Perspective, happy and healthy perspective of self, is not always easy to maintain, especially in a world where we arguably present (via social media), a false, or only partial version of our self. I have totally bought into this digital narrative. In fact, instead of having to deal with real-life, day-to-day me, I often wish I could steal my online persona and staple it to my face.
To support this claim, I would like to share the following: Recently someone offered to take my picture. This woman stared and stared and stared some more. She cranked her neck and strained her head just so. Then, in a voice where you know she pretended to sound like she had really thought about it, first, and as she cleared her throat, I swear I heard a long grunt followed by a stilted, “Ewwwww.” Finally, she proclaimed,
“Ah Beth, you are just not pretty from every side. In fact, you really do not have many good angles. You are going to be a tough one to photograph.”
Needless to say, there were no photos taken that day. And really, where are those perfect selfie shots when I need them? On that day I could have fooled this woman, printed some cute selfies and then and glue-gunned them to my head. She would not have been-the-wiser, and I would not have had to think about all those hideous angles.
Anyway and moving on, last week in an effort to expose my cloaked-inner-self and not to expose my apparently partially-ugly face, I showed (via a text message) a trusted friend my writing. Here is how it happened: He suggested we start up a local writing group. He is a published writer, a great musician and someone I admire. Consequently, I was thrilled that he was interested in writing with me. It seemed a natural part of our conversation for me to share some writing samples.
After reading my essay, (apparently on his drive from Salt Lake City to Provo Canyon, but after the Smith’s grocery store in Heber), he sent me a text wherein he said and I quote,
“Kind of makes me think of Erma Bombeck on steroids.”
You may (or may not) recall that Erma Bombeck was a humorist, who had a popular newspaper column (remember those?). In fact, here is what Wikipedia states:
“From 1965 to 1996, Erma Bombeck wrote over 4,000 newspaper columns, using broad and sometimes eloquent humor, chronicling the ordinary life of a midwestern suburban housewife. By the 1970s, her columns were read twice-weekly by 30 million readers of the 900 newspapers in the U.S. and Canada.”
Holy crap! If I could have 30 weekly readers, I would be elated. Ok. About the “steroids” comment, my immediate impulse thought was, “huh, why steroids?” Thankfully, he may have anticipated said impulse thought and without skipping a word or making me wait minutes for another text all the while watching those damned three grey dots trapped in a text bubble, he clarified and said,
“Or maybe a better way to put it is a more genuine or more easy to relate to version of Erma Bombeck.” Wow! That was very cool. Thank you, friend.
Here is the thing: I feel more like the photographer’s comment and less like my friend’s kind text.
I wish I felt differently.
I wonder who else feels this way. Do any of you? Do you ever feel like you have to hide your authentic self, or part of that authentic self, to be loved, or better, to be accepted? In fact, I arguably save the best version of me for social media, or really, any public event. You do not see wrinkles, crooked nose (because I also know how to angle and tilt my head just right), arguments with my husband or kids. You do not see my loneliness as my son leaves for college, my dysfunctional family history (that still impacts my day-to-day choices as a middle-aged woman), my complicated relationship with my mother-in-law, and you definitely do not see me sleeping past 10:00 AM, because, really, what is the point? I have learned that when I do show myself I make my mom sad, my mother-in-law thinks that I have made her son a Liberal Atheist, my friends get annoyed or embarrassed, and others think I do not have any problems, so why steal someone else’s needed thunder? Instead, I should keep my [insert favorite expletive here] mouth shut. In defense of the “others,” I kind of portray my life (at least online) as it were charmed, happy, bliss. In fact, what I present to you are safe and pretty travel photos, non-offensive comments and boring neutrality. That is why I get that they want me to keep my little blond (because I color the grey) mouth closed.
Ultimately, as a way of reconnecting real-life-me with the mask-I-present-to-the-world me, I decided to start writing more regularly (I always say that), and then I get sidetracked or afraid (totally chicken). Alas, here I am. This time back I have decided to write more often (selfishly) in an attempt to find myself.
And by exposing myself I mean, like my real self, I will try to show my truth. I will try to live by what I encourage the boys to do. I often tell them:
I will try to be more transparent and convey things for starters like I am not sure I believe in God, but I like to pray. Life is good. I love my husband fiercely. Dave is my best friend. I force him to go on walks with me daily and I long for our daily walks. Even though I love to be married and married to him, sometimes I get caught off guard with the occasional and totally odd crush (current crush: Jemaine Clement). Then I tell Dave about said crush. He entertains me and we move on. Then there are our sons. I also love them fiercely. I think they are amazing and totally rad. I am in awe of them and wonder how they are ours. I do not always get along with them. Sometimes Dave thinks I am driving them away and says so. Then I cry — a lot. I have even been known to tell the boys they were acting like assholes and/or babies. Before Kyle left for college last week, I said he was acting like both. He said I wanted him gone. I said I wanted him to stay. I told him sometimes it is hard, that I love him and that I like him (even in these dark moments). Then I apologized for calling him an asshole and a baby. Honestly, I try to be a parent while respecting who they are. Sometimes that balance is rough. I love a good apology and I am happy to give one. I love to forgive, even when things are really bad. Really. I really love to forgive. I definitely prefer justice over duplicity, hypocrisy, fraud, and status, fame, or popularity-seeking. I am attracted to integrity and try to live with integrity. I am definitely struggling. That is why I am trying to show my (real) face here. Yikes! I definitely screw up and often. I hate getting old. I hate my flabby upper arms I always have. I wax. I love sex and enjoy talking about sex. I know that makes others uncomfortable, so I don’t talk about sex, except to Dave (and sometimes my friend, Beth — yes, she is a real person). Innuendo is great! It was both hilarious and a little disturbing when the boys picked up on one of my “nudge, nudge, wink wink comments.” Then I stopped making those comments (at least in front of them). I worry way too much about what others think. I think today I even stressed about why my friend did not text me back. I pretend to be way more Mormon than I really am. I do this to fit in. I also hate to offend my LDS friends and family. Ironically (or not so), I totally miss my LDS community. I do not drink alcohol. I do drink green tea and lots of it. In fact, I am still annoyed with my friend who held a leadership position in the church. Years ago he was interviewing me for an LDS temple recommend. He asked if I felt good about how I was living. I responded, “yes,” (because I actually did feel good about how I was living). Then he said, “Well Beth, I know you drink green tea and that is against the Word of Wisdom (Google it).” I responded that I still feel good about how I am living. That was the very last Temple Recommend I ever received. True story. If I could, I would travel every single day. (You probably know that already.) I don’t get jealous, except for when it comes to travel. Then I get weirdly jealous. In fact, I get jealous of other people’s trips even when I’m currently on a trip myself. I am happy and I often get very sad. I have a short temper and can be insufferably patient. I have great friends and often feel lonely. I am an oxymoron. It is my truth. And yes, I still weep regularly about my infertility — even after all these years.
As far as writing (again), today is where I start. Let’s see how long this lasts and where it goes. I hope it sticks. (And let’s see if I can push through, even if I do not make everyone happy, even if I am not instantaneously liked, or liked at all — and at every angle .)