[Note: this post isn't about gayness. It's about race and weight and other-ness. So, if you want to read about that stuff, proceed! Otherwise, may I direct you to this post, about that time I went to Aqua Girl and realized I was in love with Elle but didn't talk about that at all when I wrote about Aqua Girl. LOL.]
So, this wedding experience was fantastic. Except...
I also felt really self-conscious and unsure of myself and like a dumpy, short, poor, bedraggled black sheep.
I know, weird right? Where the fuck did that come from?
My thoughts exactly.
I've been trying for several days now to figure out what the hell happened there, why I felt like I "looked weird", that I hadn't worn the right thing (BLACK TIGHTS!? YOU'RE SUCH AN IDIOT!), hadn't done my makeup the right way (WHY DID YOU WEAR SUCH DARK EYESHADOW? WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? A SMOKY EYE!? GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE), and stuck out like a sore thumb (despite evidence to the contrary in the form of Elle's compliments and those of others), and here's what I've come up with: I basically had regressed into my college self.
Didn't see that one coming.
But I really think that's what happened, and here's why. I went to a prestigious college that is known for being full of blue-blooded, tall, tan, thin, white, rich people. I am exactly NONE of those things. At this wedding this weekend, I was unexpectedly thrust again into an environment that felt, to me, like that first month or so of college, when everyone I saw, everyone I knew, came from a world that I had never experienced, that felt completely foreign and other and unattainable and easier. Early on in my college life, and at various times throughout it, I felt painfully and deeply that I didn't belong. And again, at this gorgeous, welcoming, beautiful wedding, which I was clearly invited to and welcome at, along with a large group of my friends, I suddenly felt extremely self-conscious, and my self-esteem plummeted to minus 40.
And I realized how fragile my sense of myself really is.
As it turns out, I'm not that convinced that I'm not a complete lame-o loser? This came as a surprise to me, as I kind of pride myself on not really giving two shits about what people think about me most of the time. I thought that was true. But...I think maybe I've been kidding myself a bit. Both about the robustness of my self-worth, and also about the lingering issues I have with being a black woman who is very often one of very few people of color in a social setting, if not the only one.
Because here's the thing: that large group of friends that I was at the wedding with? Every single one of them is white. Most of them are thinner than I am, most of them make more money than I do, and I stood in that group and felt like an outsider, and ashamed. (Wow, it was really hard to write that.)
And let me be clear--these people are not racist (as far as I know), they are not snotty, entitled people (for the most part), and they are my friends. New-ish friends, but friends. I also really have no idea what most of their upbringings or backgrounds are, so, it really was not anything about them that made me feel this way. It was my stuff, my past, and my associations with being "other" rearing it's powerful, annoying little head.
As I stood there with the group, I felt like I was outside myself, looking at myself, and I was...embarrassed? My dress didn't look as expensive (and I'm sure it wasn't), my shoes weren't as new, my hips weren't as narrow, my hair wasn't as long, and yes, my skin wasn't as light. And I felt "other" and it was hard. The fact that I am writing all of this as a 32 year old, highly educated woman with quite a lot of privilege is beyond disturbing to me. But it's the truth. And this blog, for me, is about my truth, and putting it out there and working it through, so there it fucking is.
Thinking about all of this reminded me of one of my most vivid memories from college, and one of my most vivid experiences of being "other" despite all the ways that I was the same. In my senior year, Halle Berry won the Best Leading Actress Oscar for "Monster's Ball." I sat watching the Oscars live with about 6 of my college friends, people whom I spent almost all of my time with, who I traveled with, ate with, drank with, learned with, talked with, debated with, and was growing up with. I felt closer to that group of people than any other at that time, and I belonged there. I knew that without a doubt. But that night, as we watched Halle Berry accept her Oscar, and talk about how important that moment was for women of color, for Black women especially, I cried, as she cried. It was extremely powerful and extremely moving, and it was a very important moment in the entertainment industry. But when her speech was over, and I looked around the room, my friends, my white friends, were not so moved. They weren't teary. In fact, one of them (who I admittedly wasn't as close to) said, "Wow, she got kind of hysterical, didn't she? I mean, it's just an award." or something like that. I felt like I had been slapped in the face. And I had never felt so alone in a room full of people before. As silly as it might sound, after countless times being the only Black person in a room (and believe me, that happened to me A LOT as a child/teen/young adult, and still does) and it really never bothering me, that night, I felt the difference. I felt how my experience in the world is in some deep, almost pre-verbal way, so drastically different from the experience of these people who were my best friends in the world, who I shared so much with, but also...didn't. I felt isolated and alone. It was shocking and jarring, and...well, clearly, I'll never forget it.
What happened at the wedding was nothing like that, of course, but it speaks to the same tension that I clearly still feel that I try to pretend I don't. I feel like an outsider a lot of the time. And not just because of my race, but also because I live paycheck to paycheck, and am divorced, and gay, and outspoken, and assertive.
And it's hard sometimes.