Yeah, that's going on my permanent record.

Aug 13th, 2010

What I Am is What I Am

I came late and unwilling to the Facebook party, dragged by a boss who wanted me to have an account where I could spy on anyone who might say something bad about the company, and then found and friended by my cousins. The boss left, and I discarded the mask of corporate dogsbody, and continued on as myself.

This has led to my discovery by people from my past, one reason why I never wanted to be on Facebook to begin with. I have a fairly easy presence to find on the web, what with the blog, the Flickr account, the etsy shop, membership on Ravelry. I always figured that anyone who wanted to find me, could. Some did. Others did and I was able to delete the e-mail with nobody the wiser.

But now my high school class has a page and a couple of people I haven’t seen or heard in forty years are on it. I have friended one or two people, and I just know where this is going to lead. I’ll show up as someone’s friend and someone else will write to me. To friend or not to friend, that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms a sea of troubles…

To be or not to be– that is the question:?
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer?
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,?
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles?
And, by opposing, end them. To die, to sleep?
No more – and by a sleep to say we end?
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to – ‘tis a consummation?
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep?
To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub,?
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,?
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,?
Must give us pause.

People,  please. Consider this cartoon.

image

That was me. As I have written elsewhere, in high school, I was the lowest worm below the bottom rung of the social ladder. I was a freak and an outcast, but not a Freak. (freaks, greasers, soches, jocks, band… they each had a caste, and although I could flow between some of them—-never the jocks, never the greasers, never the rednecks—- I was never one of them. Of any of them.)

Yesterday, someone who was a friend of mine, and whom I haven’t seen in 40 years, accepted my friend request with a note that said that she’d always admired me for just being myself and never giving a fig for what anyone thought.

Oh, Laurie, you are so wrong. I cared deeply. I cried. I was miserable and lonely. I sat at home every Saturday night. But what was the point in trying to fit in? I couldn’t or I would already have. I learned at an early age to accept myself, just as I learned to accept my curly hair.

She isn’t the only person from my high school to have sidled up to whisper that they always wished they could have been as strong as I was. You people never gave me a chance to be anything but. Any weakness on my part would have been exploited. I learned that in elementary school, where I was the smallest kid in our class and it was considered great sport for the tallest and strongest girls to play tether ball with me. They would whack that ball so hard and so high over my head, as I stood there in the sand waiting for it to finish spiraling into a tight wrap against the pole while everyone watched and laughed.

In our sophomore year, I was on the swim team, and sat alone on every bus ride to every meet. I lettered, but I never went back for a second season. In our sophomore chemistry class, Paul Parrela called me a dirty Jew every single day. Do you remember who told him to stop? It wasn’t the teacher. It wasn’t anyone else in the class for the whole first semester. The first day of the second semester David Stanley (who was on the swim team with me) told Paul to shut up. He did, for all of a week. Then he started again. When I finally snapped and tried to cut him with my dissection scalpel, which of us got sent to Coach Willie’s office? Paul for calling me a dirty Jew (and worse, much much worse) or me? Right. Me, and threatened with suspension, except Coach Willie was too much of a coward to call my father and tell him that I was being suspended for hitting someone who was calling me ethnic slurs while the entire adult staff stood by and ignored it.

In our senior year I tried out for the school play, and got the understudy role for the lead. When I got on stage to rehearse my song, the popular girls sat in front of the stage and laughed at me. I quit the show and got a lecture from the drama coach about letting people down, but never got an apology from the girls who drove me from the stage in tears.

In some ways, being an outcast made me more of one, because freed of the bonds of social acceptance, I could explore any thing in any direction. When I went off to college, I discovered my own tribe. I was the queen of cool, there among the art and film students. Among the other outcasts, in other words. And now? Well, what I am is what I am.