Not In Kansas Anymore

I find that these days I am often surprised that I have a reflection. It’s not that I have lost my sense of self. In fact, it is quite the opposite.

Recently I did experience an awakening that made me aware of what a lack of self I had. It’s not that I didn’t have an identity. I did. We all do, it’s how we get around and drink things without people going, “Hey, why’s that coffee mug floating in the air?”

It’s just that the self that I identified with did not match up with my true self enough to ring true.

Haha. That sentence was a mess.

What I’m trying to say is, I had been wearing a mask for so long just to avoid being invisible that I was surprised to discover there was actually a face underneath the mask when I took it off. And even more surprised that I don’t completely hate it.

It was difficult, shedding a mask that I’d worn for so long it was practically chemically bonded with my skin. It was really difficult. Especially since the mask bore such close resemblance to my real face that I often forgot I was wearing one. Now this is about to sound completely contradictory, but I’m not one to be fake. I’ve hated the idea of posers and fake people since I was young enough to understand how humans often default to interacting with each other. From a very young age I understood that I thought differently from other people in the sense that I saw very little need to put on a show for the sake of reputation. I was what I was and I gave you the option to take it or leave it and that was that. I’ve never wasted my time much with people who wanted me to act a certain way or were obviously preoccupied with having me believe they were a certain way. The idea of relating with such people has always been boring to me. It’s such a false interaction. Why bother with the energy? It’s much more interesting to deal with people who accept the way they are and challenge you to accept it too.

The problem with the identity I had before is that in my attempt to stay as raw as possible I lacked the flexibility to change in response to others. I wanted people to accept the way I was but was quite unwilling to let them affect me in return, which is unfair. I think the reason I became this way is because I had experienced so many exchanges with dishonest people that I had become jaded. I had been let down so many times by the possibility of authentic people that I decided I would force people to accept me the way I was before I was willing to accept them. And I think the really sick thing about my condition was that it’s not that I wasn’t willing to take. I was completely willing to take anything people had to offer me in the way of relationship. I just wasn’t willing to take and accept them as a person. It was a trust issue.

Even though I’m pretty perceptive when it comes to reading people, I’m pretty dumb when it comes to reading their actions in the context of emotions and social cues. I would be able to see if a person was showing their true self for the most part, but then be very unsure of what they wanted from me. A question I would often ask myself is, “What does this person hope to gain from this interaction?” People’s motives are often so double-sided and shallow that I didn’t trust that it was worth nurturing a relationship with them. And if I don’t trust what they can give me, then why bother offering myself in return?

As I encouraged this way of thinking and being in myself, I developed this thin, almost translucent mask that said I accepted myself so entirely that I didn’t need other people. It’s strange because it was a mask more for myself than for showing to other people. I wanted to be able to look in the mirror and believe that I wasn’t this intensely lonely creature who longed for meaningful connection. I did a good job too, because I believed it. For a really long time.

I’ve recently gone through some serious bumps in the road that have led me to re-evaluate how I handled some of my most precious relationships (of which there are not many) in the past. I’ve gone through and am still going through this spiraling cycle of regret about how I could have loved better had I just not been afraid to be vulnerable and taken off my mask.

Even though the regret is still hitting me hard, I’ve pushed forward enough to realize that the thing to do is not to waste time reminiscing, but to strive to do better in the here and now. Even harder is to realize is that I have to let go of those people I will not get a second chance with, because they have the right to say no.

So I’m all naked and gross now, like a snail whose lost it’s shell, but then realized it’s been a slug all along.

It’s nerve-wracking. I mean, really quite terrifying to try to approach the world with an open point of view after all this time hiding under a shell. And I’m honest enough with myself now to be able to admit that I’m terrified after being blasted into the sky by this tornado of a thing we call life.

It’s weird to walk past a mirror and be startled. Like, “Whoa, what was that? Oh, yeah, that’s just me. That’s how I actually look like.”

It’s even weirder to find I’m not invisible after taking off my mask. Not necessarily that I love everything I see. There’s still so much that I know needs changing. But I breathe a little sigh of relief when I realize, “Ah, I can work with that. Those frown lines can turn into laugh lines with some effort.”

It’s surprising to find I’m actually glad I’m not in Kansas anymore.

~LDA

So Apparently I’m a Naked Mole Rat

I stand here,

toothbrush dangling from fingertips,

staring at myself in the mirror.

I stand here for five minutes straight, with my face wet from rinsing, trying to convince myself that I think I’m beautiful. Just the way I am. Right now. In this moment. Water soaked mustache and all.

Oh, I’m sorry. Did that throw you off? I’m a girl, so I’m not supposed to have a mustache, right?

Wrong.

I do. And so do most women though we might try to hide it. Don’t get me wrong. My stache isn’t long enough to cuaf into curly points or anything, but it’s there. A little dark layer of peach fuzz who especially likes to come out to play when my face is wet. It’s not too noticeable otherwise  (unless you’re mere inches from my face), but when it is, it IS, if ya’ know what I mean. It kinda slaps you in the face and demands to be looked at. Almost as if someone’s pressed zoom on a camera and the focus just happened to land smack dab in the middle of my upper lip.

Quite frankly, it’s distracting. Or at least I think so. I imagine someone leaning in to kiss me and then recoiling in sudden disgust. AWKWARD.

“Naw, naw. You’re fine,” I tell myself. “This is your natural face. It’s just the media that’s got you convinced you need to change. If a guy can’t handle you and all your ‘ugly’ he can’t handle you anyway.”

But then I stand there making kissy faces for another five minutes, trying to get the positive concept of myself that’s in my heart become true in my brain. I still haven’t succeeded. Somewhere along the line, us women got convinced that any and all hair is the bane of our existence and now we’re plagued with the constant removal of it.

Remove some hair here, cut a patch there, rip off all those babies over there. Never mind the unnecessary pain it causes you!

It’s pretty ridiculous.

I made the societal compromise of removing my leg and armpit hair a long time ago because even as a little girl who was just developing into a woman, I was told which changes in my body were acceptable and which were not. At the ripe old age of thirteen I mowed down those leg hairs with zeal for the sheer convenience of not being pointed and laughed at. Even though I couldn’t for the life of me see the need, I swallowed the idea that my body was unacceptable as it was like Nair flavored Tic Tacs.

“So I look ugly and gross like this,” I thought. “That’s okay. I can change it at least.” So I did. And I continue to every couple days.

But up to this point, I’ve been able to stand by one little shred of self respect for my natural body by leaving my shadow of a mustache alone. A declaration of “this is where I draw the line.”

So why is it that just because I’m faced with the prospect of another human being coming close to my face, the self esteem brownie points just shiver off of me with ease? Is my resolve really that shallow? I mean, sheesh! Isn’t my body mine? Why should I have to cower in fear as someone judges my body? Almost as if it’s some offering I have to beg to be accepted.

“Oh, please, master! Tell me you’re not repulsed by the piece of humanity that is my body hair!”

I mean, really?

I realize body hair, especially facial hair, is sort of seen as the mark of a developing male, but where and when in the medical textbooks did we erase the part where female hair production increases during puberty as well?

Female facial hair. It’s a thing, men.

Why do you insist on asking us to play this little charade where we pretend we’re naturally hairless, and “oh, I just woke up this way”?

We’re human. Grow up.

When the facade of what you think a woman should look like begins to affect us so badly that most of us women feel like we’re basically forced to spend countless hours (not to mention dollar bills) on hair removal, I think there’s a problem.

Why should I have to pretend I’m some kind of wig wearing naked mole rat with eyebrows that just happened to be on fleek?

I’m not a naked mole rat, guys. I’m a female human.

And guess what? I’m also beautiful just the way I am and I’m going to keep telling myself that until all the brainwashing fades away and it sinks in.

~LDA