Ok so one evening, a long long time ago, when I was like ten or whatever, I was in the car with my dad. He was driving me to the psychiatrist. This was something he and my stepmom had just recently started doing: driving me to the psychiatrist.
And this particular evening while driving me to the psychiatrist, he says,
“You understand why we’re doing this, right?”
And I was like, “um……not really…..?”
And he says, “you’re seeing the psychiatrist so that you’ll be able to talk with your stepmother about things, when you’re older.”
And I was like, “….ok…(?)”
Gentle Reader, I had No Idea what he was talking about.
I puzzled over this for weeks.
I mean, Things? What Things?! Figured it must be something specific, and something important, something Big, otherwise why the hell would I have to see a doctor about it? Right? But what? What in the world was I supposed to be talking about with my stepmom?
Never occurred to me to ask the therapist. She was a nice lady and all but I didn’t really believe that she was on my side: my folks had the appointment immediately following mine, so it seemed pretty obvious at the time that she was telling them whatever I’d just told her.
Definitely never occurred to me to ask my stepmom. We were not close.
Didn’t ask my friends. Was embarrassed about the whole thing. Crazy people need professional help, not normal ten year olds.
After a couple weeks of puzzling, I figured it out!
I was like, ok, clearly it’s something major, and it’s something that’ll happen when I’m older so it must be a Teenager Thing…and she’s been bringing me home all these library books about how your body changes when you become a teenager…so The Thing I’m supposed to talk about with her Must be that period thing the books are talking about! Aha! Now I understand!
After a month or two they stopped taking me to the therapist- I wasn’t sure why but was fine with it- and then a couple years later I came home from school and told my stepmother that I had become a woman that day. Or however I put it. It was a big moment, I was nervous. And then went to my room to do my homework and was all like, ‘What a relief! I’ve talked with her about The Important Thing! Done and done!’
And then just went on with my life,
And then over the next few years, slowly it dawned on me, to my Great Horror, that that had Not been the thing I was supposed to talk with her about, that there were still Things I was supposed to be talking about, and it was in fact Things Plural, not just one thing, and it wasn’t something specific, it was, like, vague things involving, like, feelings and boys and friends at school, maybe, I didn’t really know because she wasn’t talking to me about feelings or boys from her middle school days, or friends at work. She was still bringing home books and putting them on my desk in my room and not talking about them. Books about self-esteem and other teenager stuff.
And I read all the books because I wanted to be good.
And every now and then something from one of the books would stick with me, just simple stuff, but stuff that I hadn’t figured out on my own.
Like one book talked about how words are like handles, how, like, if you feel bad you can’t do anything about it but if you can give that feeling a name, like Fear or Anger or Loneliness or Jealousy, then you can pick the feeling up and do something about it.
And another book had something about not comparing yourself to other people, because you know the inside of yourself, you know all your own motivations and your insecurities, but you can’t know that stuff about anyone else, you can only see the image they present to the world, their cool, collected outside persona, and you can’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides.
And, to reverse that, you too have a cool collected outside persona that other people see.
Which I was thinking about the other day, after ballet class.
Was getting all my stuff together, taking off slippers and pulling on layers, and Triple G was telling me that Kir, who popped in earlier in the week to observe after a long time away from class, had been excited that the class has improved so much, and apparently she had called me out in particular, saying that I look like a dancer now, and Triple G was saying that, you know, we can’t see that about each other, we can’t really see each other improve when we’re in class together all the time, but that after talking to Kir she kinda had an eye out, and then during class Smirnoff had had me repeat part of the barre stretch, which he sometimes does when people do things well, and he wants to show the class a good example, but sometimes he does this when people do something badly, and he wants to correct them and maybe get them to do it right under public scrutiny, and Triple G was saying that I did the barre stretch so beautifully and she was like, ‘Dang, Kir is right, she really has improved.’
And I was like, “Shuh! I mean Thank you! I mean, I felt so awkward and dorky today like I wasn’t doing anything well, thank you, that’s so great to hear.”
Because, Gentle Reader, I had definitely done the barre stretch incorrectly the first time, and when Smirnoff stopped the class and had me do it again, I knew he was trying to get me to do it right the second time and I remembered to wing my foot instead of hooking it around the barre like a monkey, and to make my arm travel in a circle instead of a bent-elbow short-cut to second, but the rest of the class I definitely felt awkward, and, like, had Outfit Regrets and kept trying to arrange my t-shirt over my leotard in an attractive way and, like, went the wrong way on the left side of the combination, and just was, like, not a winner that day, on the inside.
But it’s nice to know all that stuff doesn’t always show on the outside.
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