The Performative Nature of Me (a total and complete rambling rant)

And all living things, come to think of it. See, I got drunk and maudlin, and I listened to the soundtrack to “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” (Darren Criss version, best version, realest version, I will fight you to prove it) and I was sobbing over lyrics from “Wicked Little Town” and “Wicked Little Town (reprise)” and “Midnight Radio” and I just sang my heart out and cried and then I got in the shower, and whisper-shouted in my head at myself for all the ways in which my life is a performance and I am not genuine.

I feel like I can rarely be myself, outside of the internet where I bare all (and even then, because I am always aware of people watching me). Everyone sees a different side of me, and they’re all me. But I’ll use a Richard Adams metaphor that I completely stole and I am not ashamed, because it’s wonderful–it’s like I’m wearing see-through masks. It’s always me you think you see underneath. But it’s always playing a part. I’m a natural born actress, ask anyone who’s seen me act, and I do it every. Fucking. Day.

Take work. I know the people there see me as an idiot, half the time, and vacant, and clumsy, and probably a little lazy, and probably faking the big smile and the compliments I pay everyone (one of the few genuine parts of me there, actually–I try to find something beautiful about everyone who comes in and let them know I did, because everyone needs to feel better about themselves in this fucked version of the multiverse). They see me as ugly, because I don’t wear makeup, I don’t do my hair nicely, I don’t accentuate my figure with nice clothes, I wear sensible ugly shoes, and I don’t bother trying to perform femininity there.

Because that’s what femininity is to me, most of the time–a performance. I see little point for my own well-being in putting on makeup and making myself closer to some arbitrary vision of beauty that no one agrees upon anyway. I like myself, most of the time, and even though I look in the mirror and don’t like some things, like my acne breakouts or my ruddy pink uneven skin or my double chin or my jiggly belly fat, you know what? I can live with those things. Because no one is fucking perfect and everyone is just pretending they can be and obsessing over becoming that. But there IS NO NORMAL. Normal is a fucking lie, there is no one perfect vision of beauty and I won’t kill myself to conform to something that doesn’t actually exist.

I’ve actually been called ugly at work, by the way. Three times now, I think? Two or three. I distinctly remember two, the third might’ve been a dream or it might be a vague memory that I brushed off and thus forgot. I mix those two up all the effing time.

I won’t perform for these people I barely know and who have limited impact on my life until I let them in a little (I’m Facebook friending them one at a time, actually, because it would be nice to have more friends, but I’m not expecting a new bestie out of this or anything). But my instinct, in the whole 240lbs of me that is fucked up, is to perform anyway. I want to look my best to everyone, be what people need me to be, please them, be likable. And I’m fighting that instinct tooth and nail while at the same time performing for it, so that I know I’m acting and don’t get caught up in the rush of doing well while still remaining true to myself in some limited capacities.

And then there’s my marriage, or my parenthood. My man needs certain things from me, so I become those things. I would love to do nothing but sit around all day and write, and relax, and watch TV, and maybe go to work for the money but mainly try to enrich my mental world, because that is where I primarily live. I mean, I’m fucking asexual (grey asexual actually) and my sexual desires are few and far between, so that connection is moot except on rare occasions. But I do it, and a lot, because my husband is both ENTP and a Scorpio, so it’s like…oh, all the new weird things. I’m willing to do those things, but it’s a performance, yet again. Not that I’m faking it, just…I’m doing it when I’d rather do something simple, because he wants it and I believe in compromise. And I do chores, and I talk about his interests as well as my own, and I act selflessly on mostly minor and some major levels like most humans do, and he does the same (sort of, he’s not very good at it most of the time, he’s a straight white cis dude who grew up with moderate privilege, he doesn’t exactly do empathy like ever because he was exposed to so little of it and too much neglect, but that’s HIS story).

And my kid? I’d happily let him do whatever he wanted day and night, because I have had too much of performance in my fucking life if you haven’t guessed it by now, and I want him to be himself, truly, at all times, but I know that’s a fucking lie too and he HAS to learn to perform in some ways. We all haveto learn to adapt to our environments.

Or maybe people just do? I get confused sometimes. I had to learn to adapt, and adapt myself, and code switch, and all that jazz, because I’m neurodivergent. Autism lends a certain…distance from personal identity, for me? I look at human beings as test subjects half the time, and scripts the rest of the time. Have I told you how much I took from movies and TV as a kid? Like a fucking alien discovering a new culture through TV, like in that awful live-action Scooby-Doo movie. I talked weird, I acted weird, because I was performing, because I didn’t really feel like I was normal and I wanted to be normal. I got a lot better at it over time, and now it’s pretty much seamless, I just do it and I don’t hiccup much but you know, I do slip, because that’s when people look at me like I’ve got three heads. It happens so fucking much, especially at work. I get the weirdest looks from those girls, and I’m like, uh-oh, be human, Riah, you are not actually an alien, you can assimilate.

I just don’t think I should have to? Ultimately, I would like to be me at all times. Me, who likes tattoos and piercings and leather and lace even though my body shape dictates that I don’t deserve those things in modern American culture (which can fuck itself). Me, who takes in stories being told through every medium like I’m starving for them. Me, who appreciates to the point of obsession the sensory pleasure that is good food. Me, who swears and rambles and goes off on tangents and can’t keep to one conversation at a time without serious focus. Me, who daydreams about other worlds and other universes and believes that everything is scientifically possible if not probable, me who wants to grasp those worlds and tell those stories and reach out and touch people. Me, who strives to understand human nature and behavior through any means necessary because I am an observer first and a participant second. Me, who hurts to the point of paralysis and has to take eight medications just to balance her brain chemicals and faces a slew of side effects because of it. Me, who wants a clean beautiful house but is unwilling to do the work to keep it that way, but does it anyway because you can’t fucking not, right? Me, who bounces from foot to foot when I’m indecisive and fidgets when I’m nervous and has an image of myself that is not reality at fucking all ever and me who procrastinates and me who laughs loud and long and me who loves contact with cats more than contact with humans because cats have never hurt me and me who’s been betrayed by literally every significant male figure in her life and still can’t help but hope for the best in them and me who dreads my body and accepts it depending on how well the meds are working that day and me whose brain runs about five times faster than I can comprehend on a base level and me who tries to record it and me who sits here and just fucking can’t get it across because it’s so inexplicable to me and I could have the words, I’m sure I could find them if I just searched long enough. But me, who can’t wait to find those words and just spews out everything that comes to mind in the hopes of being understood because for my entire fucking life I have never felt like someone just got me until I went online and started living the fandom life on Tumblr of all goddamn places and the people I think understand me the most don’t want anything to do with me because I am too needy, too intense, too boring, too whatever to function on a level that is attractive to those sorts of people (and I am invariably attracted to older women who have lived lives of queerness and otherness and have wicked senses of humor that I cannot match and want to support me but can’t because again, I am too too too too much).

I just…can’t see a way to move forward as I am without exhausting myself. I need a fucking break. That’s why I drink sometimes, or overload on coffee, or other mind-altering substances, because then my filters drop and I’m me, and I don’t perform, and I just live in the moment and don’t think too much because I am always thinking too much and my brain will not shut the fuck up.

I sleep so little, and dream so much, and I am tired, tired, tired.


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