Life at a Catholic school is hard.It’s harder for the likes of me.
At one parent-teacher meeting in school, I was so busy congratulating myself at being a ‘good student’ that I almost didn’t notice it when my teacher prepped to go in for the kill.
In a very conspiratorial way, she leaned in a little. Stealthily, her eyes flitted across the room (think: “Sweep the perimeter for spies”). Then she eyed me suspiciously. It was almost as if she was trying to sniff the sulphur on me.
My mom prepared for the inevitable and sighed. I looked to the heavens and theatrically threw up my arms in despair and wept, “Why God, why me-he-he-heeee??!!”
Except that I didn’t. I didn’t want my teacher to think I was a freak. Where think means know.
And then came the dreaded onslaught.
“Why is she always so quiet?”
So much for me not wanting her to think I was a freak.
“She doesn’t talk to anyone.”
Emphasis on ‘anyone’. Like I was at the bottom of the social pyramid. Like probably I was BENEATH the social pyramid. Or buried under it.
She didn’t quite say it, but implied that she was afraid that busting old ladies’ knee-caps in my free time or drowning puppies for leisure just wasn’t doing it for me anymore. I swear I saw her clutch her rosary beads even tighter to her bosom. I think she thought I was looking at her like this –
This was class 2. Of course, over the years, I got used to being thought of as Norman-Bates-in-training. I even mastered the art of the crooked, devious smile that I threw at my teacher every time she forced me to go play with the other kids. Insert Knife and Shower Curtain sequence here. That combined with an evil chuckle and rubbing my hands with glee usually made her back off for a while and leave me to my reading (I was a major Frank Hardy groupie).
If I had a penny for every time someone has suggested/explicitly stated that I am the wrong type of personality, nah, I probably still wouldn’t be a millionaire. Richer by a few hundred though, definitely. There were many, many, MANY, furiously-scribbled, angst-ridden, tear-soaked, blood-stained pages in my teenage diary where I obsessively whined about the world not getting me. OK, maybe the ‘blood-stained’ was a bit of an exaggeration.
Yeah, yeah, I know, adolescent drama?! How original and path-breaking.
If there’s one thing that sends an adolescent over the edge, it’s telling them they aren’t good enough. I mean, hello? What would you expect if you gave Lady GaGa a bi-polar stylist?
Scratch that, we are talking about a hypothetical scenario.
Imagine telling a PMS-ing woman that she’s been over-reacting a lot lately and perhaps she should calm down a little. And then, handing her a fully loaded Smith & Wesson.
Yeah, now you get it.
Of course, teenage angst paved the way for numerous soul-searching inner monologues. To be honest, I was getting a little tired of my own inward whining. I thought to myself, “Let’s give this being outgoing a shot, why don’t we?! It can’t possibly get any worse!!”
Of course, it doesn’t get any worse until it gets worse.
Unicorns had just started dancing on the rays of the sun and gremlins were getting drunk and making merry, life would be beautiful now! I decided it was vital to my ‘outgoing’ plans that I actually GO OUT. You know, step out and see what these normal people spent their splendid lives doing. I thought plastering a beaming smile on my face at social gatherings would do it.
Nobody ever told me it would make me look like Bride of Chucky instead.
Needless to say, that went to hell.
I don’t know if anyone has ever told you – small talk is exhausting. Or at least, it was for me. Soon enough, my face began to twitch from all the fake smiling. And I began to realize that sighing doesn’t take up nearly as much space between sentences as I had hoped. Also, in my naive adolescent years, it was a revelation that people usually don’t think of a big silence as scintillating conversation. It is just that – silence. A long and awkward silence. I believe someone I was talking to even started whistling once to pass the time.
It was painful hearing the sound of my own voice. I felt like I had to perform and got increasingly nervous that I wouldn’t be able to think of something appropriate to say or to ask a few customary and polite probing questions in time to kill the silence.
Note to self – Flash cards don’t help.
Then, one morning when I opened my window, the heavens parted, sunlight streamed in and I had an epiphany. While I’m at it, let me throw in a fat lady who sang in this heavenly opera, a glass breaking and the works.
I was going to be who I was. Period. The freak had put her foot down. Here, a few clichés for you to devour- It was liberating. The world would be my oyster. I would paint the town red. I was me and that was enough. I was me and that was perfectly fine.
I guess once I stopped paying any attention to people trying to file me under the introvert/freak/run away from category, I actually saw who I was. To my own surprise, I found out that I love meeting people and that I love meeting new people. I love to talk. I love going out. I love doing things that normal people do.
On a more positive note, I’ve never had a very strong inclination towards trying to lure unsuspecting strangers into a motel or a bed-and-breakfast or any similar lodging facility that I might have inherited from my family. Which I haven’t.
Also,I don’t have any liking for people soup. And that’s always a good sign.
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