I grew up in a trailer in the woods. It was not a luxurious double-wide but we did have an addition built on to it so there was an extra room. We grew meat birds and to keep the baby chicks warm in the spring we would keep them in the house under a heat lamp. I preferred having them live in my bedroom so I would fall asleep every night to chirping of birds and the smell of tiny poos. My friends thought it was fucking amazing. They were so impressed with the in-house set up. We were country bumpkins. We went to community bonfires and played in ditches. The coolest girl in my school (population 75) was named Jade. She had long blond hair and a lisp. To copy her speech impediment I took chicken wire from the chick pen in my bedroom and wrapped pieces in along the insides of my upper and lower gums. The wire would make the insides of my cheeks bleed but the effect was incredible. Fake braces!
The 3 coolest things in my school were braces, a lisp and glasses. My boyfriend had a thick band around the back of his glasses and this, partnered with the thickness of the glass that gave him googly eyes made him the height of sex appeal. I told my mother I thought I needed glasses and as I was an avid reader she took my request seriously. She took me to the eye doctor and I immediately lied my face off. Ummmm E? Urrrrrrrr L? I went big and started misreading the letters at the very top of the chart. I wanted him to think I was blind. I wanted the densest glasses money could buy. The optometrist saw right through me (unintended pun) and said my vision was perfect. To make myself feel better, on my way back to school I shoved a wad of gummed up toilet paper into the roof my mouth so I would talk easier with a lisp. It helped. Instantly a new school fad was born.
I don’t understand how in this little backwoods town we had it so backward. Everything that is considered the most uncool was to us the height of fashion. I remember being around 9 and going through my mother’s clothes, finding the perfect adult sized purple linen pant-suit with shoulder pads and to-big-for-me heels to wear. I finished off the look with a beanie hat from Disneyland and my father’s oversized Hawaiian shirt. My principal taught me the meaning of “to clash” that day and I was so proud of the fact that my originality needed a new word to fully describe it.
I don’t think anyone could top that fashion disaster these days and I don’t know if I would want to. I don’t really believe that being that different or intentionally standing out would be celebrated and so it is no longer in my nature to take such bold risks. I am more calculated with my decisions. I am careful. I want to be liked.
This seems to be what happens. We grow up. We start to care about what others think of us more than we care about what we think. I don’t necessarily get to experience a child’s purity of expression anymore. My thoughts and decisions are highly filtered now and it feels dampening.
I am 33. There is nothing overtly wrong with me. I am healthy, yet I spend most of my time worrying about the extra 7 pounds and the lines that are slowly creasing my eyes. I do yoga, sometimes for the peace of mind but mostly for the exercise. I don’t remember the last time I slept with birds and backcombed my bangs before breakfast.
Ironically, my job usually entails bringing out the Super Nerd onstage and partying with the audience but although I am successful in my career I don’t remember the last time I felt happy of myself just for being simply me. My shows are usually secretly fraught with self doubt and critical analysis. I am playing the character of innocence. I think it is worthwhile but I wouldn’t call it a pleasure.
Song break. This was sung by my niece. It is a verse from the Rupunzel soundtrack. No explanation is needed.
I imagine when I have a child I will want to tell her. “Be a Super Nerd girl! Be Enormous. Make sparks fly outta yer little butt”! Because on this planet, in this time, with this life, that is truly the greatest gift you can give to God herself.