Do you ever remember something embarrassing that happened fifteen years ago, and still feel a little guilty, or ashamed, or embarrassed, as though it were happening now instead of half a lifetime ago? I do it all the time, to tell the truth. Someone says something and it triggers a memory of something I did or said, and I find myself picking it apart, trying to explain it away in my head to someone I haven't seen or spoken with in over a decade.
I was always the weird kid. And not just a little. For whatever reason, I never really understood how to relate to other kids, and to this day, I don't really know why. But I stood out like a sore thumb, no matter the case. Red hair, glasses, teeth messed up twelve ways from Sunday, and a penchant for talking to my imaginary friends, because I knew they wouldn't run away. The hard part is that, looking back, I knew I was the weird kid. Whether my parents realized that or not (and bless their hearts, they always tried to coach me to normal behaviors) I really did know. Interestingly, I didn't hate it so much then as I do now. I just coped by making up imaginary friends or borrowing cartoons and television shows to be my worldview.
As I got older, though, it turned from being the way I was into being a sort of defense mechanism by extension. I was too clueless about how to make friends, so I amped up the weird a bit to make sure that only people who were really interested in being my friend would even bother trying. I was quiet, always reading, and into Star Trek and Céline Dion and opera. I was obsessive about the random minutiae, to the point of having my Star Trek Encyclopedia mostly memorized (a lucky thing, too, since the dog ate it). I had no real interest in sports, and so never even attempted to hone my skills (though had our gym been regulation size, I'd have kicked ass at volleyball, and that's a fact). I was also profoundly lazy, and a procrastinator, and even though I could have passed my classes with ease, I rarely ever bothered with homework.
And for me, my sexuality never even entered the picture, but lurked underneath all of the things I did. I didn't think about it much, burying it instead so that (I thought) no one would pick up on it. Were it not for the fact that I had the fashion sense of a lump of coal, I'd have been the quintessential closeted geek. Again, the things you see after the fact.
Three and a half years after I graduated, while working at Dry Ice, a guy from my graduating class came into the store. He was there to see my manager, another former classmate, but while he was waiting for her, we got to catching up on the past couple of years. At the time, I had been dating my now-husband for about three months, and was frantically playing what I call, "The Pronoun Game," wherein you construct sentences so that you never have to tip your hand with, "he," and, "him," instead of, "she," and "her." It's exhausting. Finally, I looked him in the eye and said, "Okay, you know, right?"
"Yeah, uh, we all knew in high school. But you never hit on any of us, so we left you alone." You could have knocked me over with a feather. Dry Ice had plenty, had he the inkling to try it, but we finished our conversation and moved on.
At twenty-seven, I am so far removed, and at the same time, not all that different. My social skills are a thousand fold what they were, but my house is littered with fantasy novels, Star Trek DVDs, and notes and outlines and random scraps of information that I've been collecting since 8th Grade. My husband and I read most of the same books, and he was every bit the Trek geek that I was in high school. We also, though at different times in our lives, both had issues and questions about religion that eventually led us to paganism.
In my husband, I found a kindred spirit in so many ways. We both have our childhood issues that still rear their ugly heads. Most of my close circle of friends, be they covenmates or just people I know well, have their own, similar stories. The people I hang with were never in the popular crowd, and once the big fish/small pond culture shock wears off, you realize that's okay. In reality, had I toned down the weird and worked at fitting in better, not only would I have been faking it, but I wouldn't be who I am today. I recognize that, and I've learned to love and accept the man I've become, even if some remodeling is in order. It's all part of what has made me who I am, who I have been, and who I will be.
But now and then, I still look at the five-year-old wandering around the edge of the playground, talking to a Cheetarah who wasn't there while the other kids watched and laughed, or I look at the seventh-grader who would proudly recite a Star Trek Encyclopedia entry verbatim even though it was just more fodder for cruelty, and I hate them. A lot.