Steph and I went bowling tonight for free with a bunch of her coworkers. She works for a fairly large medical practice, so they’d reserved 26 lanes for their annual bowling tournament. Because the weather was icy, the other folks who were supposed to be in our team didn’t show up, so it was me and Steph bowling, badly, in lane 26, drinking beer, calling out insults, giving each other high fives and snark for 3 games.
I dressed in one of my most comfortable, relaxed outfits. Long flared jeans and green T-shirt with a black zip up vest and hemp necklace choker, and I spent a lot of time with my thumbs hooked in my pockets and sidling up to the lane and being all cocky and walking tall, and oh man, it felt good. And as I bowled with Steph I realized, again, how good it feels to just act like myself. To swill beer and snark and walk like somebody who has her shit together. I actually haven’t done that in awhile. People find me intimidating sometimes, and out here, I just feel…. well, this just doesn’t feel like a place I can be me, sometimes. A lot of this came from the not-Boyfriend, I realize, who was terrified of the fact that I talked too loud and walked too confident, terrified of how I presented myself; not because he didn’t like it (oh indeed he did), but because he was terrified of what other people would think of me. There’s a lot of that “but oh God what would the herd think!” mentality out here.
And as I looked at the assembly of Steph’s coworkers, I realized, again, how obviously and absurdly we just don’t fit in here. Or, at least, in this subset of Ohio. These people have completely different values. They consider different things when they pick a spouse. Lives are run on guilt and obligation more than independence and commitment. It’s like, you’re supposed to have a life that’s a certain way, and that’s the life you make, even if you want something completely different. You build what you’re supposed to have, even if it makes you miserable.
It’s the weirdest thing out here that you get people my age who are on their second marriage or divorced and already have 3 or more kids. The “starter marriage” thing gets started early out here. You pick somebody based on… I don’t know. I’ve always been incredibly picky about that. You build a life based on… I don’t know. Not what I base mine on, that’s for sure. Your goals, hopes, dreams, aspirations… nothing at all like mine. Interests, passions… I have so little in common with anybody out here, and I realized how odd and out of place that’s made me feel.
I like my strong, butch personae. Not only has it gotten me pretty far, but I physically feel better when I step into it. When I try to quiet down and fem up, I feel stupid. I feel like a liar, and I feel weak and completely powerless. I’m just not me. But at least I “fit in” right?
As I bowled, badly, and swilled beer tonight, I realized how far I’d come from where I’d been. I liked who I was (also, I really miss drinking, but I digress). I miss feeling safe, among folks who accept me for who I am. I don’t trust anybody here to accept me for me. Not one bit. Everybody I’ve met out here wants me to change to fit their conception of what a good little girl should be (except Steph and the Old Man, of course).
And you know what?
That’s not me. I don’t accept your religions blindly. I don’t agree with your politics. I don’t agree with a lot of your hypocritical family values. I don’t believe your gay son is going to hell and I don’t believe your daughter only has her looks and breeding potential going for her. I don’t think the height of refinement is beer and pizza on a Friday night, but it sure can be fun. Now let’s discuss some literature and do explain to me why you think Bush’s foreign policy is making friends and influencing people. Show me you can use your head. Demonstrate to me that you’re not a sheep. I don’t care what you believe so long as I know you got there by actually thinking about it. Do you just accept things that people tell you? Is what you have always enough?
Because it’s never enough for me. And I realize that, out here, that makes me weird. It also means I’ll never be as happy as most of these folks. Will I live a more interesting life? Maybe. Depends on your definition of interesting. One life isn’t any better than the other, but I’m clear that the life that’s OK for most folks out here isn’t OK for me, and I get tired of feeling like I’m in the figurative closet all the time, trying to figure out how I can dress better and fem up and lose weight and dumb down my conversation so people take me seriously.
God, you know, sitting there swilling beer and trading insults with Steph, I realized how much I miss being me. I miss being the me I was before I got sick. The whiskey-drinking, risk-taking nomad who never got attached to her lovers and ran around the world writing books. I liked that. And you know, when I came here, and my body had betrayed me and my world fell apart and it didn’t look like the books were going anywhere, I built another life for myself, in my head. A life that would be different than the one I had. Not better or worse, but different. I found somebody I loved. I had a job a loved. I could get a little house and a garden and a dog and put my energy into building a life and a family and doing all those things that folks out here did. Not better or worse, just… different than what I was.
And tonight I realized just what I was planning to give up, how much of myself was getting lost along the way. Not better, not worse: different. A different self.
Did I like that different path? I don’t know. Again, it was just… different. It wasn’t what I had. It wasn’t who I was tonight.
My dad said that my blog sounded a lot different since I moved to Dayton, and it’s true. When you get hit with a shovel, when your whole world gets turned upside down, you have to decide where you’re at, what happened, what needs to change. I wanted the boy and the dog and the garden and the house, not necessarily in that order.
Now I have no idea what I want or who I am, because all I want to do is swill whiskey and fuck the night away and chain smoke and get on a plane to Marrakech… and then I realize I already did that, and it brought me here.
So where do I go from here?
I don’t know. I feel alive on nights like tonight, yes. But I was happy with the boy and the garden and the dog, too. Maybe they aren’t mutually exclusive.
When somebody loves you, they love you for everything you are, good, bad, butch, brutal, bad bowler. And I’m all of those things and a lot more. Pretending I’m not, hiding it, covering it up, pretending that *all* I want is the garden and the house and not the midnight fucking in Marrakech, is a lie. It’s gutting half of myself. It’s sacrificing one to get the other.
I shouldn’t have to sacrifice it. Those parts of myself should make each other stronger. Gutting one guts the other. I can’t live a life that’s half a person. I can’t live half a life.
Now how do I get the house and the garden and the fucking in Marrakech?
This is the real question.