Early in life, I learned that I was different. And it wasn’t something I wanted to be. I longed to be like everyone else. I wanted to play with the cool kids, like roller skating, play with Barbie dolls and do all the things that normal little girls do.
Instead, I read books while sitting under a tree in the park. Alone. I had friends, but I made them one at a time. In my post toddler years it was Sandy Evanuick who lived a few houses down from mine. Who had long brown pigtails and had to wear saddle shoes – which I thought were really cool until I started grade school. Ooops, not so much. Sandy and I were inseperable until they moved away to California. I was heartbroken and kept to my books and forgot about making friends until junior high. Dorothy Rehbine, another brunette, became a fast friend and remained so all the way through high school. But then she married her high school sweetheart and I moved onto other things.
Try as I might, I never got the hang of being popular or cool. I dressed weird (I guess), I acted weird, didn’t seem to be into the swing of things. With the exception of Rudy Richards whom I met in kindergarten and who harrassed me throughout gradeschool, boys didn’t seem too interested in me. Nor I in them. Boys were icky and smelly, not very smart and didn’t like to read.
Yes, I knew I was different. I knew that I was never going to be a cheerleader, a yuppie, a fundraiser, politician or celebrity. You had to be charming and pretty and popular and know the code of the popular people. You needed to understand how to flirt and use your wiles to get what you wanted. You weren’t supposed to just say exactly what you thought, or wanted or believed. You weren’t supposed to be indifferent to parties and proms, frilly dresses, hairstyling and batting eyelashes.
Instead of peers, I sought out adults to converse with. I frequently had conversations with my mother over cups of tea, discussing the dynamics of family politics and diplomatic and not so diplomatic ways to deal with same.
I started a babysitting service, lied about my age and worked as a waitress, bought my own books and clothes, cut my own hair. I employed my own brain to execute my life, such as it was. I was my own person. Lonely as it was sometimes, it was to be my path in life. And most of the time it was okay with me. Most of the time I didn’t mind that my phone didn’t ring off the hook on Friday nights and had so many invitations that my biggest problem was which one to decline.
But sometimes I wondered – What is it like to be popular? What is it like to be normal? How would my life be different if I had been?
Did I become a writer because I was different, or was I different because I was a writer? Did I just know my mind and myself so early in life that I effectively bypassed my childhood and moved straight into adulthood? Mom used to say I was born 40. Maybe she was right.
What about you? Are you different? When did it first dawn on you? Do you wish you weren’t?