On Books And Their Covers

The other day a friend of mine sent me a text saying she had been reading my blog and enjoying it. She mentioned, in particular, the post I did recently which featured my passport photo taken in highschool. Since she attended the same trip the photo was taken for she remarked that it reminded her of when we first became good friends, which made me smile.

Then she said that before we were friends she always thought that I thought I was “too cool for school”. This also made me smile, just not for the same reason.

I told her that I was pretty sure she was right about that. The more I thought about it the more I started to understand the purpose behind my chilly exterior of long ago. Then I realized that I probably still carried around that same demeanor depending on the situation which meant I couldn’t really blame it on the foolishness of youth.

***

When I started my freshman year of highschool I had absolutely no friends. ZERO. I went from a public junior high where I had my safe little group of like-minded comrades to a Catholic prep school where 90% of the kids got a brand new car on their 17th birthday and where I had to muster up all the strength within me not to self-destruct when my mom would pick me up in her white ’89 Ford Bronco ala O.J. Simpson.

I was going through a very rebellious stage of my life. Within the year I had gone from being an only child, to a full-time sister/babysitter. My close-knit circle of friends and extracurricular activities became distant memories of a life that I once knew but had a hard time grasping onto now. I went from being a comfortable and somewhat well-adjusted youth to a melancholy shadow of my former self, thrust into a world of the torturous unknown.

I spent the first few months of school avoiding people, which meant steering clear of the cafeteria altogether. Instead I opted to spend lunch and any and all free periods I had in the library. Alone. In a corner. Reading something, ANYthing so as not to die of embarrassment for being the lamest of all the lame loser’s in all the land. I was embarrassed at how badly my life had spun out of control and there was very little in the way of safety or familiarity in anything to give me comfort.

I ended up becoming friends with a girl who I had spent most of junior high despising. I’m pretty sure the feeling was mutual though neither of us ever had the nerve to bring that up. We found solace in our outsider status and chose instead of being miserable alone to do it as a team. Together we smoked & drank and convinced ourselves that it was everyone ELSE who had the problem. That THEY were missing out for not knowing how cool WE were.

At the end of my freshman year, I was really no better off than I had been at the beginning. The one friend I made, moved away at the end of the school year when her dad got transferred. In retrospect it was the best thing that could have happened. Ours was the Paris Hilton/Nicole Richie (circa 2003) of friendships; less about being good friends than not wanting to admit how alone and desperate we would appear without the other.

The summer before sophomore year I turned over a new leaf.  I decided it was much less important to be aloof and unreachable and decided to make these changes on both the inside and out. I bleached my hair as blonde as it would let me and chose not to concern myself with the prospect of having or NOT having friends. This new attitude suited me very well and it didn’t take long before those who barely acknowledged my existence prior, started to actually pay me mind.

Although my outlook on life (and hair) had brightened a bit I really wasn’t any different from the person I had been before. I still refused to buy into the typical highschool bullshit; kissing the asses of some and snubbing others just because. It didn’t feel right and I knew my new-found “popularity” (in quotes because I was really by no means popular, just less wildly unpopular than I had been before) had little to do with anything but outward appearances so I continued to tread warily around those I hadn’t fully sussed out.

There is no doubt, due to this type of behavior, that I might have come across as a little rough around the edges initially. In fact, another friend of mine confided that before we became friends how she thought I looked as though I had “throwing knives for eyes” when we would pass each other in the hallway. Not entirely sure I know what that means but I’m thinking it’s not good. My personae became my bullet proof glass and the only way I knew to protect myself from the firing range of viciousness and cruelty that was a highschool hallway. Or gymnasium. Or cafeteria. Or parking lot.

Nowhere was safe.

***

I still feel like that.

A lot.

Not as much as I did as an angst-ridden teen but most days I still find it hard to locate a place where I “fit”. I’m a homebody for good reason: it’s safe there. Home offers me comfort and solitude and it’s filled to the brim with the things that I love. Nothing at home makes baseless judgements about me or ridicules me behind my back for the way I talk or dress or think. My home welcomes me back inside everyday even when I leave it behind for hours or days at a time.

Home is the one place where I can put away the pretense, the mask, the look of indifference and just be me and whole again.

Whoever that is.

It’s not anyone’s fault but my own that I’ve been categorized as a bitch or mean or a loner at one time or another. There is a time and a place where all those monikers ring true. I’d like to think of myself as multi-faceted but if I do that probably means some of those facets are going to be less than desirable. Those who had the nerve to tell me how they perceived me are my friends for a reason. They saw a glimmering crack in my exterior and instead of kicking me aside they chipped away to find something unexpected, something they liked.

To those who did, I thank  you. I’d REALLY be a friendless loser if you hadn’t.

And to those who still read this blog despite the questionable content and lapses in comedic judgement, I thank you too.

Y’all are awesome and A-OK

in my book.

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7 Comments

Filed under (me), home, just a thought...

7 responses to “On Books And Their Covers

  1. I like your book. Questionable content is my favorite.

  2. Um. Are we twins?
    Growing up, I always thought I was never cool enough and I was also shy on top of that (fun times) and to some people it came across as aloof and bitchy! When really, I was just scared to talk.

    Unfortunately, while I’m less shy now, I’ve always had the “I never fit in” thing going on. So dude, we are totally similar in a lot of ways! Wanna hang out? :)

    • steff

      ummmmm, i think we kind of *have to* now.
      i like to share stories like these not because i think my experiance is “special” but bc i KNOW there’s more people just like us out there who felt as lost and friendless as we once did.
      we misfits need to stick together. preferrably on the outskirts of whereever we are…

  3. Thank you for sharing this. I think there were a lot more of us in the library over lunchtime for just that reason than any one of us would have thought.

  4. Me too me too me too!

    My regular, relaxed, thinking face happens to look like a “shooting knives” face, reportedly. I spent a lot of time in the library too, fake-reading. Because I was unpopular AND dumb.

    This was a great post.

  5. steff

    i can’t thank everyone enough for the comments especially on something that was deeply personal. it’s super uplifting to know that so many of us who suffered like we did then turned out so GD awesome now.
    *if* i do say so myself…

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