Sunday, June 26, 2011

Be Who You Are

Fuck it, I’ve had two glasses of wine and that makes me verbose.

Okay, I’ve already posted today’s thoughts on still being 179.8 lbs. for the eighth straight day in a row and frankly, if you’re looking to drop weight, that blows.

I have reestablished a friendship with one of the guys from my high school class. He and I used to have to defend the Red Sox against the Yankee fans (in a cruel twist on God’s part, Vermont is the border territory between Red Sox Nation and Yankee Hell. Proctor High School was as evenly divided). I forget the current circumstances that lead to his comment and I don’t remember it verbatim, but it was to the effect that “Gee, I never got the impression that you really cared what other people think about you.”

That could explain so much.  Like the fact that I’m sitting in a hotel room on my own at the age of 50, somewhat tipsy on two and a half mugs (I don’t have any wineglasses) of wine and more than 10 grams of peanuts (Yes, this is how I cheat and probably the polar opposite of the intermittent fast I was contemplating today).  

In vino veritas. By many, many people’s standards, I am a huge failure.

I think not.

I COULD HAVE played the game in high school to be more popular, just letting someone else dictate my choices for me and going with the flow to avoid trouble (that could be why I don’t want to eat fish and find salmon especially yucky: too much like cannibalism). There was an incident in tenth grade where the class was supposed to have completed projects for biology class. I started on a family tree and that involved traveling down to Massachusetts with my parents to visit a town hall for records and the cemetery where my grandparents were buried. However, the class (read the cool kids) had decided that they weren’t going to turn in projects, so I didn’t turn in mine and never heard the end of it (even though I graduated high school over 30 years ago). My father called me a sheep for falling in and that stuck. It stuck for years. Last time that happened.

Here’s the thing: you make choices as you go through life and whether you realize it or not, these are determined by your priorities. There’s a line in “Three Kings” where the rogue soldiers are deciding whether or not to go back to Karbala after gold Saddam Hussein stole from the Kuwaitis. Major Gate (George Clooney. Sigh) asks them, “What’s the most important thing in life?” The final answer comes up to be “Necessity.”

Here’s my necessity: to blend in with the crowd, I would have had to subsume or eliminate large chunks of my personality and who I am.  I could not live with myself if I did that.

My philosophy has been that no matter how hard or how bad the truth may be right now, the consequences of a lie, when found out (and they are inevitably found out) are ten times worse. If I put on a particular face now to achieve a certain goal, maintaining that façade is going to be extremely costly (if not monetarily, then in terms of self-respect and quiet worry over being discovered) and there’s no telling how long I can maintain it. Might as well tell the truth and get it out of the way.

I have been told to dial back my personality at work. I can be professional, although, under circumstances of great stress, such as the two times I’ve been in the ass end of an ambulance, my response is to keep the one-liners coming. That’s not hiding who I am, that’s just not being the class clown (which, according to the late, definitely great George Carlin is really “Dig Me”) and disrupting what other people are trying to do. Took me 48 years to learn that one. 

The quote that made me worship Bette Davis was something I read in Newsweek when I was 11 or 12 years old. She said, “There are two kinds of women in the world: Ladies and broads. Me, I’m a broad.” And so am I, Miss Davis.

I am highly opinionated (which most people say like it’s a bad thing), intelligent (notice I did not include “highly” with that particular adjective) and uncompromising on a lot of things. According to a lot of sources (some of them divorced at least once), these qualities are not particularly suited to getting promotions, boyfriends or a big group of friends. One former boss, whom I liked a lot, told me a couple of things in a meeting, “Thatchuh (she was from Bahston), I love ya, but you’ve got no patience for carelessness or stupidity” and “You are so critical of everybody. You’re technical smaht, but you’re not people smaht.” Actually, I was critical of her Ass Kisser in Chief who did nothing, even the stuff to which he was assigned and what work he did do, he sucked at it. I believe this was a meeting in which she told me I wasn’t getting a promotion. And frankly, in a business environment where you were handling other people’s money (sometimes quite a lot of it), there was no room for carelessness and stupidity or promoting  someone whose sole skill was fawning all over the boss.

Men…this kind of starts out as one of those “A priest, a minister and a rabbi walk into a bar” jokes. One day, after hitting the outlet mall in Tilton, NH (which is your basic, generic outlet mall: nothing special except for the lack of sales tax), my grandmother, one of my law school friends and I were heading back to take Gram home when, after some discussion about a point of law, my grandmother (admittedly of a different generation with different priorities) said, “You know, men don’t like women who are too smart. You shouldn’t discuss such things in front of them.” (This while Hillary Clinton was our First Lady. Kind of disproves that theory right there) My friend, we’ll call her Sally, blurted out, “That is such bullshit!”

You know, that’s not the first or last time I’ve heard that particular piece of “wisdom” (the thing about women should hide their smarts. Not the part about it being bullshit. Which it is). However, it’s a piece of “advice” that I could never stomach:  for years, one of my central beliefs has been that the only thing I have had going for me is my brain and if I denied, I would have nothing else to offer. Has spending my adult life alone been damned difficult? Is Elton John the Gay Godfather? Nobody has sufficient sexual skills or providing abilities to overcome my need to be who I am.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you have to be yourself and true to yourself or you’re no good to anyone.

Time to stop. The buzz is wearing off.

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