People have said to me on many occasions that I know who I am and I’m not afraid to be myself, and I think that’s just their way of nicely saying that I’m really weird and I do a terrible job of hiding that. Which is way better than being told I’m “unique.” God I hate that word. I went to my high school prom wearing a short cocktail dress while the rest of the girls in my class wore these Disney princess gowns with 10 crinoline and they all had trouble getting up out of their seats. I can’t even tell you how many people came up to me that day to say “Lisa, you look so unique! What a breath of fresh air to see someone dressed so uniquely!” And I just wanted to crawl into a corner where no humans could find me to interact with me. Really, it was just a short dress. I didn’t go to the prom in a paper bag or a tuxedo to prove a point. I just really liked my legs and wanted to show them off. Ever since then I get angry whenever someone tells me I’m unique, because where I’m from that’s just someone’s way of saying “you look or act very oddly, and I don’t particularly like it, but good for you for not being ashamed of looking or acting oddly, good for you!” I’m not sure what sort of reaction they are looking for. “Thank you, I love standing out from all of my peers and being the centre of attention for looking weirder than everyone else!”
With all of that being said, I find it very funny when people think I’m some sort of role model for people who are proud of being different. There are so many occasions where I have tried so desperately to fit in, or to like the same things that most other people like just so I can have a few things in common with others. I have wasted so much time doing this. I’m not proud of it, but it’s something that I have done in the past and I’m sure I will do it again in the future.
I have compiled a list of examples for you and I will now share them with you so I can stop living this lie. In the wise words of Raymond Usher, “these are my confessions.”
I’ve been ordering mustard on all of my sandwiches lately, and it’s not because I love mustard. It’s because I associate liking mustard with being a hard-working, responsible, tax-paying adult.
I think I can blame Subway for these weird thoughts of mine. See, I feel really self- conscious when I’m in line at Subway and there is a person in front of me ordering a whole wheat sub with avocado, banana peppers, pickles, cucumber, tomato, jalapeno peppers, spinach, hot sauce, mustard, light mayo, srirachi sauce, oh and another handful of banana peppers…a little more…okay that’s perfect. This proves to me that this human being is better than me. He probably goes hiking and kayaking. I bet his hatchback has a bike rack on top. He definitely gets his produce at a farmer’s market because he supports local, and then he doesn’t have to throw it all out a week later because he actually used it to make stir fry instead of just eating kraft dinner out of the pot. The only reason he is even at Subway ordering supper is that today is cheat day. Yes, he considers Subway a diet cheat. He probably has a full time job and a dog that is well trained because he wakes up early on weekend mornings to pay attention to it.
And then it’s my turn to order and really all I want to do is stuff my face with a six-inch cold cut trio on white (sorry – Italian) bread with lettuce and extra mayo. That is my favourite sub at Subway. But if I order that now, after this elite Subway master ordered such an intense sub that it took two sandwich artists to close it, everyone else in line will be able to tell that I hit the snooze button so many times in the morning that I never wake up in time to eat breakfast or prepare lunch. They will absolutely know that I forget garbage day twice a month and have to sneak out in the cover of darkness to throw my garbage bags into someone else’s dumpster. They will probably know that I buy groceries and then forget to eat them because you can order Dominos online now without ever having to communicate with another human being. I bet they can just sense that I had two guinea pigs when I was twenty-five and I had to give them up for adoption because I didn’t know how to take care of them properly. Maybe they can even tell that I’d rather go to the mall and buy underwear on clearance than do laundry more than once a month, and even on those rare occasions that I do laundry I’m usually too lazy to put it away so I just take it out from the laundry basket on an as-needed basis and then I don’t know where to put my new dirty clothes. That’s what a cold cut combo says about me.
I naturally get all worked up that the seven people in Subway with me will know all of these embarrassing things about me if I order the sub I actually want, so instead I order that exact sandwich but I also ask for mustard, which makes me seem slightly more adult. I don’t really like how the sub tastes with mustard on it, but I eat it anyway and I hope that eventually the mustard will grow on me, and in turn I will start enjoying to do laundry and maybe I will remember garbage day more often.
But no matter how hard I try, the laundry basket continues to overflow and the mustard still tastes like it’s just a condiment that’s gone mouldy.
I have been pretending to like coffee for so many years that at one point I actually forgot that I hated it. I was so good at lying about my love of coffee that I began to believe those lies myself.
In high school I went through this phase where I would stay up really late to work on my screenplays and stories because I knew that the only way to make it in Hollywood was to be mature enough to balance school and (imaginary) work. When my mother would fall asleep I would sneak out into the kitchen, boil the kettle, and pour myself up some Nescafe instant coffee in a thermos. Doing that proved that I was an adult. I could barely get through half a cup of the monstrosity but I took great pride in walking into school the next morning, tired as all hell, and bragging to my friends that I stayed up all night writing a play and I used coffee to keep me awake. None of my friends were drinking coffee at this point. I felt so cool that I could never confess to them that I absolutely loathed the taste of it. They might have been dating boys but I was still more grown up than them because I was drinking instant coffee.
Much like the mustard, I assumed the taste would grow on me. I figured if 80% of adults drink coffee to sustain their professional lives then it must be delicious! By the time university rolled around I had spent so many years pretending to like coffee that I actually started believing it when I would pretentiously tell people that I only liked Starbucks bold, black. Cream and sugar? Pfft. I was too grown up for that. It took me a long time to realize that I was just carrying around that grande starbucks coffee as an accessory. One cup would last me a whole day, and I would keep microwaving it thinking maybe this time I would actually drink it, but instead I just sipped on it and walked around like I was a hipster god.
Quinoa is another one of those fad foods that I wanted with every fibre of my being to enjoy.
I did my Master of Arts, so of course grad school was nothing but one pot-luck dinner after another. There were vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free girls in my class and they were so confident, with great kitchens and even greater hair, that I thought maybe if I could like the same food that they like I could have those things too. So for one pot-luck I made this quinoa fruit salad and it was a big hit. Everyone was surprised that I had a go-to quinoa dish and this made me feel really cool and confident. Now, at that pot-luck I didn’t eat a single bite of this quinoa fruit salad because it looked terrible, but I decided to start making it for myself on a regular basis in hopes that, like my mustard and coffee dreams, this taste would grow on me. Every time I substituted rice for quinoa I had to tell someone, anyone, that I was having quinoa for supper. Then they would say “what an interesting meal, Lisa! I never took you to be a quinoa girl,” and I would say “of course, who doesn’t prefer quinoa over rice?! Here’s the recipe if you’re interested.” And then I would sit down to eat my quinoa and I would mostly just move it around on the plate a bit and then cook some dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets instead.
4. Breaking Bad
Okay, I actually feel like I could lose friends over this confession, but I don’t see the big deal with Breaking Bad. I’m in season 2 now and I haven’t felt a single teeny weeny bit of an attachment to a single character on the show. They all annoy me. The only one I could see myself eventually remotely liking is Walt Jr. because he’s cute. I’m sure it’s a well written show but I haven’t seen an episode yet where I’ve sat back and thought “wow, that was so well scripted, those lines were pure gold.” I think that about every single scene in Arrested Development, but I’ve never once thought that while watching Breaking Bad. I know, I’m sorry. I try suffering through it just like my quinoa fruit salad, but I get nothing out of it. It makes me feel uncomfortable and bored. I guess I’m just not as cool as everyone else with their fancy subs, black coffee addictions, quinoa fruit salads and Breaking Bad obsessions. I want to like it, I really do. But I’d much rather re-watch 7 episodes of Will & Grace than sit through one more episode of Breaking Bad. Hopefully we can still be friends.
5. Reading the classics
As someone who loves books and is always barking commands at other people to just shut up and read something for a change, I just cannot for the life of me enjoy reading the classics. I’m talking Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Wuthering Heights sort of crap. When my friends talk about these books as if they profoundly changed their lives, I keep thinking now I can read them and will finally understand them and get great joy out of their pages. But then I pick one up and get 2 chapters in and I find myself having to re-read one sentence four times before I understand what is happening, and then I throw the book across my living room in frustration and wonder why I can’t be as smart as my friends. These friends of mine are really into Victorian fiction things. Melissa watches some show about Victorian farms the same way I will sit down and binge watch Friends. I don’t like any of that stuff on television or in movies so I’m not sure why I keep thinking I will like reading it. No thanks, Downton Abbey – you keep doing you, but Imma watch 30 Rock instead. I will no longer nod while someone gushes about Jane Austen and pretend that I love the exact same lines from the exact same books and that I have read all of it just to fit in. I will be honest. I will stop them and tell them I haven’t read those particular books and that the thought of them puts me to sleep. Then I will talk about Vonnegut books in hopes that they haven’t read all of those so the roles will reverse and I can have my moment of feeling well-read. GOD it feels good to get that off my chest. I like modern American literature. I don’t like going back farther than Hemingway. I am smart and I understand a lot of words (even though I had to read The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry with a dictionary in my hand so I could look up every fifth word). I know what I like, and classic literature is not that. Does that mean I won’t relapse in the future and try to read Dickens again in hopes that I will magically start liking it? Obviously not. This is a never-ending cycle for me that happens usually once a year. I assume this affliction is as chronic as my hip pain. Going forward it will only be a personal journey, not something I attempt just to fit in with my friends. A Tale of Two Cities is my Everest, and it’s so full of poop that I just can’t trudge my way through it (how’s that for topical?). I may keep trying to climb it, but it will no longer be because everyone else I know has already trekked through the poop snow and reached the top.
In conclusion, I guess I’m just lame and insecure. I want to fit in with other adults, I just want fitting in to mean other things. I don’t want to wake up every morning at 6 am to work out. I don’t want to make my own sushi and add flax to everything because it’s the responsible thing to do. I don’t want to get together with friends and talk about the importance of setting in Pride & Prejudice. I just want to watch Netflix, eat ice cream for supper sometimes and spend hours everyday photoshopping pictures of my friends into screen caps from their favourite shows. I want it to be cool to do cross-stitching while working out on a stationary bike at the gym. Not that I personally cross-stitch, but Clare does, and I want to live in a world where it’s okay for Clare to cross-stitch and work on her fitness at the same time. She deserves that. I want being weird to be as cool in real life as it is on prime time television. I want to live in a world where fitting in means being lame. I guess now that I have made these confessions I can at least stop living these five lies. It will feel good to stop trying to fill my life with things that I don’t like just because I probably should like them. Screw you, mustard! Mustard is the worst.