I’m a self-doubter. One voice inside says, “I’m good enough,” but the ones I hear most are the critics, flying in from 1979, ‘82, 87’, 95’. All those careless comments, words nobody meant anything by…
“I was just kidding.”
“God, you’re so sensitive.”
“You think too much.”
Worse are the comments I didn’t visibly react to, that nobody knew how deeply they embedded. Hooks, tugging at my self-esteem, whispering, “You’re no good/You’re not very smart/How are you going to change anything?/Just accept the way things are/It’s your own fault anyway/If you weren’t so [insert: picky, sensitive, whiny, pathetic, female], everything would be fine.”
Gigantically unaware of how everything affected me.
Suck it up.
These hooks mostly came from listening in on too many adult conversations I wasn’t equipped to process–a weakness of mine from age two on.
Warning: the following comments on repeat are guaranteed to disturb any young girl prone to taking adult commentary as gospel:
“God, who does she think she is?”
“Nothing worse than a jumped-up bitch who knows too much…thinks she’s something special.”
“Doesn’t she think she’s Lady Muck.”
That was a popular one in small town New Zealand, said of anyone who occasionally wanted to rest/tool around, eat chocolate, or, God forbid, read–while everyone else was working their butts off. Money must be earned. “Doesn’t get handed to ya’ on a silver platter.” Introspection, navel-gazing was for losers–lazy, dole bludging no-hopers.
I was secretly a bit of a no-hoper. Life in my family was about action–a good day involved productive activities like getting the thistles ripped, clearing a paddock, cutting the lawn and planting a 2,000 tree orchard. “Plenty of time to rest when you’re dead.”
We spent an inordinate amount of time over cups of tea, standing around the tractor munching on homemade chocolate crunch, sponge cake or gooey caramel square. No matter how much heavy labor we were doing, everyone was overweight.
Then there was, “Needs cutting down to size, that one,” and those that struck at the heart of my deeply unaccepted tendencies, “I could do that! God, what a bunch of crap.” Referring to any piece of art that wasn’t a painted facsimile of a pretty landscape.
I grew up understanding anything I was helplessly drawn to was wrong, especially art. Also, books that ripped chests wide open for the rain to pour in, where people wielded emotions like rage, ecstasy, and sadness like swollen rivers, but in a complex language that didn’t immediately make sense. God forbid if nothing really happened in the story. Most things I loved were too artistic, or just weird.
My trick was to leave. At 12, I spent a month in Hawaii, and I wrote. At 16, I moved to Brazil for a year, and I wrote–a diary filled with lust, pining, and a shameless lack of brevity. A painful, emotionally-penned journey, detailing my relationship with the host family, boys, girls, sugar (I had an hour to hour survival stash of chocolate hidden in my undie drawer and by my bed), and a meticulous effort to fit in. Listing in detail all the Brazilian men I wanted, and the women I wanted to become. To invade. To take over. To body snatch.
For a while, I felt pretty morphed. Triumphant even. From a shy, fearful, hardworking academic girl, I returned from Brazil with hair down my back and arse hanging out of a g-string bikini. I felt beautiful, and, apart from becoming a famous painter and writer, I just wanted to get laid. So I did. Quite a bit. My favorite parts were always the build-up, the chase. I better not tell you about the beach, the moment the first tongue touched my labia, and I nearly died with the sweet pain of it. [Aaah, what the hell: It was a hot night in Ferrugem, and this Carioca boy was intense and brown and surfed so much I don’t know how he stayed awake to be lying in the sand with me when the moon was peaking. I primarily felt courageous to be with him.]
Over time, I left more places because I didn’t know how to stay. What I kept looking for wasn’t anywhere. Emptiness, a shell, a fake brittle world. I bolted New Zealand for England, England for Scotland, then Spain, Portugal, Sweden, London, and back to Brazil. Somewhere I lost my words. My connection with myself, with others.
As you can guess, I finally stopped, realized I could only find truth and love by getting okay with myself, with accepting how things are, as they are. Lady Muck? Turns out the giant, dumb, lazy blonde faker I had myself pegged for is also a reasonably sweet, intelligent, empathetic, loveable human.
And it’s all grist, right? For writing. The hurts, the awful memories. The ones that still make you cringe with what you said, what he did, what she asked, what makes you burn 25 years later. Write it down. Kind of fun, eh? I never imagined at 20, when I thought I wanted to write but was too afraid to apply for the creative writing program at Vic, that describing someone’s tongue on my labia would be part of a larger, far more cringe-worthy body of work. I never guessed I’d be excited at the thought of trying this spoken word thing now. Labia. Labia, my labia. It’s gonna be fun to say that one out loud.
Photo Credit: http://nos.twnsnd.co/image/136466723467