Boys suck. Boys–because I rarely, if ever, catch myself engaging with men.
I spent the night walking in downtown Pasadena, letting the red neon letters from the window of a locksmith illuminate my round face. Hues of lime green, cerulean, and the occasional flamingo pink screamed into my retinas at every turn, and I took in a deep breath to inhale the cigar smoke from the nearby lounge. Rocco’s, the Italian tavern across the street, has an outdoor seating area jam-packed with patrons buzzed off of happy-hour cocktails and pizzas coated in that recognizable, thick, yellow film of grease.
My giant headphones never come off, and I believe they’re part of the armor that keeps me a perpetual loner; here though, the music in my ears makes me feel like part of the crowd. I am one of the women in flowy blouses and tailored pants, and my husband is at my side, scrolling through his phone in the way older people do, with a single pointer finger and furrowed brow. I am a waiter, balancing the empty cups on the cusps of my elbows and ignoring the drippings down my wrist. I’m the lone boba shop worker, staring blankly through the glass-paneled facade, and my attire includes an obnoxiously bright visor.
I’m thinking about all of their lives. I believe the term is sonder. Locking eyes with another woman walking past, I gaze at her waistband, taking in the perfect curve of her waist before jutting my eyes back up to the crown of her head, adorned in equally big headphones. She smiles, I smile, and I wonder if she’s listening to Pearl Jam too. I’m thinking, did she spend her day ruminating over the things that bring her joy? Is she going for a night walk because it’s cool and it’s October? Or did she ponder all the things wrong in her life and bring them with her tonight, to scatter them like little Hansel-and-Gretel breadcrumbs, little by little ’til the thoughts were all gone?
I think I think too much.
Historically, I’ve never been fond of the darkness that comes with late fall and winter. The sun retreats into the shell of itself and we’re left at the mercy of the moon. Lately, it seems like I’m dreading the moment my eyes shutter open in the morning, and I notice that the tiny percentage of the world that my blinds cannot keep out is brighter than I’d like. Mornings suck. Midafternoon slumps suck. Traffic hour sucks, especially when the sun has reached the point where the driver’s side visor becomes pointless, and, because you’re short, no amount of adjusting the seat can keep the luminary out of your skull. It’s all just a mess.
Late at night, I can breathe after clocking out and it’s like the ideas that are mine that I’ve stifled all day rush from my head to my mouth like children released into a playground. I’ve been trying my best to let them be released from my fingers or pen because while I am unbelievably tired from the day, I’ve come to understand that not being creative only makes me more fatigued. When so much strategy and effort goes into your day job or looking for another day job, it’s difficult to carve out the time for just yourself.
I promised my brother when I felt down, I’d pick up my guitar and dedicate the entirety of my brain matter to learning tabs. I don’t think he’d have an issue with me writing instead, tonight. We talked about my dissatisfaction with connecting with people–it’s done so easily virtually, over video and meme-ridden texts. To do it in person and deeply at that, is a whole different game. It’s not one that’s exclusive to romance, or friends, or even jobs. The process for dating and applying to jobs is actually always the same, and I’ve even likened it to speed dating:
The dress I wear is longer than my fingertips, and my makeup is light and appropriate. Natural is better with these things. I’m instructed to sit across from my potential partner and…go. In the same ways I try to convince men to commit to me, I attempt to exercise a level of charm to get a new company to hire me. The way men ask what I bring to the table, the recruiter asks me to walk them through my resume. The way men play little games is similar to the small task the new job asks me to complete. Time’s up. Switch.
The feeling after is the same, too. Did I perform well enough? Was that satisfactory for them? Are we ‘aligned’? They’re considering others, for sure. The rejection email is the same as the rejection text: thank you for applying, we’ve decided to move forward with other candidates at this time. Or, as both do extremely well, the ghosting is my answer. Both end in disappointment, and a weekend stem or two of sweet red wine. And a clitoral vibrator.
It’s hard to focus on the positives when every facet of your life has come to a crashing halt. I’d sped through this year, tumbling into a new life I craved forever, not understanding that I cannot rush time and well-needed development. There is no amount of impatience that can make the hands of the clock of existence turn faster–there is no way to rush healing and new opportunities. In my experience, they’ve always come and fallen in my lap like a sleepy, moody cat unexpectedly claiming you as its own; I just get into these folds of time where it seems nothing, no cat is falling in my lap at all, and the fear that I’ve just run out of luck begins to settle in.
Especially when I am led to believe that the quietness of my luck is directly attributed to who I am as a person.
I expressed in excruciating detail to my younger brother how it felt like I could never be myself with anything lately. I’d like to think I’m good at reading people and adjusting myself accordingly, but I’d gotten so tired of the constant code-switching and feeling like a chameleon that I’d tried my hand at expressing myself as authentically as possible and, well, even the outcasts need an underdog, right? I thought back to the NYC party two Halloweens ago and how I was impossibly stuck to the wall then, like I am now.
When there’s not a drop of liquor in my blood, I don’t have the urge to dance with the crowd as I do in the blank square space in my lonesome apartment. I can greet people with a firm handshake, but usually only when there’s somebody else at my side. I am the person on the couch, clutching the watermelon White Claw, nodding and pretending to pay attention to the near-blackout drunk girl with the grating voice. I want her to get home safely. And dump her boyfriend. And ask where she got her boots from. I just keep sipping the damn carbonation. The world is built for extroverts.
Yep. The world is built for extroverts. Not even ambiverts. Definitely not conditional ambiverts (alcohol).
I am advised by recruiters and catcallers alike to smile ear-to-ear and offer my best attitude. There is a distinct, agreeable but sterile personality to have in situations like these, and to stray from this path is to jeopardize my future. But I am tired of the lack of authenticity in work. I am tired of the masquerade that is social media and networking and laughing at microaggressive comments. I have been told and read about how some of the best connections and success tales have come from just being yourself. Do these stories unfold linearly and in a timely fashion? Hardly ever.
So, here I am, discouraged by the lack of wheels turning in my life by playing that expected role, but also committed to the idea of remaining true to myself. And, in the glistening world of Hollywood, entertainment, and film bros, weighing the two provides pros and cons lists longer than the time it takes to find parking in Koreatown. I’m sure the push and pull is great for character development, and I’ve got plenty of solid and stellar opportunities around the corner and just beyond the horizon, but staying positive about it is hard.
Knowing how to act, what to say, and what to do is hard. Social anxiety is hard. Writing and rewriting resumes is hard. Listening to men’s voices on Hinge prompts is too hard. Feeling bad about not feeling good enough at all is, by far, the worst.
I might still be reeling from yesterday. Like I said, boys suck.