The history of my strangeness is well-documented.
My mom yelled at me for chopping up my clothes on a daily basis. There were also the midnight slick-gelled side ponytails, and getting my head washed out when I went to show her. I remember the smell of Paul Mitchell Super Sculpt with is pineapple-y warmth--probably the beginning of my obsession with piña coladas. If I didn’t remember that night and that smell so clearly, I would have forgotten the way the hallway in my childhood home looked, the hall bathroom with the cat box and the pink porcelain sink.
We moved out of that house when I was only seven, so I cherish these memories. The times before the apartments, the fights, the many different-colored Ford Tauruses in which my father and step-father were ferrying us to and from one confrontation to the next.
I wouldn’t say that I was the kind of troublemaker and weirdo that you would have been able to pick out of a line up. My well-educated sentences and ironclad intuition made you like me before I caused you annoyance, because I always eventually caused trouble.
It was in fourth grade that I had the hardest time in school. I had a teacher who physically assaulted me, but I also had another teacher, my English teacher. We were instructed to write book reports, summaries, essays, and all manner of things; but the best part, my most favorite part, was “embellishment time.” A row of cubes in the back corner of the classroom held untold treasures: tulle, ribbons, paints, markers, pennies, popsicle sticks, glitter, pompoms, basically an entire craft aisle’s worth of supplies awaited you when you finished the writing portion of your assignment.
I remember the gloomy lighting, the short brown and grey bob and glasses the teacher wore. But other than that, I only remember making the words of my stories come to life with glue, paper and gratuitous 3D manifestations of my tortured nine-year-old mind.
Life settled back down and we moved further south, away from New York, my magnetic pole. I was not just becoming stranger, but seeming stranger on the outside despite my efforts to hide it. I was jostled into putting all of my witchcraft and spirit into a bottle tucked away in my window seat, waiting to explode if shaken or disturbed, no longer allowed to decorate a corner of my room with an altar and forced to be Catholic.
My theory about my weirdness is that it is also my source of beauty. Conventional establishment and society has always seemed like a layer of permafrost, the suburbs, tundra, keeping my growth scant and limited. Even with my jeans and tees, I took home the title of HHS's most unique ‘05 superlative, so who was I fooling with my feigned normalcy?
New York always seemed like the center of the universe, and for a while, I couldn’t handle it. When I first came to plant my flag, it was black. Black eyeliner, black band tee shirts, black hair, black heart, bleak outlook. How did I think that would be different from the sea of similarity, the packs of wolves?
I wanted to run with the wolves, but I wanted to find the multi colored ones, the bright ones, the true ones. But girls were being murdered in bars across the city, and I was heaps more naive than I initially thought. More vulnerable.
My at-the-time boyfriend hated the city, so I retreated to Jersey City. Commuting is so frustrating that it put the lid right back on my bubbling, keeping it in check for a few more years. I was two trains and walls of people away from classes and life at large.
About five years ago, I was still in a relationship that did not start out abusive, but due to circumstances beyond both our control, and alcohol, ended up being stifling and causing me endless anguish. My looks were the subject of many torments--my clothing, my creations, my hair, makeup, you name it. Nothing was ever cool enough, or it was too cool. Don’t even get me started on liking music without guitars or dressing like a favorite vintage muse. That was also "really dumb."
My personality was so unrecognizable, it took much time to see all of these differences and identify them. As a child, I was always loud, hilarious, and enthusiastic. Now I was tired, angry, out of shape, and boring by my own definition. I was quieter, less adventurous, and neutered. I was also medicated for my ADHD, which exacerbated habits like cigarette smoking and stress, neither good for inner or outer beauty.
I think I was just as judgmental of others as I perceived them to be of me. This was extremely unhealthy. It doesn’t matter if I was really being treated like a strange fruit; anger and aggression were not going to make that feeling go away. Those emotions tend to also attract like-behaving individuals, and I deserve more than that.
Learning to accept others enabled me to feel accepted by those who were open. This has built deeper and more meaningful relationships, further bolstering my confidence and allowing me to face negativity with grace. I once thought mostly everyone was ugly, and I too felt ugly. Now I see more beauty, and I allow myself to feel beautiful. I do not feel shame for myself anymore.
I could write 1,000 more words on how friends and family and herbs and love and yoga and a few days on a pristine beach will help you find yourself in a better place, but that would almost seem too easy. The real changes I know came from my mind. I learned to stop torturing myself about my imperfections, to not hold myself responsible for others’ mistakes, to breathe! I learned to love my eyes without eyeliner, love my hair without dye, and to love my body, which I also learned was not fat, nor had it ever been, despite what I came to believe.
The beauty I feel that I have come to possess is from my personality. The ground has softened, my stems have pushed through the dirt, and I have burst into bloom, like a rare orchid. I am so thankful that circumstance kept me "down" for so long, or I never would have turned out to be so vividly peculiar.
Having retreated a bit from traditional society, I think that I am sparing myself from the bullying or regulation that pruned me in the past. I had always felt under siege and attack from peers; now, on the backstreets, I feel brave and at ease.
I am a sensitive Pisces, and the shocking things that people have said to me over the years have become easier to deflect, diffuse, and ultimately ignore as I have gotten older.
Fashion and adornment choices can be a litmus test in some ways, helping to filter out those who you may not feel akin to, but don’t fall for those games. People may judge you based on what you wear, how you style your hair, makeup, your body, and numerous other appearance-based observations, but it is vital to not fall into that trap in your own choices. This practice extends to dating, friendships, and day-to-day interaction.
Learning to peel back the years of cliquey school-age genre-based separation and embrace not only my own individuality, but that of others as well, has been the keystone to feeling different AND accepted at the same time. We are all different, and that makes us the same. I learned that I am beautiful, and that is independent of whether or not I am conventionally pretty.