Picture, if you will, a woman torn apart by fear. Every moment spent in the company of others, a strain on her psyche. Born with a heightened sense of empathy and lacking the ability to understand normative social interactions, she goes each day – each week – each year of her young life wanting to be close to others but unable to withstand the brutality of their emotions. Picture, if you will, a woman who slowly learns to cope with her social disability by hiding who she is and tolerating those who love her although she has no interest in them…
If I had to choose a character that I am most like, it would be the Cheshire cat. All interpretations: the book version, the quirky-cute one from Disney, the homicidal one from Once Upon A Time in Wonderland, the creepy one from the Johnny Depp movie, and especially the annoyingly cryptic, emaciated and blood-stained one from Alice: Madness Returns. When I’m upset – sad or angry – I smile and laugh more than ever. Most people assume I’m happy all the time or just extremely immature. It’s a coping mechanism that I have perfected over the last eight years. Moms aren’t supposed to have negative emotions in front of their kids (although I’ve obviously failed that standard recently).
This week has been awful, yet I’m still wandering around the office, chatting up as many people as possible. Yesterday, I had quite a few hilarious conversations about men with a few of the women in my department. At one point, I started telling them about some of the guys I dated in college; they were laughing after every sentence, and I suddenly realized that my dating history is a comedian’s dream. (My current life is also worthy of a laugh track, but we’ll get to all that later.)
While mentioning that I may have accidentally started seeing someone this week, I went off on a tangent about younger guys. It went something like this:
I’ve only ever dated three guys who were younger than me. One was during college, and he was an alcoholic. It wasn’t the normal college partying; the guy loved vodka, and he was a poet. Not a good combination. He thought he was the next Jack Kerouac – not something he should have ever bragged about – and his poetry was that awful “woe is me” crap. In fact, I remember reading one with the word “woe” in it. At least he was too drunk to notice that I was lying about how inspired I was. That guy actually dropped out of college his final semester, thus becoming his dream.
No. Wait! I’ve dated four guys who were younger than me!
The conversation at the end of the day was also fun. More of the ladies are getting into the whole “let’s set Jane up with someone” game. A couple of them started asking me what I was looking for in a man: my ideal.
He would preferably participate in No-shave November even when it’s not November. (Yes, that really was the first thing I said.) No smoking or drugs. Intelligence is a plus. He doesn’t have to have a degree, but he should enjoy reading and know how to carry on a conversation without making me cringe. Attractive. Older than me if possible, but, if not, he should at least look older because I hate feeling like a cradle robber. I don’t care if he has kids, as long as he likes mine and is capable of outsmarting the boy who thinks he knows everything. Non-violent. Handy…because things seem to break around me. Observant or detail-oriented because I’m oblivious.
Maybe look for someone who’s the opposite of me; then, he can make up for all of my shortcomings.
When I was in high school, I couldn’t talk to anyone. People would say hello, and then I’d just look at them until they got uncomfortable and went away. No exaggeration. Now, my bosses call me the socialite; barely a week goes by that I’m not getting stern looks for being chatty. I get my work done, however, so I’ve never been officially reprimanded. They would have to write themselves up first, since they wander around way more than I do.
I almost wrote just now that I don’t know when I stopped being a recluse, but that’s not accurate. I remember specifically when and why. A year ago, I started getting to know a certain astronaut (and learned said astronaut was mid-divorce). But the biggest change in my social demeanor happened in February, when I realized that a lot of people actually liked me, and some even believed in me.
My coworkers have become my family, which is only a little strange, all things considered.