April 22, 2008 § 4 Comments
When I was a tween, it was hard for me to wrap my mind around the cold reality that I was, in fact, Western New York’s most hopeless nerd. I was always about 20 minutes behind the times, a lover of Garfield and wearer of clear acrylic glasses that would have made Harry Caray say “dial it back, sister”.
I carried a book with me everywhere. As soon as I sat down on the school bus I opened it, as soon as I got in the car, in the tub, on the toilet, as soon as I was finished opening NEW books for Christmas, as soon as I sat down to lunch, as soon as I washed off the blueberry pie that Jeanette Martin smashed in my face in front of the whole Home Ec class. I was probably the only child in the world whose mother scolded me for reading TOO much, ignoring people at family functions in favor of The Pistachio Prescription. My mother took great pleasure in selecting my outfits for school until I was FOURTEEN YEARS OLD. She begged me to wear blush or a little mascara…anything, lovingly slapping my face and pinching my cheeks to get a little color in the skin, perhaps to offset the blazing silver braces. I listened to WEZO, Rochester’s Easy Listening, Light Favorites from Yesterday and Today station because it ‘calmed me’, as if I were some sort of fast living day trader, riding the ragged edge of the fast lane rather than a twelve year old running down to the basement to check the progress of my rock tumbler every day.
So when I woke up one day and realized that people were making fun of me, that I wasn’t “cool”, that I had three friends total and I was never invited to parties or asked out on dates, it was like a punch in the gut. Because I genuinely believed what my family had always told me; that I was funny, and beautiful, and smart, and creative, and compassionate and just gosh darn it, the greatest thing on two feet. I was a great daughter, grandma’s favorite, the life of the party and so stuffed with potential that it was just assumed that I’d probably singlehandedly save the world by writing a funny poem, making meatloaf and diffusing Middle East tensions with a well placed joke.
I lived that way for a long time. Being around family and the eventual large circle of friends that I fostered was like having group therapy, daily affirmations and huge hugs all at once. I was sought out for advice, I cheered the lonely, made pie for the sick, I received compliments on my body, my acting, my sense of humor, my cooking, I felt great.
As of late, I don’t feel great. It’s as if once again I’m that twelve year old coming to a startling conclusion. I’ve felt the weight of the world on my back for months, a weak and stumbling Atlas, afraid of letting everyone down, determined to remain silently strong. Last night I begged Brian to tell me something good about me. Tell me something you admire. He laughed at the desperate tone of my request, and I mostly said it to make him laugh, because that’s one thing I’m good at.
But as of late, it feels like that’s it. Whenever I talk to friends or family it’s because they want to tell me what I’m doing wrong, how I’ve failed, how I can improve, what’s wrong. I drink too much Diet Coke. Dangerous amounts. I sleep too much, I weigh too much, I’m antisocial. I eat junk. I ‘identify’ with being depressed. These things are all linked. They all go with my back pain, which I’m dealing with wrong. I take pain medication and all anyone wants to know is when I’m going to stop. When can we stop being ashamed of you? When will you stop taking the easy way out? When will you lose weight so you don’t ruin your sister’s wedding? When will you be happy again so we don’t have to feel uncomfortable? Every conversation is an intervention, every observation a criticism. I feel weak, drained. I’m tired of explaining, of begging for time or understanding. Everything that is brought to my attention is something that already consumes me from the moment I wake up until I fall asleep, exhausted.
And when I sleep, I’m not in pain, and I’m not fat, and I’m not confused, or defeated or guilty or scared or sad.
I’m afraid that I’ll never be a nerd again, never thrilled by the finished product off a latch hook rug, never inspired to start a greeting card business with Leah, never excited to go clothes shopping or to put on makeup because a fantastic eyeshadow can’t hide my double chin.
A few years ago, the Chicago Cubs had a great ad campaign, playing off the fact that they were losers, a terrible baseball team, it was public knowledge, there was no use denying it. And all they said was The Cubs: We’re Working On It.
I’d like a t-shirt. A black t-shirt with white letters, bold, simple, speaking for me because I’m tired of saying it. All I ask of anyone who sees me deteriorating is check back with me later:
I’m working on it.