Things That No One Knows

It’s Wednesday. I’m waiting for a guy from Home Depot to come over and measure something in our house so it can be fixed. Naturally, a writing prompt seems in order while I wait.

Here’s a good one:

Write down a list of things that you think no one knows about you.

1. I hate the furrowed lines between my eyebrows. They’ve developed from aging and from sun exposure and from my dogged refusal to wear my glasses as often as I should have throughout my twenties and thirties. I sometimes Google words like “Restylane” and “Botox” and “Juvederm” and then look at the accompanying images to see if I might be brave–and vain–enough to have the same treatments. I write down “call dermatologist” on my to-do list, but never seem to cross off that item.

2. I own too many pairs of jeans. Some pairs no longer fit me, but I still store them at the bottom of my bedroom dresser. Sometimes, I open the drawer and shame myself for not fitting into them.

3. I don’t care about chocolate. At all. I can’t stand that stereotypical connection between women and chocolate. I could give two shits about chocolate fondue or death by chocolate or Godiva anything. Yeesh.

4. I don’t like terms like “mommy juice” and “mommy’s sippy cup.” They actually trigger me a wee bit. I hail from a long family history of addiction, and have greatly suffered from (and triumphed over) its effects. I have felt guilty when I’ve made reference to wine and Bailey’s in my social media postings, because I don’t want to further stereotypes about frazzled, alcohol-swilling women and excessive drinking habits. I now drink less alcohol than I ever have before. Given my upbringing, I’m also slightly embarrassed at becoming a lightweight in my late forties. It’s an Irish badge of honor to hold your liquor and drink people under the table, which I used to be able to do. Not anymore. What a dichotomy I am.

5. I think I’m an introverted extrovert. Or an extroverted introvert. Not entirely sure which. I do know that I have every intention of attending the girls’ night/dinner/coffee/class/weekend/holiday get-together, but as the event date and time loom closer, I quietly panic and think that no one there actually likes me, or that I’ll say something so stupid that I’ll be banned from attending a subsequent outing. This is usually why I’m five to ten minutes late to everything.

6. I’m an only child. When parents of only children ask me if they should have another child–I want to say yes, but never say so. One of the greatest sadnesses in my life is that I don’t have siblings. How can you say that to parents who are facing fertility or financial issues surrounding additional pregnancies, and debating whether or not to risk their security or health for a larger family? You can’t. So I smile and say, “Birthdays and Christmases were wonderful in my house when I was growing up.” And I leave it at that.

7. I know that I shouldn’t wear high heels anymore, but I am short and I am vain and I am frightened of losing whatever sexiness I still possess–and heels feed all of those insecurities. So, I wear them. And then I hobble the next day. Which is decidedly un-sexy.

8. I would prefer to be at home, in my pajamas, under a blanket, watching a classic film or reading a book. Always. Yet, I also suffer from FOMO and am usually unsettled after an hour or so of such behavior, wondering what else I should be doing or where I should be going. I also suffer from the fear of being judged for using the term FOMO. I’m not kidding.

9. The weekend edition of The New York Times brings me great joy and unparalleled anxiety. I berate myself if I don’t read it cover to cover–which I never manage to do; I feel obsolete and provincial these days whenever I read the Styles section; I worry about international conflicts that I don’t fully understand, even though I’ve tried to read relevant articles several times over and still can’t follow the narrative; yet, I never fail to find an article in the Sunday paper that makes me cry, or which gives me hope for humanity.

10. People who meet me say that I am confident, and dynamic. (Also, a big mouth.) That might be true. I am also terribly shy, and have worked for the better part of 30 years to overcome that shyness. I may be “making it,” but that confidence undoubtedly arose from decades of “faking it.”

11. I love to be alone. I crave solitude. But only for a few hours, and then I get bored or worried. See #8.

12. I have struggled with my weight since I’ve been 9 years old. It has been a lifelong trauma for me–to be an overweight, then skinny, then once-again-overweight woman. A kind endocrinologist recently told me that I need to simply accept myself–my set point, my bone structure, my genetics, my muscle strength, my me-ness, all of it. I could tell that the endocrinologist found me somewhat attractive, and was trying to be appropriately encouraging. However, the endocrinologist was male. He was nice, but I don’t think he understands what it is to be a woman out here in the world.

13. I am really, really afraid to go to the doctor. Massively afraid.  I sometimes shake while sitting on the exam table, or have my blood pressure skyrocket so high that the nurse has to take it again at the end of the exam–once they’ve assured me that I’m not dying. I was never afraid of doctors until I was about 37, and my gynecologist mistakenly thought he found a lump in my breast. He didn’t handle it very well. It caused quite a mental ruckus for me for years afterward. I used to cry in the parking lot before going into a doctor’s office. I’m better now, and I go religiously, but I’m still really afraid. I realize now that the fear stems from the belief that I do not deserve all that I have been given, and that I will be punished for my many mistakes in life. I am sure that the other shoe will drop, any minute now. And it will be a big, clunky shoe of suffering or death.

14. I don’t take compliments well. I’m better than I used to be, but I’m still not so great at it. I deflect or discount them. I usually don’t believe people when they offer them to me.

15. I wish I lived in New York City. I know that I am lucky to live where I do, but after more than 15 years in an affluent New Jersey suburb, I still–STILL!–don’t feel like I fit in. I suppose that I’m just an innate city person. Yet, if I now lived in New York, I think that I’d have more stress and a shorter lifespan.

16. I am afraid of dying. For many reasons, I am no longer a practicing Catholic–but in some of my most worrisome moments, I think that if there is an afterlife, I won’t be allowed to attend–because I have left the Catholic Church. I’ll be Dustin Hoffman-like, perpetually banging on the glass a la “The Graduate,” shouting to all of my observant, deceased family members–and no one will hear me, or let me in. Catholic guilt is such a cruel bitch.

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17. I have never cheated on a boyfriend. Ever. I have had opportunities, but it’s just not my nature. I’m not sure if that makes me normal or strange or terribly boring.

18. I have phases where I wake up in the middle of the night feeling incredibly anxious or woefully sad. I don’t know what that means. When I say that out loud to other friends, they nod their heads and say the same. Regular exercise and meditation help me. Just in case you’re affected by that as well.

19. My hair is entirely gray and white. There’s not a brown hair left on my head. I started going gray when I was 18 years old. I worry that my vanity–in the form of chemical hair dye and highlights–is slowly, surely killing me.

20. Sometimes I fantasize about moving out and having my own apartment. Sometimes I want to get in my car and drive until I reach the ocean or the Canadian border. I don’t know what I would do once I got there, but I experience that feeling from time to time. I love my family more than I love myself, but sometimes I just need a break from the roles I play. I think we all do.

21. I wish I’d been wilder when I was younger. I realize now that I was wilder than many, but still. I could have upped my wild quotient a little bit. I think I might be wilder before I’m dead.

22. There is mental illness in my family history and I don’t talk about it much, because it is still so stigmatized and misunderstood in our society. It’s a silent shame for so many Americans who struggle with mental illness, whether within themselves or among family members. I believe that we could grow–and heal–so much as a culture if we shed more light on mental illness, and gave each other the freedom and support to discuss it more openly.

23. Sometimes I’m afraid of our attic or our basement or other dark places in our house, and I make my husband come with me to retrieve whatever I’m getting from said places. He thinks it’s adorable and hilarious. Most of the time.

24. I talk tough, but I really am a gentle person. However, if someone tried to harm one of my children or my husband–I’m actually shocked at how medieval I would get on their asses. There’s something in the blood on my father’s side of the family. We all have it–that quickness, that rage, that fire, that physicality of anger. It is inexplicable and quite possibly hails from our Viking blood.

25. I wasn’t nurtured exceptionally well, yet I have come to be a very nurturing person. I love that about myself, and I am so grateful for that development. I will seriously nurture the fuck out of you if you let me.

26. I waste a lot of time. A lot. See numbers 1-25. Also see years 1987-2018.

27. I wanted to add a music link to this blog post, because I am a colossal music fan and because music surrounds everything I do and think and feel. Yet, I am sure that “Behind Blue Eyes” is too obvious a choice, and that those of you reading this are mocking me for not having a more sophisticated musical palate. I’ve always related to this song–even though it’s about teenage boys. You know why? Because my father essentially raised me to be a teenage boy. He wanted me to have balls and guts and not get taken advantage of. It was the seventies and we lived in Queens–in the outer boroughs of New York City, back when New York City was nearly DOA–and he wanted me to stay alive and not get raped or stabbed, and I appreciate that. I really do. However, I still think I’m not feminine enough because of that upbringing, and that everyone can tell that about me. Right away. I’m sure that it’s handicapped me. Also the Catholic thing, mixed with sex and womanhood, kinda screwed me up. I never learned how to be girly. But what was I saying? Oh, right. “Behind Blue Eyes.” It’s The Fucking Who. So don’t fucking judge.

28. I still harbor crushes on famous men who are now old or dead. Paul Newman, for one. He’s so very dead. The youngest guy I crush on is 48. I don’t know if that’s normal.

29. I’m afraid of writing–and telling–too much. Especially here.

30. There are other things that I still can’t write down in this blog post. There are other things I still don’t want to admit about myself. See number 21. I’ll admit them before I’m dead, too. At least I think so.

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