Tuesday, April 20, 2010

look both ways before you cross

i was a debutante, ladies and gentlemen.

that's right. all crazy-haired, blunt mouthed, tattooed inch of me was stuffed into a white ball gown, all wrapped up in a french twist and pearl jewelry. i graciously bowed to the audience, waltzed with my father, and was then "presented" to society as a grown woman ripe for the pickin'. i am currently a walking contradiction to myself at 18 years old.

now, i was more or less bullied into it. secretly, it was fun because it's kind of like a wedding without actually having to spend twenty years with someone only to have them come home one day after work and telling you he's leaving you for his secretary, a 23 year old blonde nyu graduate with a bmw and a considerable dowry from her millionaire WASP family.

but it was still frustrating having to smile as much that night, or sneak away to the 17th hole just to smoke a cigarette where you couldn't be found by one of your parents wealthy (but horribly pretentious) friends. i find the tradition in events like these to be completely drained from the bottom... these people are country-club aristocrats. many of which have never even seen 'gone with the wind'. they wouldn't know culture if it lobbed a tennis ball their way.

i was a debutante because my father wanted me to be. actually, when i was growing up, anything i was publicly was what he wanted me to be. blonde highlights? check. a virgin? check. socially reserved due to an 11 o'clock curfew? check. able to distinguish a nine-iron from a seven? check.

check. check. check. anything he wanted... check. i played a role in his life. that of the good daughter, the cordial daughter, the doormat daughter. despite the fact that him and i knew we were just reciting the lines of a well-written play, our little stage was set well and was terribly believable to those around us.

until, that is, i went away to college. out from under his critical mass of comments and watchful eye, i began experimenting. with my clothes. with my hair. with tattoos. with body piercing. with boys, with drugs, with dance, with desire, with darkness, with writing, and with identities. i began slowly introducing these elements on the rare occasion i returned home for the holidays. with each visit, his eyes grew wary and his apprehension to me escalated. at first he tried to cover up his distaste for my desire of what i never learned growing up. but by the time i hit 23 it was full fledged disgust, and he never hesitated to call me out on something he didn't think was socially 'acceptable'.

"what did you do to your hair? it's so black it's almost blue... and it's so short! you look like an androgynous elf of some sort..."

"what are you wearing?? are you going to a wedding, or a carnival?"

"i'm not going to the bar with you when you have that lip ring in. i have already made fun of one of the bartenders here for having her lip pierced and i'll be damned if my own damn daughter shows up to her bar proving me wrong. take it out."

and then i went to san francisco to dance with LINES. it was my shining moment of triumph, to get a job in the wake of all of his negativity, and show him that people would hire me on merit and talent and not just because i looked like everyone else who applied.

then he had to ruin it all by being diagnosed with cancer, which solidified my decisions of where i was to live the next year; i would go back to the east coast, so that if he died, i would have had a proper chance at getting to know who he was. my father and i are so similar that we could never get along... he always knew what i was up to because my thought process mimics that of his own. and because i knew this as well, i tried to stay away from him as much as i could, so i could preserve some sort of anonymity in my life. because of these habits i formed when i was a teenager, i have become a fiercely private person with my thoughts... which is an ironic statement to make considering i am currently writing this public blog.

i guess it's safe to me because apart from the people who read this who are my friends (thank you, all five of you), people who read this (a) are random hits from shuffling through blogspot.com, and (b) most likely don't read all the way through. that kind of makes me feel better, like you know who i am without ever knowing who i am. that's still anonymity, but i guess it could be considered public anonymity, maybe?

oh well. whatever it is, i digress. i went home after his surgery, and two days later, my parents kicked me out. said they thought i had emotional problems and that i was abusing substances to boot, and that if i was to stay there until i had to catch my plane that my dad was going to get a hotel room somewhere.

oh, yeah, guys. that's a fair fight. hang on a second while i decide on leaving their house based on completely false and unfair pretenses by driving to the airport and buying a same-day ticket back to atlanta which i gave up for san francisco before leaving to heal a relationship with my father in the event he might die, or make a man fresh from the cancer cutting board leave the comfort of his own home after surgery to remove golf-ball size tumors get a nasty ho-jo hotel room cause his selfish substance abusing daughter won't just look and act normal so that he can get some nice looking grand-kids. that's a tough one.

on the way to the airport, through tears and my poor little brother listening to years of father-daughter turbulence become a full-fledged terrorist attack on the nation's capital of me, i slowly began to realize why the previous years had been so difficult.

i didn't want to accept the reality of my father never understanding the few but huge differences between our similar thought processes, and he didn't want to accept the reality that his daughter was no longer the debutante he had so wished she would be.

he envisioned me married by 25, kids by 30, and a retirement plan by 50. i had a well educated lawyer husband and 3 children, plus a dog and a boat and matching chinaware from the pottery barn fall collection. i drove a sporty four door suv rigged enough for the kid's soccer games but sleek enough to look good behind us for our christmas family pictures at our house in the mountains.

unfortunately, he never recognized the fact that his daughter was a wall-to-wall, card-carrying artist who had never grown up with the taste for the conventional. he knew it, which is why i grew up incredibly restricted and conservative. the eleven o'clock curfew. the prep school, the golf lessons, and the debutante dance. it all added up. if neither one of us allowed ourselves to open up to the idea that we were never going to agree on my lifestyle, how would we ever get past the scripted father-daughter relationship?

just recently i have had someone tell me i, for the length of our relationship, didn't truly reveal who i am. in essence, that i had somehow lied about my feelings for them; that i had never been honest from the beginning. this was due to the fact that i wrote about it on this blog (that no one really reads, so it doesn't really matter anyway) and he ended up reading it. i told him a long time ago, if you want to be with me, i suggest you not read my writing, whether it be my journal or my blog. i suggest you let your curiosity lie, because i have feelings for a lot of things. from beautiful moments like the random people i am attracted to passing on the street or the fact that i thought you were righteous when you would get angry at me over the stupidest shit i have ever heard anyone get angry over... and that's just the thing. when you meet me, you should understand i am like that. from our very first conversation, if you don't understand i am a thoughtful, observant girl who has a lust for feeling out the world and all it's emotions; well, then, we really should not be together.

complexity is not revealed in words. complexity is revealed silently and often ambiguously. it is in the way someone reads a book, how their eyebrows raise in conversation, and the minutes after they fall asleep. there's no doctrine that we have about ourselves, and no amount of explanation will ever be enough to replace the experience of allowing a person to be who they are and trying to make sense of it yourself. i never needed my father to tell me who he was. i watched how he was. how he reacted to things, how his emotions registered in his face. i paid attention to his details. had he done that to me, he would have realized much sooner that i was never going to be the golden daughter... because i never wanted that life for myself.

next time you find yourself in a situation where you have to step back and re-evaluate a person that you "thought you knew" (and how many time have i said that before, oi vay, like every breakup i've ever had), when you step back, look at how you are looking at the person as well. have you really allowed yourself to understand who this person is, or have you just kind of projected what you really want onto their personality?? think about it.

then imagine me as a debutante and have a good laugh.


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