Home is Where You’re Normal

Husbando took me to a “Open House” night at a tech company near our home last week. God, I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to play woman; docile, submissive, quiet. I didn’t want people to avert their eyes, horrified by a plain face and combed, clean but un-styled hair. Most people just ignored me, and when I did talk to people, they spent most of their time deferring back to my husband. Like I was mistakenly at a software engineer recruiting event.

I feel like I just must give off some sort of freak vibe. It doesn’t matter how pleasant and open I am.

Because I don’t entertain the eyes, there must be something else to be had from me. The burden is placed: what are you going to do/say to compensate for your face? If your face isn’t pleasant enough for me to look at, maybe I can get money, drinks, food, free labor, whatever from you. What? You won’t? You insist I treat you like a human being without me gaining anything from it?

I feel the surprise when others attempt to manipulate me, subtly and outright, but I flat out refuse. Yes, I’m aware that I look like a doughy simpleton. However could I have figured out your cunning plan? Why weren’t you able to bully me into submission? I may not be able to fight, but I am able to resist. I am a stone wall, not a lump of dough. I will just say no until you grow tired and move on.

I don’t have a lot of hope, faith, or trust in others. “Seems like everybody’s out to test you til they see you break.”

All I want is your kindness and passion. I used to happily give mine to others. Now I understand it makes me a joke. It’s something that’s not returned unless you look and act the right way. I’ve actively deprogrammed myself from seeking out “teh hawt” people to talk to. I try to look for the people no one else is talking to, maybe because their winged liner isn’t “on fleek” enough.

I’ve learned it’s better to not expect anything from anyone, pretty much ever. I’ve learned it’s not always better to give than receive. No one gives a shit if you give and give and give, but they will notice if you don’t.

I’m not some fucking saint, with limitless quantities of love and kindness. I’m not a human Giving Tree. I refuse to sacrifice myself on the pyre of expected womanly behavior. Always giving, never complaining, never wanting anything for myself, fuck that, and fuck anyone that insists a woman should gladly be a slave, emotionally and physically.

Yes, I’m pretty content with just staying at home.

I will have to work again, but damn if I’m going to work in a fucking white collar place. The one where your competency is judged by the pounds of makeup on your face and how high your heels are. I’ll work remotely, or I’ll work at a hippy-dippy place. Of course, I can bend. If the best opportunity is at a white collar place, I’ll play woman. For a while. I managed to do it for six years at my last place of employment.

Thank you, J. Thank you for teaching me an important lesson. Most of the time, no matter how warm and giving you are, people just judge you on how well you fit their notions. People defer to social conditioning rather than think. Rather than try.

I feel lucky sometimes, believe it or not. To have my eyes open. To see the inherent inequity of human interaction. I don’t know if I can call what I do meta cognition or rumination, maybe it’s a little of both. I certainly do examine what I observe about the world. My ability to tolerate what I discover is just lacking, due to years of being fooled into thinking people are better than they are. Time will fix that. I suspect that many people in my life think I must look the way I do because I am less intelligent; don’t I understand that women have to keep themselves perfectly in every way? That’s fine. I can’t change their minds.

And what’s even more important is that I mostly don’t want to, anymore.

That’s where freedom begins.

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Finding a Middle Way

Maybe it’s because it’s Friday. But I’m having a good day.

I often feel a lot of insecurity and frustration at the social roles I am expected to take on, because of what body parts I was born with.

That side of me, seeking approval that will never come, says,”If you’re just more peppy, cheery, smiley with a painted face.. If you just accept your place.. If you just give in..” That is painful. To think that I could be accepted finally if I play the part that others want. That side of me is the crying little girl I was, still begging to be loved and wanted.

I have days where that side begins to win again. Today’s not that day.

I know that being predictable and nice to look at is what people want. The other side of me, the one that says,”People have value, and looks don’t factor into it” feels utter resentment. When that resentful part of me rules, I sometimes think that I could be trans. That since I don’t fit the mold, that I prefer everything about the other side, that if I could pass I could get approval while being happier, being myself without being constantly socially punished for the mismatch.

Yet either side can’t win. I’m not going to transition to male. But I’m not going to be a method actor as a woman, either. I can’t force people to reexamine their innate ideas of what a woman is. I can’t change human nature and social conditioning. People don’t try to understand their unconscious reactions to others, and often deny those reactions exist, because they don’t notice it happening. And I also know that even if I tried really hard to cater to what I’m supposed to be, I’d still be chasing that bump of approval. Even harder, I suspect, than before.

So it’s finding a middle ground, that I have been striving for.

The middle ground is: stop giving a f*ck.

Perhaps a more polite term is “radical acceptance.” This is the way the world is. This is the way you are. It’s going to be harder for you, and there’s nothing you can do. It is out of your control. Be careful spending emotional energy on other people. They will probably not return it. Choose wisely who you invest in. In the event I ever find platonic friends who genuinely don’t care that I’m not too feminine, cherish them.

Don’t compromise. I’ve already decided that I’m not wearing dresses or skirts, ever again. That’s going to be tricky if I attend a wedding or any sort of traditional, highly gendered event. But I can make it work; I can wear a flow-y tunic and long cardigan, to mimic the clothing that people associate with these events. Well, except my Indian skirt. It’s long and black and flowing. It seems immune from my inner immediate “NOPE” reaction.

Don’t apologize. This is a hard one. I’ve been so socialized to avoid conflict of any kind.

Don’t act like there is something wrong with the way I look and dress. There are always going to be people who comment on that. It’s the nature of being female in an entitled world. Don’t apologize for existing the way you are. These people, they don’t care about you, just the missing makeup on your face.

Be firm. Always be your own advocate, because you can’t be sure if anyone else will. Be kind, be respectful, but don’t allow anyone to tear you down.

Be cautious and more reserved. I’ve always had problems with being too open to new people. Because I have a delusion that if people just understand me, they will treat me well, they will believe me, they will like me. This is due to relentless approval seeking. “Everyone could be my friend if I just try hard enough”, the little girl within whispers. I always feel disappointment and self-loathing when my effort is not returned. This continues to damage me, and it’s of my own doing. I need to build a small wall within, and be more careful who I allow to pass it. Not all walls are terrible. I always threw my energy into building bridges to others that they didn’t want to cross, or even notice. It’s okay if people don’t know you. It’s okay if they don’t like you. You are still okay. Still alive, still breathing.

I also need to understand the people I need to approve of me never will. My father won’t. My stepmother won’t. My mother, increasingly, won’t. I can’t continue to seek it from randoms. It doesn’t work. It will never work. That is how I know it must change.

It’s absolutely funny, when I look at it, that I pride myself on being self-sufficient and independent, when inside I am an utter mess of need for approval. Blogging has been helping me, slowly through the years, to dissect what went wrong and what toxic coping mechanisms need to be pruned away. I still have a long way to go. But it feels closer every day.