Sometimes, we create a face to greet the faces we meet that is not our own at all.
I became acutely aware that I was doing this about a month ago when my best friend came to town to work on the album.
A little background: My rock star best friend is one of my favorite human beings on this entire planet, obviously. He’s funny, smart, a talented musician, he’s handsome, sensitive, charismatic, and has a great silly streak and dry wit that just destroys me. That’s the good stuff. On the negative end of the spectrum, he’s chronically apologetic about things for which he shouldn’t be apologizing, and defensive when he’s not being provoked. To be fair, he grew up completely surrounded by women who browbeat him into being a good, obedient man. This is one reason why we all love him so. He was also very overweight growing up, and worked hard to drop well over 100 pounds after I met him at age 18. It took years for him to get where he is now, in terms of career success, weight, self-image, and independence. I am nothing less than 100% proud and supportive of my best friend, and any criticism I have of him is only through the lens of rational assessment, not negative emotion.
So, BFF says, after a week of hard drinking and my slow descent back into chain smoking for the duration of his visit, “This is my vacation, you know. I don’t actually live like this all time. I don’t drink this much. I don’t party this hard.” I laughed. I didn’t believe him. After all, he drunk dials me from bars around the country when he’s touring, gives me anecdotal accounts of drunken mishaps and severe injury, and I am privy to all the sordid details of his late, late nights.
“No, really,” he said. “I’ve created an image for myself. Now it’s well established, so I don’t have to try so hard or party so much. There are days at a time I don’t leave my apartment except to take the subway to the grocery store or rehearsal.”
BAM. There it was. In a single sentence he completely destroyed the illusion I’d had of what his life had become in the six years we’d been living across the country from each other. He’d created a whole persona just to fit the image of what we have been told for years a rockstar was supposed to be. And I believed it. What the fuck.
How had I, knowing him so well, been taken in? I guess it was partially because BFF has the propensity to be that person, and partially because it’s what I wanted to believe that musician’s lifestyle embodied after I left it. It was my need to glamorize the dirty reality of that in which I didn’t want to partake so I would always feel there might be something magical just beyond my reach. Because that’s really what keeps us going, isn’t it? Dreaming? Thinking the grass is greener for everyone else?
Then it dawned on me: I do it, too. I used to be the almost-rockstar, the one taking center stage, the cutie that everyone wanted to be friends with simply because I was the life of the party, the happy trainwreck, the talent. I put on a carefully crafted face and that’s who I mostly was during that time. I did crazy things. I mean, shit that makes me wonder why I’m still alive. I abused my body and my heart and kept my light under a bushel so people would think I was UBERAWESOME FANTASTIC GLITTERGRRRRRL! Wheeeeeeeee! God forbid any of them ever know how scared and insecure I was all. the. time.
Fast forward to now. I’m overweight and middle-aged. There are a smattering of people who, despite my attempts to be completely honest about how much I party (negligible), how cool I am (also negligible), and how much of a rockstar I ever was (delusion, at best) still believe that I am the Party in a Box. An on-again, off-again girlfriend told me just a couple of years ago that she invited me to events so she would have an excuse to go outside and smoke cigarettes and be bad and get a little too drunk at her kid’s 2nd birthday party. WHAT THE FUCK.
It’s moments like those that feed into my sick need to be someone I’m not. She didn’t mean it to be demeaning; on the contrary, she thought she was being complimentary. But it hurt me a little to hear someone speak the words that they enjoyed that projection of me, the junkie me, the performer me, essentially everything-but-the-real me – that she preferred that imaginary person over who I really am. And whose fault is that? Certainly not hers. She wasn’t the one pretending to be something she wasn’t.
So, in my insecurity about being overweight and not-all-that-exciting-or-amusing anymore, I have recently found myself saying things like “I EAT CUPCAKES EVERY DAY! RAAARH! PHEER ME AND MY INTENSE SUGAR CONSUMPTION! GLHKrgywerjhtrKJGhekjwr! *DROOL*” and doing things like starting a blog about what a dirty drunk I am so I can give alcohol and drinking advice to other people.
Reality check: I don’t come even remotely close to consuming cupcakes every day. Not even every month. I drink almost exclusively water, and rarely drink alcohol. That doesn’t mean I don’t make wicked awesome cupcakes, or that I don’t know a shit ton about booze and boozing, but that’s not who I am. And yet, I find it amusing to let people believe that, and it’s a great way for me to armor myself against any perceived criticism my friends might have for my weight gain. I pretend it doesn’t hurt. That I’m not scared. That I love my fat, I revel in being a butterball, because then when I do shove a cupcake into my mouth, I can pretend it’s a triumphant moment in which I am telling the world to fuck off and love me anyway in all my overweight glory. But I do care. I care how people perceive me, I care that I’m overweight, I care that I’m sort of lonely sometimes and not as social as I used to be, and I care that I’m too chickenshit to get back on stage and sing my fucking heart out because I’ll be distracted by worrying about people judging me for letting myself go. For having wrinkles, bulges, or any sign of aging whatsoever. I care that people might think I’m not positive and happy all the time. I do so deeply.
So, on one hand we have the real person who runs on a treadmill every day and frets over why her weight has plateaued despite all attempts toward better living, and who is wildly insecure about quite a few things, and who has secret longings that rip her heart apart on a daily basis, and maybe not regret, per se, but many wistful “what-if’s.”
And how does one go about balancing that with not being a total downer all the time? How does one project honesty without being so honest that people begin to see you on the other side of the spectrum, which is TOO real, TMI, too much, too much, oh, so much too much. I have friends like that, too. And I don’t want to become that, because those eternal complainers fucking suck. But sometimes you have to ask for love, for help, for attention rather than sulking because your friends can’t read your mind. When I need a hug I want to be able to ask for it openly and not get emails from so-called friends saying, “Well, I see you’re trying to psych yourself up with that facebook status update. Good luck with that.” In the face of my need, that hurts. But can I fault that person for being honest about how me asking for love and support in a public forum made him roll his eyes? I can be hurt that he doesn’t know me well enough to see I have a need and quietly fulfill it without judgement, but I can’t be hurt for the honesty.
It’s important to be honest. It’s important to have balance. It’s important to try to love oneself and yet be honest about one’s faults so that one can continue growing. And it’s a constant learning experience as I search to find that happy place there in the middle. So my new goal is not to lose weight, to be better, or anything so lofty. All I need to do for now is to be honest, with myself and others. This is who I am. I welcome you to join me for a walk down this path if you’re like-minded. Otherwise, step the fuck off and give me the room I need to be faulty and glorious as I stumble along in my own way.