like and can be friends with and tend to not invest so much in the wrong type. it makes me feel a little snobbish though. if i know i am going to have to spend time with someone i don't have anything in common with i will bring along a friend or my husband to make things more comfortable. and part of me wonders where that girl came from. totally not who i was 20 years ago.

Karen said...

I think that once you start "embracing the awkwardness", you will become less awkward. This is actually why most "funny people" are funny in the first place. It's a defense mechanism for the awkwardness they feel in themselves.

So while you may not find yourself having the typical sense of humor, at least you're being real. Definitely nothing wrong with that.

Great post....I can relate in many ways.

zeghsy said...

when you figure it out, let me know.

Ben Sloan said...

Some of us are just born different, or as Hitchens put it, we live at a, "slight acute angle to society."

I know of the awkwardness you're talking about, I've written of it in the past- even the getting drunk thing. It's just part of the deal of being you.

The similar people of the world don't bring change or progression- they bring more of the same thing. Ours is a lot of personal discomfort, but greatly vital service to our species. The incredible thing is that comfort can be found, and without abandoning that essential difference. But it takes lots of looking inward, or "gazing in the mirror," as it appears you are working quite industriously toward.

You'll be fine- just channel your frustrations toward questioning and insight rather than hopelessness and depresssion.

Also, ice cream helps. Scrumptious, scrumptious ice cream.

Trovan said...

You should have said: "Damn, I thought I was being sneaky."

I used to be paralyzingly shy. In 10th grade I met a new friend that help beat it out of me a bit, but I am still pretty anti-social. And I have always marched to the beat of my own drummer. So I can relate somewhat to how you feel.

Like Ben said, it is good to be different. As long as you're just qwirky different, not serial-killer different.

Claire said...

Different and I are old friends, although my difference manifests itself, er, differently.

My contribution to the "esprit d'escalier" contest is: "Yes, I am leaving. If you hurry, you might even find my surprise before it goes off."

I'm not certain it's even about being anti-social so much as it is necessary societal "flavor" to help us avoid homogenization and species-wide vulnerability due to terminal lame-ass similarity, i.e. Ben's "more of the same."

Don't worry too much about it, Sra. Being different is an advantage in so many more ways than it is a challenge, if only because it pushes you down the path to self-actualization a little faster if you let it. Karen's right - embrace your awesomeness! As my father used to say while forcing us to perform menial labor, "let the saw do the work - don't fight it and you'll be through in no time."

Oh, and seconds to Ben's ice cream notion. Crush up a Kit-Kat and mix it in there while you're at it.

Sra said...

I have the best commenters in the interwebs. I appreciate all y'all's 2 cents here. Sincerely.

To Claire: I didn't get your leaving the office joke the first couple times I read it. See? Sometimes I am just clueless about other people's humor. (But when I do get your jokes, they are some of the best.)

bejewell said...

See, now I would have taken your ellipsis and filled it with obnoxious, meaningless rambling that would have also left them scratching their heads. (I don't know why that's such a popular expression, I can't remember a time when I actually scratched my head unless it was actually itchy).

But anyway what I'm trying to say is we all have our socially awkward crosses to bear.

heidikins said...

This is such a great post, thank for being so blatantly honest.

xox

tauns said...

I care too much about what others think. Even online, I worry that my words would offend, even someone I don't know. My husband always tells me to stop caring, but that is who I am! I wish I was better about walking to the beat of my own drum.

Sra said...

Bejewell: I actually have scratched my head when confused before, but I'm not sure if I did it naturally, or if it was a response prompted by the saying.

Heidikins: Thanks for the love :)

Tauns: I know what you mean. I try to be very candid on my blog -- after all, this is my place! But I have found that I censor myself a little more often now that I have a fair readership and especially since my family peeks in every now and then. Back when I wrote this stuff on MySpace, I pretty much said whatever I wanted. But in real life, there has to be a balance between freely expressing your every thought and considering how doing so might affect others.

tauns said...

I care too much about what others think. Even online, I worry that my words would offend, even someone I don't know. My husband always tells me to stop caring, but that is who I am! I wish I was better about walking to the beat of my own drum.

Sra said...

Bejewell: I actually have scratched my head when confused before, but I'm not sure if I did it naturally, or if it was a response prompted by the saying.

Heidikins: Thanks for the love :)

Tauns: I know what you mean. I try to be very candid on my blog -- after all, this is my place! But I have found that I censor myself a little more often now that I have a fair readership and especially since my family peeks in every now and then. Back when I wrote this stuff on MySpace, I pretty much said whatever I wanted. But in real life, there has to be a balance between freely expressing your every thought and considering how doing so might affect others.

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