If you’re like most people, you probably look at me, with my band t-shirts and seamed stockings and winged eyeliner and red lipstick and you say to yourself, “Self, that girl looks impossibly cool and ‘with it.’ She really has her shit together. How does she do it?” (Quick programming note: I am aware that no one thinks this, but if you have read my other stuff, you should know by now that I am very, very good at deluding myself).
The truth is, I am neither impossibly cool or “with it.” Nor do I have my shit together.
When I was a kid, it made sense to feel kind of…adrift. I had typical kid crap to worry about, like homework and finding a date to Homecoming and figuring out a way to navigate life without having to do any math ever. Anything bigger than that, like doing shit that matters or being comfortable in my own skin – that was something that would just come naturally when I was an adult. I mean, my parents were managing to hold jobs and pay bills and stuff without curling into a fetal position under the kitchen table or accidentally blowing the mortgage payment on cocaine and Blow Pops, so I could totes do that. When I was older. In the meantime, I had pithy song lyrics to write on the toes of my Chuck Taylors. Like “I NEED SOMEBODY GOOD/I NEED A MIRACLE!!!!” which I scrawled after a boy I’d had three dates with informed me that he wanted to keep seeing me, but didn’t want to give up the “other girlfriend” I didn’t know he had, and I smiled brightly and said, “Oh, that’s totally fine!” in my perkiest flight attendant voice instead of smiling ironically and giving a truly derisive hair flip, because I was a sucker with low self esteem.
But the magical “capable adult” transformation I was anticipating never happened. All that happened was that I got older and tried to deal with the fact that I was now expected to do stuff for real. Like make enough money to pay for food and stuff. Or regularly see doctors and dentists. Even though I had never, ever expected to be the kind of girl who gets married young, I think my family was secretly relieved when I did, because God knows I felt like a total flake who would probably one day be the subject of a segment on the local news with a title like “Dozens Homeless as Hanover Girl Accidentally Sets Self, Entire Apartment Building On Fire While Trying to Microwave Donut” without some kind of supervision. I never felt like I actually knew what I was doing, even when it came to the simplest of tasks. To this day, having to make a phone call – even just to order pizza – fills me with dread, because I always have this weird impulse to say something strange, like “Your voice sounds just like John Waters. But drunk. A drunk John Waters. Has anyone ever told you that?” instead of “Pepperoni and banana peppers, please.” (This impulse remains the same regardless of whether or not the pizza restaurant employee actually sounds like a drunk John Waters).
This fear is not entirely unfounded. Shortly after I finished my undergraduate degree, I had a job interview for a production company that made a lot of shows for the now defunct Discovery Health channel. My job would entail getting people about to undergo medical procedures sign a release granting permission to show their procedure on TV. As per my visits to my college’s career office, I tried to learn about the company beforehand by watching some of their programming, but this was difficult as we didn’t have cable at the time and the idea of watching television shows on YouTube was but a glint in the Internet’s eye. However, the company also had an extensive catalog of corporate videos targeting the health community. One, which was intended to help nursing home staff deal with geriatric sexual complaints, had been screened in my Human Sexuality class the previous semester. “Even so,” I wisely said to myself, “it probably isn’t a good idea to bring up geriatric sex during a job interview.”
I totally brought up geriatric sex during a job interview.
I did not get the job. However, my husband applied for the same job a couple of years later and was successful.
He did not mention geriatric sex in his interview. Because my husband is a functioning adult who doesn’t have a twelve year old cretin living in his brain who constantly yells out inappropriate things to say in formal situations such as job interviews or funerals.
I attribute this proclivity to the fact that I pretty much suck as a mature adult, but am a pretty rad improv performer, because improv encourages blurting out the first stupid thing that comes into your head. And honestly, its the same impulses that give me the ability to think on my feet when I’m performing that also make me second guess almost everything I do or say in my offstage life, because most of my instincts are completely bonkers. I have no idea what I’m doing 90% of the time. I am literally making this up as I go along. And I am constantly terrified that someone is going to find out how dumb I really am.
I still experience a mild shock when I do something that’s not a total failure. This dates back to my childhood, when I was ecstatic to learn that I had passed first grade and was promoted to second. It took years for my mom to realize that I my excitement was based on the fact that I had been convinced, for years, that I had failed kindergarten due to the fact that I had attended two years of a Montessori school instead of a traditional Pre-K/K program. And now, as an adult, I operate according to a fear based double helix. My fear of failure will cause me to procrastinate endlessly, because if I don’t try, I can’t fail. This will continue until I panic, and then fly into a frenzy of activity. To avoid failing at the thing I’m afraid to fail at.
So now I’m in my early thirties and I’m supposed to have forgone the “finding myself” period of my twenties and so on. I really haven’t. And as the people around me also get older, and more open, I really don’t think anyone else has either.
Eh. Rock on.