Has this ever happened to you: Someone is trying to describe another person, a person you’ve never met, and all it takes is one story and you’ve got the picture?
The other day my friend was telling me about her sister-in-law but was having a hard time finding the appropriate words to describe her. Finally she told a little story about a time when they went to a bridal shower together and her sister-in-law did not bring a gift. She claimed she didn’t have the money to buy things like bridal shower gifts, but later that day she spent 50 dollars getting her nails done.
I nodded along. Oh, one of those. But instead of being outraged at this tacky behavior, I panicked. How quickly this little story turned me against a person I’ve never met. How easily it lined up a host of other assumptions about a woman who might have just needed to get those nails done to feel pretty. And most importantly, what stories were people telling about me? What annoying behaviors of mine were being repeated in conversation?
I’ve always tried to be a very self aware person. I’ve tried to recognize my faults and own up to them even if they are unfixable. But the problem with being self aware is that you can never actually be all that self aware. Despite our best efforts, we are stuck inside ourselves. We can never be on the outside looking in.
In some of my darkest hours I imagine the terrible conversations people might have about me. I like to think it’s as simple as oh, she’s one of those mom bloggers or oh, she’s one of those who never has an umbrella when it’s raining (both true), but I know it’s probably not. I know it’s probably much worse and includes words like self-involved and overdramatic and eats too much cake. When I think about someone describing me to someone I’ve never met, I imagine it’s a lot like describing a poorly dressed sloth.
Do you want to know what kind of person I am? I’m the kind of person who is forever apologizing for her messy car but never does anything to fix it. I’m the kind of person who habitually oversleeps and pretends it’s just because I’m fighting a cold. I’m the kind of person who always brings boxed brownies to potlucks because it’s easy. I’m the kind of person who secretly wonders if the surprise party is actually for me.
I am the worst.
The good news is, I know you are too. I know that even if your hair is always combed and even if you always eat organic celery, you probably don’t brush your teeth long enough and secretly eat ice cream straight from the carton. I know you pee in the pool and fart in the car and don’t always recycle. I know you gossip. I know you forget to wash your hands on purpose. I know you watch The Jersey Shore.
Don’t worry. Your secret is safe with me.