I think I can honestly say that I have done something right that my daughter is proud of her unpopularity. She is content with her identity. She knows the edges of her shadow and appreciates the person she is.
I need to clarify that I have no value in popularity. It is a superficial measuring stick that has no consistency and definitely no merit. Too many people chase that broken, grayscale rainbow believing that grabbing the edges of this elusive trophy is equivalent to absolute excellence. Fame and wealth beyond measure. A worshipping group of apostles.
This is somewhat true.
I will confess that I, too, didn’t care about popularity…that much. I knew I was never going to be popular. My awkward lack of social skills, my weird sense of humor, and my hyper-energy that could make me twirl like a frenetic tornado created a barrier between my peers and me. Most times, I was comfortable with the queerly icy distance between us. I had a small group of friends and loved being with them.
At the same time, that distance sometimes equated into exclusion.
Disclaimer, I am not ranting, whining, or pitying myself. I am merely expressing my perception of reality from 30 years ago.
I was used to being the outsider looking in. And, most times, I was happy being on the side of life, holding up the wall, and staring at the mass of bodies who laughed at their inside jokes, leaned over to tell one another secrets, stared over and through me.
I am introverted and don’t quite understand social norms. I certainly don’t have social graces (hence my pen name of gracelesscurran). My attempts to be polite are frequently rude. My attempts to show that compassion can sometimes make me a grievance to the one grieving.
I resented it, though, when I was identified as being “f***** in the head,” that I was “crazy,” as though I had lost my sense of reality. And to be relegated to someone or something that had fallen completely out of the mainstream was saddening. In spite of all the Disney movies, in spite of The Breakfast Club and the espousal that not fitting in is better than conforming…I just wanted to be normal.
Because being normal might mean that I would be liked.
Wow…I really am sounding pitiful here. I’M NOT SAD. I’M NOT PITIFUL. BUT I WILL BE HONEST.
Flash forward thirty years. I’m still standing on the sidelines, but this time, I have a big goofy grin and I have my friends who understand and cherish my personality and its quirks. I am Gracelesscurran and my weirdly shaped shadow is all mine.
Now, let’s bring this back to my daughter, my beautiful and wonderful daughter who has inherited my shadow. My exciting and unique daughter who has made my shadow her own and twisted the shape to become her perfect silhouette.
She is so far from the popularity crowd that she loves it. She hates the concept of popularity and the people jockeying for a false position. She hates the superficiality and the cruelty of people who do actions not for compassion and not for goodness but because she knows that they will arrive at some false sense of achievement, that they will receive a certificate of fake-accomplishment.
And yet, because she is not popular, she has become (in my opinion) a popular target. She has been called “ugly” and “weird.” And this is where I really love my daughter.
She loves it. She welcomes it.
She doesn’t care for the ugly compliment; however, she knows that the person addressing her has no merit in her world.
But the weird compliment? She loves it. Absolutely embraces it.
I hated that word. I felt that being defined as weird was akin to being evil, a sinner, a criminal. I would shy from the word, from the person saying it, would try to find my normal-skin and shove my weird self into it and still see that I had no way to truly fit into “normal.”
But the Girl? She threw away her normal-skin a long time ago and dyed her hair pink or teal or purple or blue. She has wanted to shave her head or just half her head. She wants to dye all of her hair.
She wears mis-matching socks and band shirts and a bright blue jacket which she wears, in my opinion, like a shield.
She has strong opinions and is not afraid to express them. She has a strong voice and is not afraid to express it. Her work ethic is powerful and her self-confidence is unbreakable….
Or at least I hope it is unbreakable.
She tells me stories about her math class and the mean boy who won’t stop talking over the teacher and who likes to pick on her. I immediately feel the rage, the holy-mother-don’t-hurt-my-baby-fury and envision myself like a raptor, screaming out of the heavens with my talons unfurled.
My daughter shrugs off the boy and his insults. She is a bit angry but also sees his words as so far beneath her that they are detritus she crushes under her feet. She will narrate stories about him or other children like him, and she shrugs away my empathy.
She doesn’t want my sympathy. She has no need for my empathy because she isn’t hurt. Instead, she turns on her music, thumbs her earbuds into her ears, and goes to her room to watch youtube videos and chat with her other “weird” friends.
As she walks away, I stare after her, look at the whimsical shadow dancing on the floor just behind her.
It has a straight back.
This is when I know I must have done something right…..