I am a Zelig.
It looks like this: I can “mirror and match” most humans: body language, topics, facial expressions, tone, pet peeves, and even thoughts, be them shallow or cynical, pathetic or poetic...
The intellectuals: I can lean back, listen and nod. I can ask good questions. And even throw in a good vocabulary word every now and then (a beneficial side-effect of teaching high school English).
The materialists: I can talk Prada and Nordstrom and fashion with most, but I am best at lamenting my own lack of style. Self-deprecating brings out the sympathy of these types, and they love a challenge (and flattery, don’t we all).
The athletes: I have just enough knowledge about most sports to be a little dangerous. I can drop one good line and then come up with an excuse to leave the room shortly afterwards.
I am my best at first impressions. I’m a “wooer” according to some experts.
And I’m dangerous.
I know a little bit about a lot of stuff. But I don’t know a lot about...anything.
I was bragging about this particular quality of mine to a friend once, and she busted me.
She asked, “Then who are you, really?”
And that question has bothered me for almost a year now.
Maybe a better question might be, “Who were you?”
As in, who were you before you started trying to please everyone around you? Before you started bowing down to the most important person in every room? Before you started comparing yourself to everyone else around you and always found that you fell short? Before you signed yourself up for this contest that you have always perceived yourself as losing?
And this goes back. Way back. This must go back to before I was 10 years old.
Back then I was joyful. I was curious. I was vibrant. And I smiled a lot. I only dressed for utility and ate to sustain. And drank only water or milk. I read for pleasure and played with gusto. I skipped and ran and hunted and dug and swam... and slept in peace.
This world does some horrible things to us women. It tries to strip us not only our clothing, but our self-respect and our worth. Our potential and our self-esteem. It tries to create a gauge in us that always lacks. It tries to convince us that we are a fixer-upper in need of repair.
But I don’t want to be a victim. I will not blame the world for doing this to me. I did this to myself. I chose to believe the messages sent to me from every magazine cover, every whisper from my own brain, every TV show, every comment made to shame me, every criticism... I blame not the world, but my own lack of courage to kill my little self-doubter long ago.
I want to kill it now though.
This voice that reminds me of all of my past foibles and failures.
This echo of all those things I have done that I should not have done.
This memory of the raised eyebrows and hushed snickers.
This question of whether or not I have the ability or capacity to achieve.
The replaying of all those things I said. Those idiotic things I said.
I want to kill these, but I don’t know how.
Do I line them up like a firing squad? Or do I drown them all with my tears...or in a bottle? Do I stomp them underneath my runners? Or do I lecture them to death and try to reason them away?
I do not know. But I want them dead.
I want to be 10 again. I want to move ahead fearlessly without worrying about what every eye (seen and unseen) thinks about my movement. I don’t want to care about those eyes at all. And I want to feel absolutely perfect and beautiful, even when I look like this:
Clearly, I felt beautiful here. And I knew so little of hurt here. In spite of my mother's poor choice of hair dressers and eye glasses.