Friday, February 29, 2008

The last heartbreak – 338

I now realize that in the process of defending my mother I may have slandered my brother. He did go through a wild period, but that’s behind him. Now he is just kind of gruff and overly influenced by talk radio.

It is time for my final traumatic even. I liked a boy once and he did not like me back. It made me very sad. Wow. That was easier than I expected.

Yeah, I can be a bit gorier than that. I have mentioned before that usually I just fall in love at first sight, and when I have to talk myself into it, it does not go well. With this guy, whom we shall call Bill, it was neither. I knew he existed, but he really was not on my radar at all until I went to talk to someone next to him, so sat down by him. It occurred to me that I was about to be really rude, so I chatted with him for a bit, and this led to me later inviting him to an opera.

In my previous dating history, things usually got awkward at some point either during the date or after the date, but everything was fine. There was nothing earth shattering, but there was also nothing bad. Later on we were out with a group of people and he mentioned that we had gone out. That was probably the turning point for me, because him mentioning it meant that he was not ashamed to have gone out with me. Remember, I had this core belief that no one could ever like me. I started to have hope that maybe he could like me, and I could be with someone, and it was exhilarating.

I did take leave of my senses. We both had the same monthly meeting and I remember gazing at him and thinking, “He’s so cute.” And then I would tell myself, “No, he’s not. He’s a skinny balding accountant.” But I kept gazing, and he had become cute to me.

Alas, I was not cute to him. Well, I don’t think that’s fair actually. I don’t think cuteness had anything to do with it, but he did not reciprocate, and I took too long to see it because once hopes had gotten up it was too hard to let go, and this is where we get to the heart of the problem. My liking of him was not really him so much, though he was a great person, but it was really about feeling like I had a chance at all. Not being desperate and with a twisted self-esteem, he had no need to fall for me.

I guess my liking of him was symbolic and his rejection was horribly symbolic. I was still at the not trying to think about things too much stage, but what it felt like it meant was that I had been right all along. It was a joke to think that anyone could ever love me, and the pain of knowing I was right was unbearable. I was so angry with myself for ever believing otherwise, even momentarily, because it had robbed me of all of my ability to cope.

I had gotten used to periodically have a few days of anger and depression, but this lasted at least six months. I am not sure of the exact length of time. I know it was long enough for him to date one other girl, then break up with her, then date someone else and get engaged and married. It was long enough to do a comedy routine about it, and get his compliments on how funny it was. (I am usually better adjusted than I was then, but it is not unusual for stand-up comics to be basket cases.) It was a long time.

I have never been less functional. I still went to work, but I would be sitting at my desk with tears running down my face, and wondering if an allergies excuse would work if anyone caught me. I was fighting with my family a lot too, because they had no idea what to do with me. The thing I had feared most, and tried to hold at bay for as long as I could remember, had come true. That could almost have been a relief for some fears, but this one meant that the rest of my life was going to be like this, barren of love, and hope, and I did not feel like I had the courage for a future that bleak.

Obviously, in a situation like that, death has a certain appeal. I never really considered suicide, because that is wrong (simplistic reasoning, but it works for me), and also I am too responsible. It’s a rotten thing to do to the people around you. I was just sort of hoping that maybe if I worked really hard for a year, and got things squared away financially so that no one really needed me anymore, then maybe I could just sort of die somehow—like maybe I could get hit by a car or something.

The funny thing was that a year or so earlier I had been thinking that my life was meaningful, and that even if I died without getting married or having children, it would have been a good life based on the things I had already done. I had believed that once, but I couldn’t feel it anymore. I couldn’t seem to feel anything that didn’t hurt. People tried to help me, but they couldn’t reach me. I even lied to the therapist. She was trying to get me to see that I could be loved, and I said I saw it, but I really didn’t. I just said it because I knew she would keep at it unless I conceded her point. Really, nothing worked.

And then, I realized that nothing worked. I was walking down Cornell, going from the gym to Safeway, and I realized that I was not getting over this on my own. If I was capable of healing from this on my own, I would have done it already, and it occurred to me that maybe I needed to pray for help.

I did it that night, and just poured my whole heart out about everything, and begged. I did not feel anything then, but the next day I realized that I didn’t hurt anymore. I had in fact been healed.

It was the first time that I had really knowingly drawn on the Atonement. As an independent, capable, take-charge kind of person, I don’t ask for help a lot, and I don’t really repent that much. There were times when I had come kind of close, but there was never such an obvious and instant healing, and I will be forever grateful for it.

It’s not that everything has been a cakewalk since then. For one thing, just because you finally learn that a false belief is false, you don’t necessarily know what is true. I could get that it had not been impossible for anyone to love me my entire life, but I still had doubts about how likely it was that someone was going to love me now. I hadn’t exactly been beating boys off with a stick, and waiting to get your head on straight until you are in your early thirties (now mid-thirties) doesn’t exactly improve your prospects. Even if you have gotten a completely accurate worldview, there are still all these bad habits accumulated from when you weren’t seeing clearly. It’s tricky, is the point I am trying to make. I am still learning as I go.

I had thought I had defined myself by my intelligence (and my weight), and others have defined me by my kindness, but I had not realized until going through this how crucial my cheerful nature was. I had always been pretty sunny, and when that was gone I did not even recognize myself. Having lost that for a while, it is more mine now. Yes, I was resilient before, but I would lose it every six months or so, and there was this dark story underneath it all that I didn’t want to see. Now that is gone, my happiness is more real. I had heard it said that you can’t love others until you love yourself, and I did not believe it because I did love others without really loving myself. Now I love others much better—there’s less to get in the way. I do still feel my mood slipping when I am not taking care of myself in terms of sleep or nutrition, or when I am not being true to my dreams, but that is part of loving myself too.

I have no idea whether I will get married or not. I like to think it will happen, but it may not, and if it doesn’t my life will still be plenty meaningful, and it will not be a statement on my worth as an individual. Perhaps it will merely prove that boys are dumb. No, I don’t think bitterness and male bashing are the keys to happy single-hood. I have worried about the time I have wasted, but I have gotten other answers that make me feel okay about where I am and where I will end up, and so what happens in the middle should be okay as well.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Addenda – 339

I realized after the last post that I might have left the impression that my mother was not a good parent. I can’t leave that, because I don’t think that, and although she is not internet-savvy, so her stumbling upon this is not an issue, that is one of her sensitive points. I suppose she worries that she was not a good enough parent, but I think she did okay. If you have the impression that my father was not a good parent, I probably can’t contradict that one, but I can share something kind of good about him that has stayed with me.

We were talking once about when he was growing up, and they moved a lot, looking for better situations. I think he attended something like thirteen different schools. He said he didn’t like it, and he knew it wasn’t going to be like that for his kids.

It wasn’t. We moved once, when my younger sisters were born and we needed a bigger place. That was right before I started first grade. At times he would talk about the fantastic financial opportunities if he went to work in Alaska or Saudi Arabia, but ultimately we stayed here, and all five of us graduated from the same high school, with only two of us ever even having been in a different school district.

I hate moving, and I love having roots, so this worked well for me. You could argue that even the move from Wilsonville was one move too many, as my older sister and our brother had a rough time with the change, but she had a rough time with everything, and he already had one possibly bad friend there, so he might have gotten a bit rough there too. You don’t really ever know.

I am glad we came here. I know Wilsonville has grown a lot now, but at the time I doubt there would have been gifted programs and AP classes, and there certainly weren’t shopping malls (not so much for the shopping as for the hanging out). I know for many people the suburbs are a symbol of all that is wrong with the world, but I like the mix of city and country, and this is just home for me.

Regardless of my opinion on the move, the point is that my father did successfully identify something about his upbringing that he did not like, made a conscious decision not to emulate it, and was successful in its implementation. You could argue he focused on the wrong thing (like the fact that he was not speaking to his parents when he died might have been a good reason to never disown anyone, ever), but it was something.

I know that besides my always feeling vaguely ashamed of something, I also never felt understood. Any time I was punished or in trouble, they did not understand where I was coming from, and that was so frustrating. With Dad, it did not matter how carefully you phrased it—he always settled on the worst possible meaning. Therefore, the thing I would try to do differently is be really understanding, and let my children have a voice.

That’s all well and good, but I expect that I would neglect something else, and that would end up being the thing most important to them. That’s how it works right? First of all, if I am doing something right, that won’t be their point of devastation, so the whole viewpoint will be different. Also, things just go wrong, and there are obstacles and hardships, and that is life. My sisters talk about not letting their kids get fat, but trying to keep them healthy, while good, if coming from your hang-ups could end up leading to a different hang-up. Perhaps it is just as well that none of us are reproducing so far.

One book that has influenced me is “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. I would want to try and make sure that I am expressing love in a manner that is felt by the individual child. One thing that I think has been hard for me is that I am very physical, and no one else in the family is. It’s not just that it is unnatural for them to hug—it’s distasteful to them. (I believe that is why food has been a natural substitute, because it is very physical and tangible.)

Of course, looking for the individual love language is really just a part of looking at the individual, which I think is really important. Mom will tell you that she raised us all the same, but she got vastly different results. It has a lot to do with the starting material. I just want to be in tune, able to recognize and respond to needs. I am trying to follow my intuition a lot more lately, which has its own challenges, but I do believe in inspiration, and in prayer. That and I have a mental note to re-read Food Fight (Brownell and Horgen) before I have children start school, and Reviving Ophelia (Pipher) before having teenage daughters.

The other thing I wanted to revisit is that after writing about my particularly formative experiences, I think part of the reason that they cut so deep is that I did not stand up for myself. In both cases I acted like I was ignoring what was happening, but I wasn’t. In junior high, a girl did start picking on me once the way Suzy had. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but I know I said something like, “I wouldn’t talk with that face”, and I think I said something about her looking stupid. She was getting ready to hit me, and I was going to hammer her, but her friend dragged her off because after all, she had started it, and the friend was getting kind of embarrassed.

So again, we have a completely unprovoked attack on my attractiveness by a girl who is considered attractive, but instead of taking her insults to heart, I’m kind of proud of myself. I probably shouldn’t be, because I wasn’t really being very Christian, but I’m not sure that I am really evolved enough for turning the other cheek at this point.

I did have to turn the other cheek once. Well, maybe it has happened more than once, but this time it was with a mission companion. She was new in the field, and going through a rough time. I said something to her that my trainer had said to me (about interrupting), and it hurt her confidence more than I knew, and then it just kind of spiraled out of control where she kept getting offended by everything I did and started really trying to offend me. I did not take the bait, and it was the first time I felt like I really understood what being meek meant.

I did make her talk it out (it took threatening to go to the mission president), and when I realized what I had been doing I apologized, and tried to work on it, and we ended up becoming really close and doing good work together. However, for the next while I would find myself periodically feeling a little angry, and upset that I had been cast as this villain, even though we were past it.

Perhaps I needed to mention it at that point. I did kind of make one remark once after we were dogged by an appointment. I attributed it to that particular disappointment, but I think she was a little suspicious. I felt it was really important not to lash out at her though, because I needed to prove to her that I was not her enemy. Maybe it would have been possible to acknowledge my hurt without hurting her more. After the next transfer I was much worse off and entered a horrible depression anyway, and then we ended up back together and she was really supportive, so I guess it all worked out. Unless it was suppressing that hurt that left me vulnerable to the depression, but I still think it largely came from the new companion looking askance at me any time I did anything differently than her trainer had. Personally, I had always found her trainer very annoying, and had no desire to emulate her, but everyone else loved her.

The point is, it may not be right, but unless there is a really good reason, where my forbearance can help you, do not cross me or I will cut you. Probably just with words, but no promises.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Personal Narrative – 344.5

Back where I started. I am on a new medication, which led to dropping one and changing the dose on another, and I think my body is kind of adjusting now. I will say that the best advice I can give is to not get diabetes. If you have any kind of risk factor for it, do your best to eliminate all of the other risk factors. Anyway, that’s not what we are talking about now. We are talking about Weltanschauung.

I think for me the most impressive part about that word is that it is in the Microsoft Word dictionary. I have a bad tendency to stick in an extra “g”, and it lets me know I am wrong.

I am not sure that it is the best word for what I want to describe. Paradigm might also work, but as far as I can tell both of those words are really more for groups. It is not improper to use it for a person, though, so we’ll stick with it.

The point is that we all have a way of viewing the world and sorting out information about it. I feel like it is more a story than a picture, so that is why I am sticking with personal narrative for the title. I am sure that some type of frame of reference is necessary, but it can become of a set of blinders. Sometimes we filter out things that contradict our beliefs, when possibly the correct lesson is that our beliefs are wrong.

I was thinking about this after the Virginia Tech shootings. Based on writings from the shooter, he really believed that all of his fellow students were spoiled rich kids wallowing in utter depravity, and my mind was just screaming that they weren’t. It’s actually the wrong question, because even if his analysis were correct, becoming consumed by hate and killing would still be wrong. I guess that was the part that struck me because he was clearly miserable, and it was based on this fiction out of his own head.

It was also relevant because we were going through another eruption with my older sister. Her worldview is that everyone is against her, although she is not homicidal, for which we are all grateful. Still, you cannot convince her that she has some responsibility for the way her life is. Twice when we were having discussions on this topic she has been told that she is not a victim, and contradicted it. Clinging to her victim-hood seems to give her a sense of importance, and it certainly saves her from having to do a lot of work, but it does not make her happy, and again it is completely unnecessary.

So, I am and have consistently been better adjusted than those two examples, but I have also had blinders on. Because of the two events covered in previous posts I saw myself as unlovable because of my weight, and really believed that it was all anyone could see. When I did not get asked out on dates or have boyfriends, I believed it was because I was fat, but now I wonder whether it was also at least partially because I believed they would not ask me out, and that such an idea would never occur to them unless it was as a joke.

If someone had seemed interested, and I could have gotten past the suspicion that I was being set up for fate like Carrie’s (minus the psychokinetic payback), my next step would have been to wonder what was wrong with him. Then I would have probably killed things with my inferiority complex, totally overcompensating and being subservient. Without my religious beliefs, I probably would have gotten into masochism so I could at least pretend I was controlling my pain. I am really grateful that those were instilled early.
Instead, I just became this nurturing friend type. I got my gratification from lending money and giving thoughtful gifts and sometimes baking. I was actually pretty popular in terms of being well liked. It probably helped that my elementary school fed into Mountain View, but they changed the boundaries so my junior high was Five Oaks, meaning that I knew a lot of people. I did a lot of activities, though I never held any leadership positions in them (bad idea if you want scholarships), and when I worked at McDonald’s fellow students would come in all the time, so I could talk to pretty much anyone. I just didn’t get invited to parties, or on dates, or any of those social things. I was voted most intellectual for ninth grade graduation, and I was glad of it, but I really would have liked prettiest eyes.

Honestly, with some of the stories I heard later, it was probably safer not being more socially involved. Drugs and alcohol and sex never even came up. Still, it was kind of sad, and it was hard to escape. I wanted to lose weight, but when you are doing it because you are trying to fix yourself so people can love you it’s a horrible amount of pressure. Once you factor in that eating was my only coping skill, you can see how it accumulates. My conflict was that I was always feeling that this scenario was true, and always desperately hoping that it wasn’t, and really pretty set against thinking about it too much anyway. It was easier to have a cookie.

At times there were things that gave me pause. For one thing, I always was against having people fix me up, because I just knew it would always be a fat guy, and I didn’t want that. However, Karen once told me she had thought about fixing me up with a coworker that I had found really attractive. The reason she didn’t was because he was fond of alcohol and cigars, which is a turnoff for me, not because of my heft. Jennie once invited me to dinner with a friend of her husband’s, and the situation did kind of scream “set-up”, and he was also perfectly eligible. My friends thought better of me than I did, but it was still easy for me to think that they were delusional.

Another moment I remember was when another friend was getting married, and I bought her some lingerie, which my sisters made me exchange because it was too small. They swore we needed a 3X, which was my size. I couldn’t believe she was that big. She didn’t seem to be my size. I didn’t think anyone was my size, but there it was.

Probably the moment that was most fun was when my sisters and I were discussing a friend of theirs that was also very considerate, always doing thoughtful things and bringing little things, and I was saying how she was doing it to compensate for her own insecurity, and it was nice but it would be better for her if it was coming from a place of strength instead of weakness, and then I got this funny feeling, like I was a hypocrite, but I really was nice from a place of strength, and I was totally not overcompensating. It all came back to haunt me later.

So I was wrong about myself, and it made me wrong about others too. My mother did nag about my weight at times, but probably not as much as it seemed. My friends did not find me physically repulsive. I don’t know if there were boys who liked me, but it I can believe that it was possible. I hated going on job interviews because new people see you, but I almost always got the jobs I really wanted (of course, none of them were modeling jobs). I just did not allow myself to see these things, and kept my field of vision tightly controlled.

My point with this is that it is vitally important to be able to open your mind to other possibilities. I don’t know that it would have been possible for me to not get messed up in the specific way that I did. Dad could never be wrong, and somehow I think that led me to believe that people hate you and are mean to you when you mess up or are weak. I did not realize this until I was 21 and out in the mission field, and my companion began to really despise herself because I was always right and it made her feel inferior, and we had to work that out, and I came to learn that sharing weaknesses can be really helpful to others.

Mom was raised that you correct faults in children, and you brag about them to others, but complimenting them to their faces and confirming your love for them isn’t really necessary. It is not child abuse, and I love her a lot, but I feel like that was not ideal for me. Then, the first time Dad cheated on her, when I was nine, I felt a real need to protect her and take care of her, and I was probably too young for that. I don’t think I really went through normal teenage rebellion with her, though I may have covered that in my mid-twenties.

Of my siblings, my brother kind of ignored me (he was seven years older, and the only boy with four girls, which was not easy for him), my older sister resented me from birth for displacing her as the youngest and as the only girl, and although I am close to my younger sisters now, it took us a while to get there. They are five years younger, and as twins were pretty self-sufficient. I was lonely, and the first few girls of my age that were potential playmates were fairly bratty. I didn’t have a best friend until third grade. I’m just really lucky Jennie’s family moved here, or it probably would have been a lot longer. From first through fourth grade the queen of the girls was Suzy, and then Michael displaced her, but neither of them liked me. We did shop at K-mart, and sometimes Goodwill too, and there are always things that other kids can criticize you for.

This is not supposed to be a pity party, but it is just a list of ingredients that made it fairly easy for me to be susceptible the way that I was. I have mentioned before that under the 9 personality types model, I am a people pleaser. What I did not specify was that the underlying emotional wound for that is shame, and yes, I always had this sense that I was not good enough, and that I was bad.

So, I don’t necessarily think that I could have avoided getting to where I was at fourteen. It does seem that it should have been possible to snap out of it sooner. If I had been willing to shine a light into the dark corners, and find the truth of things, well, the truth does actually set you free.

This is why the open mind is important. You need to be able to see when you are wrong, especially when it is hurting you, and leaving you open to hurting others. We need to pay attention to what is going on, and take times for quiet contemplation, and we need to be brave because some things seem like they will really hurt, even if in the end dealing with them hurts a lot less than not dealing with them.

It was probably easy for me to avoid this showdown because I really was very functional. I would just get these dark periods about twice a year when a little thing would set me off and I would be angry at everything, but really just about not feeling loved, and I would fight with my mother and in about three days it would pass and I would be okay again, and I would not seem like a doormat because I cracked a lot of jokes and I did have some spirit, but I was not taking care of the most important things.

Really, what I was doing was building up pain until it could not be contained anymore, having some slip out, and then regaining control, putting the cover back over the hole. Next time will be about when I lost the cover.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Sporkphelia -- ?

Why no number? Did I encounter a weight that was so horrible I could not bear to display it? Did I chicken out of the whole thing? Or did the battery on the digital scale die? Yeah, it was the battery. It’s not exactly convenient, but it’s not the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. I’m actually not sure what the worst thing is, but today’s topic is a key contender. Yes, we are going to review that thing that happened when I was fourteen.

So, to start off, I will say that I have always been very boy-aware, and that was especially true in junior high. The big thing from about fifth grade on was going steady, but I had crashed and burned so spectacularly the time I tried it that I disgustedly swore off having a boyfriend until high school.

(Basically, I had liked Stephen since fifth grade when he was new. Part of being his friend was that I was there for him when Lora dumped him. By the time he got around to asking me out the next year, I was initially thrilled, but suddenly felt trapped and realized that I was more interested in both Geoff and Jason, and so I dumped him abruptly and cruelly the next Monday, even though I had suggested that we just go till summer, since we would be going to different schools, and I felt like I was more evil than Lora, and fickle, and not ready for this at all.)

Anyway, so I was interested in boys, and thought about them a lot, but I was not planning on going steady with anyone or thinking in those terms. One day at lunch, the kids at the table next to us were goofing off, and Jason (a different one, whom I have never mentioned before) asked me to go steady (we called it going with someone). I ignored the question. Then, another guy there, Matt, started asking, and yet another kid, Steve, started egging him on, and they just wouldn’t let it go. They kept it up all through the lunch period and even followed me to my next class until I finally shouted “yes” at the door to get rid of them.

Junior high school age boys being stupid is nothing new, nor is horsing around at lunch, so it shouldn’t be so such a big deal. There were probably two factors that made it worse. One is something that even the few times I have shared this story, I have not shared, but I am going for it now, is that after school as I was heading for the bus, they were out there and Steve came up and started ripping my shirt open. It was a snap up shirt so that was pretty easy to do. I instinctively brought my knee up to his groin, and just kept walking, snapping back up. It just added that extra level of shame to everything that had already happened.

The real problem is just that I was a joke. Even when I kicked Steve, he just laughed it off. One of them said, “Her daddy taught her how to kick.” Everything about me was a joke for them. Because there were parts of them asking me out earlier that were a little exhilarating. It was attention from a boy—that’s good right? Even though these were not the boys I wanted, they were paying attention to me. Except it was ugly, and demeaning.

The real message that I ended up carrying away was that a boy liking me would be a joke. And since my other core belief was that I was fat, I figured that was why it was a joke, so no one would ever love me until I lost weight, and as long as I was fat I just wasn’t good enough. It should have been extremely motivating, but it was hard to take healthy actions with that much emotional baggage, especially when it is largely unacknowledged. I mean, yes, I consciously did not expect boys to like me, because of my weight, but really taking a hard look at why I felt that way, or how deeply I felt it, was just off the table.

From then on I just always kept myself in friend mode, with the hope that someday I would be able to fix myself, and then someone would love me. My happiness was always going to be deferred until I lost weight.

So, one problem with developing the core belief at six that I was fat was that it really became a self-fulfilling prophesy when it should have been very possible to grow up healthy with a normal body weight, when I never even knew that was an option. Likewise, I may have missed out on some key things by believing myself not capable of love. Looking back now, I can see some cases where people might have had crushes on me. They would not necessarily have amounted to anything, but I sometimes wonder now if it was really that boys were never interested in me because I was fat, or maybe that boys were never interested in me because I never seemed remotely available. As it is, my prom dates were a friend who would later turn out to be gay in tenth grade, stag and really shouldn’t have gone but felt like I needed to because I was in charge of the chaperones in eleventh grade, and a blind date set up for me by someone else my senior year.

When I was doing my writing therapy, there were a lot of regrets, most of them having to do with boys, and I thought they were related to fear. That may be partly true, but on a lot of them I can look back and see that it wasn’t even fear, it was me not even believing I was worthy to take the chance, and that is even more depressing.

The other part that frustrates me, with both cases, is that I didn’t even like these people. Suzy was not nice, and she had a pinched walnut kind of face. Adam thought she was really cute, but I’m the one he kissed when opportunity struck, so even if he was a freak, on the scale where she is adorable I am still desirable. As for Matt and Jason and Steve, they were so far off my register that I didn’t even have code names for them, and that was a list of about forty boys who had code names. They weren’t good looking or smart or interesting, and yet they have had the biggest discernible influence on my life. Why couldn’t I have listened to someone with some merit?

I doubt they were trying to emotionally handicap me and tarnish the next thirty to twenty years of my life—not because they were truly nice or anything, but I doubt they were that ambitious. But right now all I can do is focus on what I am going to do with the next thirty.

The good news is, there is only one major tragic recounting left, and it is actually the most positive one, because it was the turning point. It was just hard getting there. However next time I will be waxing philosophic about Weltanschauung.

For now, I have included pictures of me at seven and fourteen. They look a lot different now.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Hair of the Spork – 337.5

Don’t get too excited by the downward movement yet. This is still right around the same five pounds that I always lose and gain territory. What happens in the next week should be critical.

Anyway, last weekend was my annual foray into standup comedy with the ward talent show, and I riffed a little bit on attraction. Although I can fall for people without these traits, I do have certain criteria to which I tend to be attracted. Since falling for one specific person, dark hair, light complexion, and blue or green eyes really get my attention. I am very drawn to kind eyes and a good-humored smile. Finally, the two times that I was blindsided by love at first sight, they both happened to be tall and have good hair and well-defined biceps.

It wasn’t something that I had thought about extensively, but one time when I was coming away from an encounter with Cute Cafeteria Guy, and savoring the moment mentally, I realized that the way I was looking up to him was kind of familiar. My prime range appears to be 6’2” to 6’4”. I have no rational explanation for it; it’s just the way things work for me. Maybe it is a matter of opposites attracting, because I am short, have no upper body strength or definition, and my hair is problematic.

My mother has curly hair, but mine is curlier. My brother has coarse hair, but it is fairly straight. My younger sisters have some wave, and their hair is very thick, but it is pretty smooth and silky. My hair is thick, coarse, and so curly as to be more frizzy (seriously, it ties itself into little knots), and quite dry. Also, from my father’s side of the family, the gray started moving in pretty young. It’s a difficult combination, and has led to quite a bit of angst.

The first trauma I remember was when I was about four or five. Our neighbor cut my hair into a pixie shag, and Mom was not crazy about the shag part (I guess because she had to brush it), so she sent me back for a full pixie. Shortly afterwards we were at K-mart, and in those days (at least in Tualatin), you had to wait for a buzzer to go off for the restroom doors to open. As I was waiting for this, a strange woman helpfully moved me over to the door of the men’s room, because clearly I was confused. I was too mortified to correct her, but I was very indignant when I went back to my mother. I had already liked it better when there was still some shag, and now just because I let her have her way, I now looked like a boy! Well, I suppose if there must be gender confusion, it is better to get it out of the way sooner rather than later.

Over time I was just never happy with salon haircuts. Now by salon, I mean Supercuts and Great Clips, so you can’t really expect that much, but it was vexing to me that I was paying people to leave me unhappy with my hair when I could do it to myself for free. I understand the pitfalls. First of all, standard procedure is to cut the hair when wet, and to cut all of it the same length. When my hair dries, the individual strands kink up to different lengths, so you just can’t guarantee the result. Generally speaking, the worst thing they were doing was cutting my bangs too short. I hate the way I look with my forehead uncovered. I used to think it was because of the scars (one from a car accident and one from chicken pox), but I think it is actually the shape. The point is, I eventually started cutting my own hair, and I still do.

I am starting to wonder if I could have something better. Yes, I can generally avoid slashing my bangs, but it is really hard to get the back right, and the top is sometimes hard, and I usually stab myself with the scissors at least once.

I am also thinking of letting my hair grow out. I had kept it longer for a while. I was able to amaze people by pulling it straight, because the ponytail would rest right at the bottom of my neck, and then I would stretch it out and it would be in the middle of my back, and my friends enjoyed the optical illusion. It’s just that one time when I was trimming I got carried away, and I justified it because after all, I had it in a ponytail all the time, and what was the point of having the length if I never did anything with it?

It’s still a valid point, but it is nice to have the potential to do something. I have thought this many times, and tried, but the period of growing one’s hair out is really pretty irritating, and I have also caved before getting very far.

Still, I have done it before. I know I have because in a video from my senior year, I have my hair in a banana clip cascading down my back, and yet in junior high I had cut off everything but a rat tail. I remember this clearly because Mom hated the tail, so I braided it and cut it off, but kept it on a bobby pin to reattach. I did not tell my friends about this, and one time when I was at Washington Square with Karen, she started playing with it and I knew what was going to happen but I didn’t tell her, and it came off in her hand and she really freaked out. Also I tried to bleach it by soaking it in peroxide, but it did not work. Good times.

Anyway, here I am trying to grow it out again. As it gets longer and thicker, it is taking me back to the 80’s, but not in a good way. The other day I was thinking I had Billy Hufsy hair, and I never liked him. I guess it will pass.

I have often thought about shaving my head, so that I could just start over, and maybe it would grow back more manageable. There are two things that hold me back. One is that as a stout, capable single woman in her mid-thirties, I cannot afford to look any more butch. It is just not a statement I want to make. Since I have changed job positions and am now rating everyone else’s work, a few coworkers are calling me a nazi, so I guess I could try working the skinhead vibe instead, but it’s not really an improvement and how do you differentiate? Combat boots go either way, and to a lesser extent, so do tattoos.

Regardless, even if I worked out all of these issues, there is my other fear that it would not grow back all the way, and I would be left with bald patches. I know I am trying to move away from fear-based decision-making, but some things are just too scary. I just need to toughen up and power through.

Maybe I should try headbands.