I’ve been pondering today about my life choices, and why I’ve made them.
It occurs to me that I’ve selected most of them because I don’t fit in. I never have.
Being raised as a burden, as something other, has certainly shaped who I am as a person.
I was never very receptive to beauty and fashion, mainly because those who were pushing it on me treated me like a freak.
Rather than give in and beautify myself, as a young and older teen, I rejected most of it. I dabbled for some time, feeling that pressure to at least pretend to be interested, but never consistently. Now I’ve mostly given it up. I’ve always felt anxiety that I didn’t do what I was supposed to, as a woman. Countering that is an internal resistance to the notion people who didn’t care about me could force me to do what they wanted. What I wanted never mattered.
Because I never fit in, felt wanted or that I belonged, I found refuge in things many women discard as they enter adulthood, or were never interested in at all. Books, comic books, cartoons, writing, the internet. They were havens for me.
I subconsciously chose to go into computer science because while I thought maybe I had a chance to fit in somewhere, with other people who shared my interests, while making an income that would give me the power to make my own choices in life. My body, my appearance have never been a currency I could make my way with.
I chose a field where my looks wouldn’t matter as much. Having a healthy interest in the field helped as well.
A lot of women who start STEM degrees don’t finish them or don’t stay in the field long, especially computer science. I read what I can online about this phenomena, and while it’s complex, one thing stands out time and time again. Women who have left the field describe a difficult environment with few other women and some sexist or borderline shunning behavior from some or many of the men they work with. Not a lack of interest in the field, or lack of ability, but a lack of support and an environment somewhat hostile to their presence.
It never bothered me that there weren’t a lot of women in my field. Fewer people to judge me on my appearance. Most men I’ve worked with in the past are a little baffled by my plain looks and strange less-feminine demeanor, but many of them have mentally changed gears from thinking of me as “woman” to “coworker.” Which I prefer.
Well, until this contract I’m working on now. Never have I felt the force of exclusion based on appearance and sex that I have now. My team lead, who is the sole reservoir of knowledge about the project, acts like he is afraid of me. I have never felt afraid about asking questions before, until this project. If a male coworker asks a question, he needs the information to do his job. If I ask a question, my entire ability to do my job is suspect.
My seemingly permanent outsider status is probably why I continue to smoke cigarettes. That’s another indicator that you’re an outsider. I am already one, so why not? How many coworkers have commented “smoking is bad for you” or given me looks as I’ve encountered them while smoking? I guess this marker of outsider status also suits me. It fits with what I’ve encountered most of my life.
I say that I’m okay with it. I say that I’m getting better with accepting it. But there is always a part of me that craves the platonic acceptance I’ve never really had. I am lonely, and it hurts. I’ve had pity friendships before, back when I was too unaware to realize what the basis of the friendship really was. I’ve had acquaintances who I mistook for friends, because of my close proximity to who their actual friend was. There is a cold, sad truth to this world I’ve finally let myself acknowledge. If you don’t look or act the part, people are just nice. They are just pleasant. But they don’t care about you.
All I can do is keep going. All I can do is keep moving. I know that if I dropped everything, started being a “good” woman, the chances are extremely high that things would stay the same. And I wouldn’t be happier. Maybe I would feel a better connection to others of my gender? Who can say. It seems like a huge amount of effort for a uncertain result.
Maybe I would feel “beautiful”? I’ve never felt that before. I don’t know what it feels like, or if that would make me happy. It’s a feeling I’d have to chase every day, with powders and straighteners and hairspray.
Most days now, I feel fine about myself. I feel more at peace with my course in life. I will probably always crave acceptance, but I know I can live without it. And I know that no one owns me.