Monday, February 1, 2010

"Do Not Go to the Garden of Flowers!"

Sorry I've been on hiatus lately. I could say "I've just been so busy" which in the past was always code for: I don't feel like talking to anyone. The truth is, I got into a really odd sleeping pattern coupled with wildly vivid dreams of piloting a helicopter, riding a pink bicycle up a fictitious 13th Ave in New York City (I hate pink) and being the principal of a school where I threw out Itzhak Perlman for racially discriminating against one of my students. Hmm......I guess I have been busy after all. In turn, that has made most of my writing a bit nonsensical and fragmented. I wouldn't have wanted to torture anyone with that. However, an email from my lovely Aunt Rebecca gave me that little extra push I needed.

I watched Almost Famous the other day. Although there are plenty of bandwagon sayings I can lay down that made the movie itself famous, the one I always related to most was when Cream Magazine Editor, Lester Bangs said, "I'm always home! I'm uncool!" For some reason, people seem to think I'm cool and the truth is, I've just learned to play the part. I am SO not cool. I am a nerd. I have always been the weird uncool girl, but not in a death-metal-kill-rodents and wear a vile of blood around my neck, kind of way. Just in that I'd rather study music, math, literature and science, so I guess that makes me a geek way. I do admit to getting very caught up in the "industry of cool" that has in fact taken over the world and left it with such superficial priorities where Aristotle himself would probably be one of those guys wandering the streets of Manhattan with a homemade cardboard sandwich sign spouting his philosophies in magic marker, and we'd either walk quickly past him (for fear he'd smell of dirty ass) or give him a name like "apocalypse Joe" or something. We've stopped listening and looking for the concrete truths because we'd rather play with our iphone (and all its very cool programs). I'm not leaping out against technology because if I wasn't able to type away all the crazy thoughts in my head, my fingers would bleed with ink stains and arthritis might set in sooner from gripping a pen with all my might. I had a point.....oh yes, I'm not cool. It's all a facade. Or, perhaps what really makes me "cool" is that I don't believe there's just one way of doing things. I believe in questioning rules and ways of life that try to bind, pigeonhole or define us simply because others need to throw us into a category of something they can comprehend. I tried that for far too long so that I might fit in and be accepted by my peers. Once I learned the formula for being superficially cool, I used it to my advantage and I will admit it is a good skill set to have.

When I first moved to New York I remember hearing two questions that I had never been so confronted with in my entire life: What are you? and, What do you do? My first answer was always....I'm a woman (or then, girl) from California, but that was never a good enough answer for the deep rooted cultures of New York Italians, Irish, Jews or Puerto Ricans. It was like a qualifier question so they could judge whether or not they were supposed to like me. I found it really annoying and so sometimes I would just make things up for fun to study their reactions. Once I had an entire Irish pub convinced I was from Argentina with a Spanish father, went to university in London (which was why my English was so good) had a ski chalet in Switzerland and a beach house in Cinque Terre. The story developed over a few hours and several scotches, as did my strong "Argentinian" accent. The second question was not so much of a mystery as to why they asked it, I just simply found it almost rude or condescending. Mostly because I hated having to answer: well I work as a make-up artist, but I also sing opera. I'm sure all artists feel this way to a degree, as though they have to explain to the people with "real jobs" why it is we do what we do. I once dated a computer programmer who was from a family of scientists and engineers, and his sister asked me, "Did your parents freak out when you told them you wanted to study music?" I laughed because both of my parents are musicians and the thought of them freaking out about any of my decisions just seemed absurd (mostly because after a certain point they gave up trying to tell me what to do). You can't really make someone who isn't wired the way you are comprehend how you really don't have a choice in the matter. I'm good at other things and could have been an accountant or surgeon with no problem, other than my creative side would have been nagging at me so much it might have turned me into some miserable shrew for denying it. After the initial answer, there always followed a myriad of questions which used to bore me to tears trying to explain to people who knew nothing about opera. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love to talk and me is a great subject, but I prefer conversation that requires the exploration of ideas rather than a series of 20 questions. My favorite was when someone would try not to offend me by saying they didn't like opera in a nice way. I would let them squirm in their excuse for a few minutes and then finally let them off the hook by saying, "Don't worry, it's not for everyone." Although, I do admit that my ornery side would come out if someone even mentioned Phantom of the Opera to me. My hair would stand on end, I would raise one eyebrow, half-smile and in my most soothing and charming voice put them back in their place with some mild condescension and humiliation. It was a sure-fire way to change the subject and keep them from the requesting that I "sing something!" See? I'm still not cool.

I remember being in high school and starting to hang out with some of the rebels in the drama department, mainly because there was a boy I had a crush on. He was best friends with this really cute girl who was what we'd call "slutty" and she smoked, drank and cursed all the time. Being an impressionable Southern Baptist girl who was never exposed to this vein of life, it left me very curious. My parents didn't drink, so there was never alcohol in the house, swearing was strictly forbidden (my mother used to threaten the 1950's method of washing our mouths out with soap if we ever did so) and of course there was never any talk of sexual behavior, activity or orientation. In fact, the time my mother forced herself to have the "reproductive talk" with me, was on our way to my 4th grade basketball championship (nice timing ma) and that was the last I heard of it from the adults in my life. I was the first born, so I never had an older sibling to test the waters and let me in on the do's and don'ts of deviancy. Needless to say I had no idea how to get this boy to like me because I had zero experience in his fields of interest. I thought I'd start with cursing. My parents would never know if I did it at school and I wouldn't have to worry about side effects or hiding mysterious odors or unwanted pregnancy. Since never cursing before (and too ashamed to admit I barely knew what any of those words meant) I just went for it full-bore. I started telling a story and throwing in the foul language wherever I could. For a moment it was going quite well as I mimicked their "fuckin' this and fuckin' that," then I said, "and we went to some shit-load little town" first there was confusion, then came the laughter, which was of course followed by mockery. It was one of those adolescent moments where you want an ever so handy, time traveling, trap door to drop beneath your feet. At that moment my uncoolness was ever so apparent and I vowed to never let that happen again. For a while I just laid low, stayed quiet and agreed with anything people said. I turned it into a science experiment, watching their behaviors and interactions as if it were my own little petri dish. By my senior year I had it down to a science and had a whole new group of friends. I still wasn't cool, but I could fake it when necessary. However, the worst part was I felt like a total fraud and was constantly riddled with anxiety that they'd finally figure it out and expose me. For years afterward I would always describe myself as a "social chameleon" which is still very true in ways. I am able to be relaxed in any social setting and talk to everyone without a problem, but now I don't pretend to be anything other than myself. I can attest to the truth that that works out best. There is no longer a need for a little liquid courage, a bump of superpower, or a toke of relaxation to create a false sense of social bonding. It's more fun to just be me and keep everything else in the petri dish. It's gone through the phases of "please like me" to "fuck you if you don't like me" to "It doesn't matter if you like me I'm fine with who I am" to "oh, you like me? That's nice."

I am sure most of us have no idea what is written in our yearbooks from days of old, but there was always one entry that burned itself in my memory. It was from a guy I had known since we were little, we had the same group of friends in high school, were on the swim team together and I thought we were friends. He wrote some type of poem about flowers and how they compared to me and it seemed very sweet until at the very bottom it said, "No you're not! YOU are a WEED!" which was probably funny to him because it rhymed with my last name, but I remember being hurt and it bothered me the few years after whenever I thought of it. That came to mind a while ago and instead of having the insecure little girl's reaction I laughed and thought....he was so right! I began to think of my dad out in the landscape of the beautiful gardens he'd created at our house with his weed-whacker and how irritated he'd get that they would keep coming back, bigger and stronger than the rest of the flowers. They were harder to kill, never easily defeated, and weathered the bleakest of climate conditions.
I decided to see what wikipedia had to say about weeds and I found some relevancy that made me smile:

"Weedy plants generally share similar adaptations that give them advantages and allow them to proliferate in disturbed environments...weeds have adapted to grow and proliferate in human-disturbed areas....The weedy nature of these species often gives them an advantage over more desirable crop species because they often grow quickly...Some plants become dominant when introduced into new environments because they are freed from specialist consumers; in what is sometimes called the “natural enemies hypothesis,” plants freed from these specialist consumers may increase their competitive ability. In locations were predation and mutual competitive relationships no longer exist, some plants are able to increase allocation of resources into growth...."


1 comment:

  1. Dug this one too :-) I'll link you up this week too..