A huge part of my growth as a human being has been about getting down with how staggeringly, mind-bendingly uncool I am.
If you're silently protesting, don't: I'm a dork, and I know it. I'm earnest, and I can't hide it. My tastes run the gamut from lowbrow to middlebrow, with a smattering of whackjob. I'm barely on the cutting edge and will never be on the bleeding edge, whatever that is.
For some reason, I was able to travel amongst and between various groups while I was growing up. I was never a cool kid, but I was allowed to hang out with them. In hindsight, I'm guessing it was the entertainment factor: I have never had much issue with playing the clown, and was Tony-the-Tiger-grrrrreat! at making other people look good without pulling the spotlight on myself. (Side benefit of being wired shy.)
Other than goofy, I wasn't too much of anything: not too pretty; not too ugly. Not too smart, not too dumb. I sucked at sports, but not as much as a few spectacularly athletically ungifted types, mostly because I busted ass and had decent eyesight until my senior year of high school (which also spared me the mortification of wearing glasses, which was a very good thing in the 1960s and 1970s.)
But the main, number one reason why I was generally well-liked and rarely disliked is that I never stood for anything. Whether that was because I was too scared or too selfish to do so is something I'll have to meditate on (which, let me tell you, makes me want to sit down and start meditating even more than I do already. Oh, yes.)
I had a secret fear for most of my life that the people from my completely non-overlapping groups of friends would meet up somehow, take one look at each other, another at me, and all leave in disgust. I recall stretches of unbelievable stress when I knew that, for some unavoidable reason or another, one part of my life was going to collide with another, at a play or a party or some other scenario where there would be no escape for me, and I'd make myself sick with stress anticipating it. How could I justify being friends with a dork to one of my cool friends, or, for that matter, vice versa? I was so used to gently (or not so gently) morphing myself into whomever it was easiest for my friends to be around, or whomever I thought it was, that the idea of just being myself was literally impossible: I had no idea what that looked like, and only the dimmest sense of how it felt.
The long, slow process of me shedding fear (and moving into the light and a million other clichÃ©s that are no less real for being clichÃ©s) started, as does most change, with me realizing I didn't particularly like where I was.
Then there was much asking of why, and a great deal of crying, and copious amounts of alone time. My wardrobe went through two complete changes; it's a good thing I shop second-hand.
The beginning of the end of the first part of the change was marked by a gargantuan (for me) "Breaking the Birthday Hex" celebration I threw for myself when I turned 43. All my friends were invited, most of them came, almost none of them mingled and everyone had a blast. (Today, of course, we have Facebook, where we can all see what each others' motley crew of friends look like if we're interested. Which, if my own experience is any indication, we're not.)
This blog, you might guess, has been Part Two of my long, slow process. It's been gratifying, but also a bit terrifying. The more you come out strongly for anything, the more it seems you will attract people who hate you for it. I'm nowhere near attracting the levels of venom I hear spewed about even the minorly internet-famous, still, it's happening more often now, and it's jarring whenever it does. I cannot imagine the kind of skin it takes to be Saint Oprah, whom all kinds of people seem to feel it their bounden duty to heave rocks at.
Me, I don't roll with everything Oprah Winfrey says (and I'm frankly baffled by this Eckhart Tolle thing, except possibly as a non-narcotic, nighttime sleeping aid) but yes, I do find her inspiring. Damn straight, I do. She's for books and for women and for personal growth, and I am for these, too. Maybe not always the exact same books; maybe I'd like the ladies to be turned on to ideas more than stuff, and some more radical notions at that. Maybe some of the personal growth stuff is a little too celeb-tinged for my taste. (Again: Eckart Tolle?) But HELL. Oprah Winfrey is a shining example of a strong woman bootstrapping herself, making choices, committing herself to them and moving forward. That lady stuck her flag in a particular hill a long time ago and I say, "Brava!"
For this, no doubt, I will have more scorn heaped upon me by someone, and you know what? That's okay, too! Not fun, but okay, so long as we stay away from the bodily harm threats (N.B.: so far, so good, thank christ.)
I no longer look for how someone is different and in what way I can change myself so that they like me, but for the ways in which we are the same, and what they're here to teach me. Or I try. My strong reaction to anything is something to examine. (After a bit of a cooling-down period. Remember, the end of this trajectory am I not at. Thank you, Yoda.)
Oprah is doing her thing. I am doing my thing. You, I hope, are doing your thing.
It would be nice if we could all start with that one area of overlap and wish each other well. But no matter what, I'm done converting. Hate on Oprah, or me, if you like. From now on, I'm taking it as a sign that I've finally stuck my flag on a hill where it can be seen...