Saturday, August 4, 2007

Staying Gold

I know this is a bad thing to say, but I think smoking still looks cool. I know, I know, that’s horrible, and I don’t smoke, never have and never will, but on the right person in the right setting, it can be so bad ass and sexy. I was walking down the street Friday and this guy came out of a store, flipped open an old fashioned lighter, lit his cigarette and leaned back against the brick. It looked so cinematic. I wish I could have that quality sometimes (that quality being considered cool by other people) which Simon Rich captured very well in last week’s New Yorker.

I noticed how my default behavior whenever in a group of people I don’t know is to assume the role of the outcast. Thursday I went out to see one of those outdoor movies in the park that the city does during the summer. I wasn’t very social and to be fair, it seemed like the girls that were there were talking to those that had come with them, so I wasn’t being terribly rude, but I became very aware of my behavior when my friend engaged in conversations with the other girls around us. Her body language was open and inclusive and she would turn her head and make eye contact with me, signaling that I wasn’t being left out. Consciously or not, she exuded inclusiveness and I was struck as to how morose and misanthropic I can be, and how I let a definition of myself from 20 years ago still impact the way I behave today.

Outcast. The word that can sum up my junior and high school experience. The girl with the notebook who sat either in the stairwell alone or in the journalism room to eat lunch. How something that I felt defined me in 1987 can still feel so relevant in my life 20 years later is mind blowing (as is the fact that that was 20 years ago). Yet, here I am, 34 years old and still feeling like an outcast. Once defined by others now I self-define. I’m the one that keeps it alive after all of these years. Now I cultivate this image of myself and being an outcast has become a badge of honor for me, a source of pride. I’ll define myself first, I’ll set myself apart, no, fuck you I’m better than you, I can’t get hurt by you.

I haven’t had a lot of friends. I’ve kept the numbers small and manageable and shied away from accumulating acquaintances. While there’s a lot more to why I do this, my high school experiences of feeling like an outcast is a major factor. I think about the vulnerability of that young girl and how hurt I had been, how I had to build up this armor and keep most at arm’s length and wave only a select few in. I had once compared my friendship style to an exclusive boutique, one where you had to ring a bell and not everyone is allowed in. Look what that says about me. Do I want my friendship style to be a Wal-Mart? No, but I could ease up the barriers of entry a bit and be more open. It doesn’t have to hurt me to the core if someone doesn’t like me or want to be my friend, but I won’t even get to that point if all I do is stand in my metaphorical corner smoking my metaphorical cigarette and pretending like I don’t care about anyone or anything.

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