First, let me tell you a story. I promise it will be relevant later. Twice! (Photos unrelated, except that this is a post all about ME. And so are the photos.)
When I was a kid I did ballet in a little hall in a nothing much town in the hills. I wasn’t very good at it, but I would only have been about 5, so that wasn’t really the point. I didn’t love it, but it was fun. I wasn’t super enamoured of the dances we did and clearly these were all Neat Girls and I was the scruffy one, but I got to be a woodland animal, so I could deal (they already had too many fairies – fine by me). I didn’t like the attention being on me and being watched physically doing things that I wasn’t very good at (still an issue – I HATE going dancing or participating in other activities where I might be physically embarrassed) but it was ok. I did it for almost a year and I quit just before the major performance.
I quit because of the stockings.
I had what I now realise were minor sensory issues, mostly around my feet, which is really common for kids, although I also couldn’t handle anything around my neck (as in, I would have a minor breakdown, couldn’t handle.). I could not (still can’t) handle having the seam of a sock pulling on my toes or sitting under my toes. Can. Not. Handle it. I will take my shoes off on the bus to fix this. I really should just start wearing my socks inside out.
I can’t handle it when socks get long and baggy and pooch out at the heel and there’s all this extra fabric. I cannot handle shoes with tongues, especially on my right foot. I have to tie them SUPER tight so they are snug around my feet, and then I have to stop every five minutes or so and adjust the tongue of the shoe so it sits just right. Even if it was already sitting just right. And I HAD to do it, even though I was aware that it made me look ridiculous.
I would have screaming arguments with my mother over socks. I fold them down. She wanted me to pull them all the way up. I was not ok with this for two reasons: they then got all saggy and poochy and they also constricted my ankle. And I hated it as much as you would hate it if someone got a piece of hot metal and wrapped it around your leg. That is the level of discomfort I am talking. So I would fold them down. And then we would argue about it. SCREAMING ARGUMENTS. And we had the same ones about stockings. It would take me forever to put them on. And then they would always be twisted. And then they had to have the same tension all the way up my legs. And then of course we would be late and my mother would be cross because she didn’t even WANT to take me to ballet, she was DOING THIS FOR ME and WHY COULDN’T I PUT ON MY DAMN STOCKINGS and ARE YOU DOING THIS ON PURPOSE?
I am wearing stockings today, and it took me about 10 extra minutes to get dressed, while I took them off and put them back on again, trying to get the legs on straight. I am 26. It takes me 10 minutes to work out stockings.
This is not a diatribe to tell you how broken I am and how you should pity me (SRS I promise, it becomes relevant. Twice!) It’s just that as an anxious 5 year old, that was not a fun thing. Add to that the thought of being put on a stage to do something I didn’t think I was very good at and have lots of strange people looking at me? Halfway through one argument, I sobbed that I didn’t want to do ballet anymore. And so I didn’t.
And so, on to the cookies!
Cookie the first:
Is me. I am one. A smart one.
I have about three half-written blog posts about how bad I am at accepting compliments. Accepting compliments is something I have actually been working quite hard to get better at. First up, you should go to this post on the Pursuit of Harpyness and read the links there that give some excellent background on how I have been trying to think about this stuff lately. And I don’t do too bad. When someone says ‘did you make that? It looks great!’ I say ‘thankyou, I worked really hard and I like how it turned out’ and I try really hard not to say ‘well, the sleeves are a bit short and it fits a bit funny in the waist, and there a gajillion other ways in which I am IMPERFECT’ or ‘are you mocking me ARE YOU MOCKING ME???’. If someone says ‘I like your hair!’ I say ‘thanks, me too!’ and if my boss says ‘you’re doing really well learning your new job’ I say… ok I admit it, I said ‘well, I haven’t fucked anything up too badly yet’. But I’m trying.
So, ok, lapses aside I don’t deflect or argue too often about things. I am sometimes really uncomfortable NOT qualifying a compliment, but with a few notable exceptions in particular areas I usually resist. Those areas appear to be: being a Good Person, and being smart.
I constantly tell people that I am a bitch. I do this for lots of really complicated reasons that I haven’t untangled yet and probably will never get to the bottom of, which is why it is still a behaviour I engage in. The most obvious is that it lets me off the hook from a lot of social niceties that I think are dumb. And in fact, it allows me to own OTHER good things about myself without apologising – because I have already said I am a bitch, so people can’t be surprised that I am not being ‘polite’ by insisting that actually, everything I ever do is shit.
I do it because I don’t like to lie. As a kid I lied a lot. This is related to being smart (smart kids lie better and earlier) and also related to the fact that my mother was emotionally abusive, as you might have gotten a hint of from my lead-in story. This fact (the emotional abuse) is something I have only gotten ok with putting a name to recently. There is another heartfelt post about that for you to look forward to, as well. Anyway, kids of emotionally abusive parents lie. They lie a lot. They lie by default, even when there’s not an obvious reason to lie, right now. They lie to make the world a better, safer place for themselves and also to make their unpredictable parent more predictable, to play damage controller. But I don’t like lying, it takes too much energy and also it sucks, so I don’t. So if someone says to me ‘do you like me’ and I don’t, I will probably say ‘no’. I wouldn’t walk UP to someone and say ‘I don’t like you’. I would consider myself a passive bitch rather than an active one. But still… apparently it is not nice to admit that sometimes you don’t like certain people.
I also tell people that I am a bitch because I was taught that I am. I was taught that I deliberately disregard what other people need and want, because I am selfish and ignorant and arrogant. This is plainly not true. But as the sock story illustrates (see! Relevant!), my mother considered her subjective experience to be far more important than mine. And folks, let me tell you, her subjective experience? Was fucked. When her five year old daughter couldn’t manage stockings, it wasn’t because said five year old daughter hadn’t quite managed the concept of long weird stretchy tubes and inserting them over her legs. It was because her five year old daughter was DELIBERATLY BEING STUPID in order to spite her. When said daughter reacted strongly to having socks pulled up, it wasn’t because she had a legitimately negative experience, it was because she could NEVER DO ANYTHING PROPERLY.
This is only a minor example of all the ways in which I was taught that I was not good enough, and that I was a sneaky horrible child and that I should apologise to everyone around me for what essentially amounts to being a human being with flaws and subjective experiences.
So, the POINT of that is, I am trying to stop doing it. Pointing out that I’m a bitch, I mean. Because, whatever. It’s boring. People can figure out what I am or am not by themselves, without me putting a label on it. I don’t need to fear that they will reject me once they really figure out who I truly am, so I don’t need to cover that fear by telling them that they should reject me first, to take the sting away when it inevitably happens (as my subconscious tells me it will).
Remember how this all started with me saying I am bad at accepting compliments? (You remember Alice? It’s a song about Alice?) I am really uncomfortable being told I am a nice person and people like me for me. We have traced that back to my mother (I mean, mostly. It’s not like everything I don’t like about me is her fault. Just MOST things. :P). I am also really uncomfortable being told I’m smart.
So, I mentioned before that I’m seeing someone. This has meant a lot more compliments than I am used to. And folks, it’s weird. It’s weirding me out. He thinks I am the shit. And while I don’t disagree, and tend to think that, actually, that is a good prerequisite for someone I am in a relationship with, it is CONFRONTING. The other confronting thing ties in to the smart. S is trained as a teacher. He’s currently working as a teacher’s aide. He focused, in his degree, on learning difficulties, and on gifted children.
So, every now and then he’ll say something. For instance, I mentioned something about the tights and socks saga (relevant! Twice!) and he said ‘yes, that’s very common among gifted children’ and then when I opened my mouth he gave me The Look. You know the look. The ‘I know what you are about to say, and you’re wrong, and you know you are wrong. Why don’t you rethink it before you embarrass yourself’ look.
He has a point. I am smart. I have always been smart. I went to a small primary school, with combined year level classes (ie, R/1, 2/3) and I was always doing the work of the year above me. I was in extension programmes. I got good grades. I did all of this without really trying – year 11 was a bit of a shock because suddenly I had to WORK at things. I enjoy thinking and making patterns and working things out. I am and always have been curious about and engaged with the universe, while at the same time having a rich internal life. There is a lot of evidence that I am, in fact, one smart cookie. And yet I am SUPER uncomfortable even typing this.
I mean, I’m certainly not saying I am the smartest ever. I am very smart in some ways, and not in others, just like most of the population. I’m not saying that being smart makes me better than anyone, or that smarts are enough in isolation. But given that I value all the smart people around me, what is it that stops me from valuing it in myself? I guess girls aren’t supposed to be too smart, and even the smart ones shouldn’t talk about it too much.
Well, fuck that. I am smart. No qualifiers. So there.
(WHY was that so hard?)
Cookie the second:
Cookie the third:
I think I might have posted this before. But I LOVE EET