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Scheherazade in Blue Jeans
freelance alchemist
I was an unattractive teenager. I do not say this to fish for… 
24th-Jun-2010 04:31 pm
Hearth
I was an unattractive teenager.

I do not say this to fish for compliments, to ask you to soothe my ego, to get assurances that everyone feels that way. I was a cute *child* - hell, I did runway modeling as a child. But I had a tremendously awkward adolescence, compounded by the dread big '80s glasses/braces combo and hair that couldn't decide if it was straightwavycurly (it's still like that, but I have a better sense of what to do with it now), and why did I have bangs? Bangs were never a good idea for me. I had bangs because my mother had bangs. I was scrawny and chose clothes poorly, sometimes deliberately, because I did not actually want people looking at me.

Because when people noticed me? Bad stuff happened.

You know that girl. There is always that girl, the one *everyone* picks on. The one who gets the worst from the boys *and* the girls. That, dear reader, was me, through middle and a chunk of high school.

So the first umptyzillion times a boy told me he liked me, I knew for a fact that he was lying. That he was trying to catch me out, make me believe someone could be interested in me, and laugh at me with his friends. Because the chorus of friends would be snickering just around the corner. Middle and high school boys? Not actually very subtle!

Things changed in stages. My later adolescence was pretty much spent in junior loony bins, which did not help, and in the wilderness survival camp, which... sort of did? It helped in that, removed from my situation and plunged into a different one that was abusive in a different way, I started lashing back. I got verbal, but I turned into a little rage monster for a while, in the junior loony bins and there. It didn't help, but it showed me that this was not static, that at least I could react to things in a different way.

Living in Utah my senior year helped. I had the closest thing to a clean slate I'd ever had. Everyone knew I was some sort of juvenile delinquent, because I was living in a group home, but otherwise? None of those people were there in that middle-school hallway. Which is something for a girl who'd been in a closed school system, where no one ever forgot that one thing you did in first grade. I dyed my hair purple and cut it asymmetrically, I went to school in menswear and granny boots; I was Not From Around Here, so I could pretty much do and be whatever I wanted. Exotic!

I married the first boy who ever liked me for my brain. You totally should marry someone who likes you for your brain! But not necessarily the first one, and not necessarily straight out of high school. That did not last.

Honestly, I did a lot of flailing. I dated way too many people just because they were genuinely interested in me, because it felt like I should feel lucky that someone was. (I bold that because it is key and because I only freaking realized it a scant few years ago, and because maybe you were doing the same thing and had not yet realized. I bold because I care.) Because I never feel like anyone is.

This is not a plea for reassurance! I'm saying this not so people can pet me and tell me I'm pretty! I'm just saying that, due to how I grew up, I am sort of conditioned to think that the default state of humans = not interested in me in a romantic way.

This bewilders people. Because if you hang out with me, or even just see me dashing by at a con, you know that I am a fairly confident person in general. I am confident and self-assured and an excellent public speaker. I have skills! And I'll joke about having a fabulous ass, because y'know what? I do. I am not blind to this.

But I am confident in my writing. I am confident in topics in which I Know Stuff, whether it be physics or comic books or mythology. If I know I know something? You will never know I'm shy. I pretty much know how to dress for my body shape now (it keeps changing, argh, but pretty much), and I have learned that if I stick nifty things in my hair it looks not-bad, and I have learned that fabulous jewelry makes me feel fabulous. I have a big laugh and I am very at ease with my friends. Yes.

Which is why, after the second time she pointed out at Wiscon that someone was interested in me and I responded with a o.O, sterling_raptor asked as tactfully as she could, "Are you always that oblivious?"

(Seriously, that was not rude; Sterling and I are like that.)

And I admitted with a laugh that I really, really am. And I think my history is probably why.

I can look at myself objectively and say yeah, I'm smart, I can be funny, there's the ass, sure, I can see how someone would be interested in me. But I always assume that the default is that they aren't, because why would they be?

I never claimed to make sense. I totally kick ass/why would people be into me? Six impossible things before breakfast, and all held in my brain simultaneously.

And thus I am always abjectly terrified to ask. Someone can be giving off what seem to everyone else to be massive signals of Interest. And sometimes I just don't see them because I think we're just chatting as friends - and sometimes, the big self-doubting times, I'm back in the middle-school hallway with one of the Popular Boys asking me to the dance and not quite hiding his smirk.

I am always afraid to ask because I am afraid the person will laugh. That I'll get a "...me? Interested in you?"

I mean, damn. Do we ever get over middle school?

This post brought to you by me wondering if a particular person likes me. Y'know, likes me likes me. Because my radar is broken. So, y'know. If you do! Keep in mind that my radar is broken! Obvious statements are required!

Really obvious!

I am saying!

That is all.
Comments 
24th-Jun-2010 08:41 pm (UTC)
um, hi? I so totally grok this. And have empathy for some of it. Seriously, I like you, but not like, uh, I needtojumpintobedwithyou. But I would, if you asked, if it would be happy-making for you. Cus, yea, I'm like that. I like my friends to be happy.
24th-Jun-2010 08:42 pm (UTC)
As someone who jokes about having taken a 10 point Obliviousness disadvantage during character generation, I hear you. Our history shapes us all. In my case, not nearly as intensely as you describe...but yeah. I can think of far too many things that happened in middle school, in high school, and even after I got to college. (One missed opportunity in college, when I later recounted it to a friend with the benefit of years of hindsight, evoked a reply of "that's some weapons-grade obliviousness right there". It's true.)

Even now, I haven't managed to move past my fear of rejection. It's easier not to notice the signs of someone's interest than it is to bear the pain of finding out it's not real.

Even now, with the perspective and hindsight I have from looking back, and the confidence I have in other areas of my life, and all that.

Even now.
(Deleted comment)
24th-Jun-2010 08:45 pm (UTC)
I dated way too many people just because they were genuinely interested in me, because it felt like I should feel lucky that someone was.

I could have written this.

Honestly, I could have written a LOT of what you just wrote.

No... we never really get over middle school. The first time a guy gave me his phone number -- not even someone FROM my school -- I was terrified, lost it, & stopped talking to him at all. Looking back? I think he really did like me.
24th-Jun-2010 08:51 pm (UTC)
I dated way too many people just because they were genuinely interested in me, because it felt like I should feel lucky that someone was.

I almost married someone based on that. A wonderful person, mind, and a good friend today, but dead wrong as a lover or a spouse.
24th-Jun-2010 09:15 pm (UTC)
I did marry that person! Because he liked me for me, and was a good person™. I was not so smart back then.
24th-Jun-2010 08:51 pm (UTC) - its the running joke in my fam/friend circle
I'm soooooooooooooo glad I'm not the only one. My friends have had to repeatedly tell me that a person was interested in me and I was oblivious. At first it was because I was an awkward teen with 0 self esteem. I have esteem but I'm still oblivious on guys advances. though I have a lot of funny stories, like the cute waiter who came every 5 minutes in a crowded restaurant on a sat. night or the guy at the movie theater who shared his expensive popcorn. Hell I couldn't even tell current love interest was flirting at me until folks pointed it out. Yes, I'm sad. I know I'm beautiful and that I'm awesome as a person and have pretty eyes and a nice ass, and I've also dated people mistakenly because I felt lucky for someone to be interested in me, and sadly stayed in too many relationships because I thought this was it as far as relationships go. sorry this comment is so long.
24th-Jun-2010 08:58 pm (UTC)

I am much the same.
This is compounded because I flirt with everyone --
And then run away as soon as someone shows interest.
(My best friend loves pointing this out to me. >.< )
24th-Jun-2010 09:04 pm (UTC)
You know that girl. There is always that girl, the one *everyone* picks on. The one who gets the worst from the boys *and* the girls. That, dear reader, was me, through middle and a chunk of high school.

Yep. I know that girl, because I was that girl. Solidarity, sister. And I really do hope that so-and-so is into you :)
24th-Jun-2010 09:05 pm (UTC) - As my SO would say:
Get ready to punch him in the nose: "You're a woman; you're not expected to make sense."

I do this on a regular basis, the complete contradiction thing; there's a big disconnect somewhere. For me, it went something like "I want people to be attracted to me, but if someone tells me they think I'm beautiful and/or attractive it's probably because they know me and like me so they're biased so I don't have to take that seriously." Weight/image issues tangle me up. It's irrational and therefore hard to fight.
24th-Jun-2010 09:12 pm (UTC)
I also have a busted radar thanx to the middle school years. And lately that's been exacerbated by my (poor?) decision to hang out with drunk comedians all the time. They have a habit of sobering up in the morning to forget why they gave me that number in the first place. "What? Me like you? What???"

I don't think they're like that to be mean on purpose, but they make me wish DragonCon was more than once a year :-/ We fen often suffer from social blindspots, but there are also plenty of people in our communities who *get* that better than those who are not.
24th-Jun-2010 11:10 pm (UTC)
Please remember that most comedians are failed human beings.

Love comedy, hate comedians. It's why I stopped doing standup.
(Deleted comment)
24th-Jun-2010 09:20 pm (UTC)
First off, I really hope that whoever it is happens to read this post and make a really obvious response. I think you deserve maximum joy in your life, so says me, 'cause you as awesome.

Second, I have a huge "Yup, been there, not noticed that" response to what you've said. Special K and I are bonded down DEEEEP, but she was just ready to write me off as "not interested" when I finally woke up and figured out she was flirting. I mean she lay on my bed at Pennsic and asked if I had any free time to spend with her at war... and I whipped out a printed spreadsheet of my shifts, classes, and appointments... and said NO. DOH!

So, a toast, May Our Clues Arrive Sooner, Rather Than Later. Skol!

Edited at 2010-06-24 09:24 pm (UTC)
24th-Jun-2010 11:14 pm (UTC)
*smile*

I spent 66.6 hours up with a massive crush of mine around my birthday years ago. We determined to actually stay up until 3:33 AM (my actual birthtime).

Punch drunk with fatigue, we managed to chat aimlessly until the hour arose. We yelled happy brithday, I mentioned the old tradition that when the clock is all the same number you get a wish - and since it was my birthday, it should be a birthday wish.

She leaned close and said, "Well then you should wish for whatever you want."

I looked at the clock, it clicked over to 3:34.

"Damn." I said. "Too late."

We then fell asleep.
24th-Jun-2010 09:23 pm (UTC)
Yeah, me too. Until I taught myself to be a courtesan (without the sex) starting at age 17. I wasn't really good at being me until I was about 24.
I *almost* married the first guy who wanted me for my brain...then I realized that really he wanted me for my insecurity. When I started getting really confident at 20, he broke off our engagement to break another engagement with a girl who was far needier than I was. I learned a lot from that too.
NYC holds a special place for me because I really learned how to be *me* when I was there.
(And I understand why you wouldn't like it there, although I'd love the chance to show you the NYC I knew and maybe give you some enjoyment of the city.)
24th-Jun-2010 09:24 pm (UTC)
I *almost* married the first guy who wanted me for my brain...then I realized that really he wanted me for my insecurity. When I started getting really confident at 20, he broke off our engagement to break another engagement with a girl who was far needier than I was. I learned a lot from that too.

Hey, I dated that guy! Or, y'know, someone just like him.
(Deleted comment)
24th-Jun-2010 09:32 pm (UTC)
I can look at myself objectively and say yeah, I'm smart, I can be funny, there's the ass, sure, I can see how someone would be interested in me. But I always assume that the default is that they aren't, because why would they be?

Me, too.
(Deleted comment)
24th-Jun-2010 09:39 pm (UTC)
So the first umptyzillion times a boy told me he liked me, I knew for a fact that he was lying. That he was trying to catch me out, make me believe someone could be interested in me, and laugh at me with his friends. Because the chorus of friends would be snickering just around the corner.

Augh! Kids did that to me in middle school too. What a bunch of bratty twerps. I wasn't quite smart enough to catch on so quick, though. It took me several times before I realized they were tricking me with that bull.

So yeah. I'm oblivious too. I guess I never learned how to pick up on those signals that other people learn, because to me I equated them early on with "fake" or something.
24th-Jun-2010 09:55 pm (UTC)
"My radar's not broken, they just never came back to finish the installation." ;)

Seriously though, I've stumbled blind though relationships all my life - oblivious to those who really liked me, wary of those wanting something from me & aiming for those I never had a snowball's hope in hell with... It's not unlike playing bumpercars while blindfolded.

Maybe now that I've turned 40 I'll learn better... (but I wouldn't bet money on it.)
24th-Jun-2010 11:19 pm (UTC)
Me neither. :(
24th-Jun-2010 10:05 pm (UTC)
YES. I know so many of the emotions and responses you're talking about, even if my actual experiences were not as dramatic as yours. I am marked in many of the same ways. Someone does have to pretty much lay it right out there for me to be certain that they're interested.

The side effect of this is that, if I happen to be interested in someone, I've grown bolder about laying it right out there, because who knows, they could be just as oblivious or uncertain as I am, right? And, coming from a poly-involved-but-available position, I can be philosophical about getting no for an answer. There's enough to go around, and then some. Why, the world is FULL of attractive people, and some of them seem to think I'm one of them!

I won't ever get over being delighted by this, but it's gradually becoming less of a surprise. May it be so for you as well.
(Deleted comment)
24th-Jun-2010 10:28 pm (UTC)
I was *that* girl in school. It started in Elementary school though because I didn't know how to hide being different. Genius level IQ as an adult pleasing child is NOT a blessing.

And then I hit the Olive on a Toothpick step of adolescence got the HIDEOUS cheap glasses and the braces (I totally snapped on headgear). My mom cut my hair until I was 16. She wasn't good at it.

I am not totally oblivious when people are interested but...I still think they are pretending just to be mean because that happened about 8 months ago. I got used for someone's sick game and dear Gods did that hurt.

So me telling you I'd like to date you if time and space could fold and tesseract was a big huge deal fronted by a whole lot of bad ass bravado.

When your heart gets utterly stomped it is devastatingly painful, but hey...you only live once, right? I can let her still have power over me, or I can make my own future.

So yeah...Hey there purty lady with the ginormous sexy brain!
25th-Jun-2010 04:02 pm (UTC)
Lady, you kick so much ass on so many levels.

And also right back at you, o shiny one. Stupid geography!
24th-Jun-2010 10:31 pm (UTC)
You know that girl. There is always that girl, the one *everyone* picks on. The one who gets the worst from the boys *and* the girls.

They used to throw things at my hair to see what would stick inside.

Money. Gum. Food. Rocks.

They tricked me into singing on the school steps at the height of lunch hour, rushed me, swarmed me, and pelted me with change.

They were all glad when I left.
24th-Jun-2010 10:41 pm (UTC)
I dated way too many people just because they were genuinely interested in me, because it felt like I should feel lucky that someone was.

You bold that because it is FUCKING COMMON. (I still have to fight that habit ALL THE GOD DAMN TIME.)
24th-Jun-2010 10:43 pm (UTC)
And now, reading the rest of this.

You know that this sort of thing (different background, same absolute certainty about how I am not a target for romantic or sexual interest) is why I am oblivious and deeply insecure and shy in a way people who know me think isn't true.
24th-Jun-2010 10:45 pm (UTC)
I was stunned by how familiar this post was tome. I was that girl and I still see her in the mirror. Every day.
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