I spent too much time as a teenager wanting people to like me. Or, I guess, like me more. I wasn’t disliked by any means, but I wanted more attention or more friends or more of something I’m still not even sure what it was. I just know that a lot of the stories I tell my daughter about “when I was your age” involved eye-rolling on my part towards tween Zoot who always was just trying too hard.
She told me yesterday she was glad she didn’t have to get my permission before buying clothes. I said, “Well, it’s your money and more importantly, your body. ” This caused me to think back to whether my Dad ever had any rules/thoughts on my outfits growing up. And I don’t remember him caring about anything except when I went through my “Goth Phase” and he really wished I’d wear more color.
Zoot’s “Goth Phase” is one of the many times I roll my eyes at myself in the past for trying way too hard for something, I have no idea what I was trying to accomplish other than maybe wanting to impress this new girl that started in my high school that looked SO COOL as a kinda-goth girl and I totally wanted her to like me. It was the same thing I started smoking which I had planned on doing from the first time I saw a girl I knew smoking and thought Yes. That’s the look I want. I mean…really? Zoot of yesteryear? But it’s the truth. I liked the way that cool girl looked smoking and while I was knew she was cool BEFORE she started smoking I was convinced that smoking would make me cool. Or at least look cool.
(Spoiler alert: It did not.)
I just feel like I spent way to many minutes of each day from my tweens to my early 20s (I wish I could say I stopped in high school) worrying about how other people saw me. And I just get so mad at those wasted minutes.
But I guess we all probably did that to some degree? Or if you didn’t, can you at least pretend you did so I don’t feel so bad?
It’s funny, though. I went to the other extreme once I started getting towards my 40s. I started trying to be really obnoxious about putting IT ALL OUT THERE (I’m really trying to avoid using the word “authentic” because I really hate that word) so that if anyone took steps to getting to know me, there’d be no surprises. I publicly discuss my status as a religious non-believer, I’m very open about my politics, I very publicly geek out over things like Harry Potter and YA fiction, because I don’t want there to be any shocking revelations afters I’ve come to like someone. If we’ve met in real life, you’ve seen my tattoos and my car covered in stickers. If we’re Facebook friends, or if you’ve seen my blog, you know my politics and my thoughts on religion. I put it all out there because I don’t want anyone to be surprised to find out that classroom Mom they clicked with that one time is a little too into Harry Potter. Or shocked to find out that the girl they met on that running group doesn’t believe in God. I guess I want to feel safe in being myself from day one so that I don’t have to figure out when to reveal the dark truth to a new friend: that I voted for Hillary.
I guess I spent my Teens and half of my 20s not knowing who I was and just trying to be whomever would get me the most attention and affection. I was a Deadhead, a Southern Baptist, A Punk, an Outdoorsy person, A Football Fan. I did whatever I had to do to make the most people like me. And there was me in all of that, of course. Just maybe not as much me as I tried to pretend.
Then I spent ages 25-35 trying to figure out what pieces of all of those personas were really me. Where did I actually exit in that mess? And then once I started understanding myself as a real, 3-dimensional person, I started THROWING THAT IDENTITY IN EVERYONE’S FACES so that there would be no surprises.
That way, I would not have to worry about you ditching me upon discovery that I saw Twilight in the theater 7 times the year it came out.