Monday, May 23, 2011

I'm Not That Girl

I woke up one day, and I was 28. I wasn't a college graduate as I had intended. I wasn't married. There weren't any kids running in to wake me up. As it turned out, I was in my dad and Laura's house. That can't be right. I'm 28. Why am I living 3 hours away from my friends, most of my family, my life? Where did I go? Or, more accurately, where did I go wrong?

All of this thinking has been in the back of my mind lately, and it's come to the forefront for the strangest of reasons: I've been getting hit on a lot lately. Annoyingly so. I can't go a night without getting several messages from men (usually people who have never met me, mind you). And I'm starting to get pissed off about it. Then I started wondering why it was pissing me off. I should be flattered, right? I mean, to the average person, this hardly sounds like a "real" problem.

Of course, I'll do this obligatory "this is aimed at no one in particular" and "this isn't all encompassing" and of course "I don't think everyone who sends me a message on Facebook or Twitter is a pervy asshole." But, let's face it, some of you are.

You see, I'm not that girl. "The pretty girl." The one who wants male attention 24/7. I look the way I look because of genetics, but it isn't who I am. It doesn't show my character. My looks aren't anything I accomplished. I didn't work hard for it. I just wake up, and this is what I look like.

When I get messages from strangers, men who want to "get to know me," I'm skeptical. Obviously. Why do you want to get to know me, specifically? There are nearly 7 billion people on this planet - that's more than enough. And seeing as how it's called Facebook, I figure it usually has something to do with one's face.

That's all I get. I have a name no one uses. I'm not Wendy to these people. I'm a slew of monikers that are usually used as terms of endearment or words of physical attractiveness. These are words I've used before, but those are reserved for people I know and love.

I like social networking. I like the idea of getting to exchange ideas with people from different places. I like being able to easily stay in touch with friends who live far away. But I don't like being treated like an object, in some twisted Internet version of cat and mouse.

I never really thought about that growing up, what it must be like for the popular girls, always having the attention of guys, always being the OBJECT of desire, not the woman. We all got the genetics we got by chance - by our parents.

Do any of these people care that I'm a good person? Does it matter that I have panic attacks, that I can't sleep at night, and sometimes the hardest part of my day is getting out of bed? Or do they think my life must be easy, must be carefree, and I have nothing better to do than to be courted online because some idiot thinks he's getting sex out of it someday. And I'm the one who needed psychiatric care. Right.

So how did I get here? Do people only value my looks now? Does my brain not matter to anyone? Does it make a difference that I left college because I could no longer afford it? My test scores put me in the top 1% of people on the planet - shouldn't that matter?

I have dreams of someday going to Africa and helping people - handing out latex gloves, mosquito nets; educating children and adults on HIV; building huts and living in a land that has yet to be touched by time. Does that have some value?

I'm a great writer. I am passionate about it, and I have a knack for it. I'm empathetic to a fault. And yet, the impression people get from me is "She's hot. I'd like to hit that." And that makes me deeply shamed. Have I stopped valuing these qualities as well?

I appreciate a compliment if I've put on a dress or done my hair or makeup. And I appreciate a compliment when I make a perfect wrap at work. Both of those require effort. But just looking a certain way isn't cause for celebration.

I have some self-respect. I'm working on more confidence. But I don't need a bombardment of attention when I need to be focused inward. And I suppose that's my diatribe of the day. I don't know where I went wrong, but I know what is making me unhappy in my life.

Oddly, I'm reminded of an episode of CSI in which Catherine tells Sarah about her days as an exotic dancer. Catherine: "Did your dad ever tell you you were pretty?" Sarah: "No." Catherine: "I bet he told you you were smart."

Growing up, that's what I heard. I didn't hear that I looked great. I heard that I was smart, that I had potential. I made good grades, I never got in trouble at school. I was a great kid.

Now what do I hear? From various sources it's a lot of doubt. Am I ever going back to college? Why can't I support myself (I could go on my usual digression of the 11-months of bedrest from crippling chronic pain, but I won't)? Why can't I just get a better job and make more money? Why can't I be thankful for what I have instead of being depressed?

I wish I knew the answers. The short one is that my brain is chemically different from most people's. Add to that my problem-solving nature, and I'm constantly obsessing on my own shortcomings. I can't turn my brain off. Today I was so anxious I couldn't keep my legs still, and I have no idea why. I wake up alone, drenched in sweat, in a 62-degree-room, and no one can tell me why.

But, to the naysayers, it's important to know that I am a fighter. Right now I guess I have to fight for myself, because no one else will do it for me. Three years ago today, I was living a decent life. Eight days later, my life changed forever. But I fought back from that. I got out of the wheelchair. So I suppose I can handle this, too.

And to those of you who think sending me a few Facebook messages means you can see me naked...Go fuck yourself.