(image source here)
I just painted my nails blue. Turquoise, really. They shimmer. The area around my nails shimmers too, because my aim is really bad. How does anyone paint nails neatly? I knew girls who had mastered it by the time they were twelve. But not too many. Because I didn’t really know that many girls.
For most of my life, people have asked me how I learned to socialize. Even while I’m socializing with them. They imagine that you can only learn from a lot of other people almost exactly the same age as you. I learned how to socialize the same way everyone else did. From my parents, first, from my friends, and from the people I ran into, admired from a distance, and read about.
I’ve had to pretend for a long time that I’m normal, because “normal” is proof that I am a success, as an unschooler. Which is funny. Because normal is a pretty boring goal for such a radical lifestyle. It always felt like a conflict. I was obviously really different, because I didn’t spend any time in a classroom, and I spent a lot of time in the woods. And at the piano. And, I don’t know, doing a million things in the middle of the day, when I was the only kid in sight. But then, whenever I met anyone new, I was supposed to show them just how normal I was.
I accomplished this by wearing jeans and being friendly and liking boys a lot. I was much friendlier than a lot of kids who went to school. And more confident. At least around adults. A lot of kids who went to school looked sort of sulky and sullen and too cool to smile. I was never too cool to smile. In fact, I was never particularly cool at all. Both of my brothers turned out incredibly cool, though, if you need proof of unschoolers accomplishing this most coveted of statuses. They have a lot more facebook friends than I do. They have a lot less moments of not knowing what to do with their hands.
The thing that disappoints me most about having been unschooled is how normal I actually turned out to be. With a start like that, by now I should have patented fuel-efficient, invisible commuter spacepods that can get someone from Connecticut to a job in Tokyo in under forty minutes. But here I am, talking about how chubby my arms are. I feel like an unschooling failure.
I blame this on several things:
- Being a girl
- Not being forced to study enough math
- Being naturally normal
- My arms
I’m a girl. And I’m smart. And I have a big nose. Therefore, I was set up to be nerdy. But not nerdy enough. If I had learned more math, maybe I would’ve figured out the spacepods. But because my mind is suspiciously normal (see aforementioned boy-craziness as teenager), I didn’t have the slightest interest in math. And the bit about my arms is a joke.
Being cool seems relatively simple for my brothers. They do it like this:
- Not ever reacting to anything seriously
- Working out a lot
- Being tall
- Knowing what to do with their hands
I’m always a little impressed. And always a little stuck in the middle, myself. I’m confident, but not very cool. I’m smart, but not spectacularly so. I’m girly, but I don’t know how to paint my nails. Or perform a lot of the femininity that girls learned from other girls who were all being feminine together as kids and teenagers. My femininity came from my mom, who is an extremely strong-willed feminist who, had she blogged, would’ve become The Pioneer Woman, minus the cattle. And my friends Emma and Nell, who grew up in rural North Carolina, and had the goal of starting a farm together as adults and driving a white Ford F-150 pickup truck. And my friend Emily, who wore a bikini top under her overalls when she was eleven, and convinced me that was the best outfit EVER. And Robin McKinley, who wrote about women heroes who wielded magical swords.
So the fact that I ever learned to feel bad about my body is really a testament to the success and power of the pressure placed on women to look a certain way. And to the failure of unschooling to make me truly different. Or different enough. Or maybe it’s a testament to the fact that, no matter what your background is, at some point, you’re going to have to struggle to figure out how you want to filter the world. And what kind of person you want to feel like.
I missed out on learning how to paint my nails. I didn’t miss out on learning how to socialize. Or learning that I wasn’t pretty or feminine enough. I learned that lesson as soon as I met up with my peer group, finally, in college. But here I am, painting my nails, and re-learning. Maybe I have a chance at being abnormal after all.
(image source here)
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Un-Roast: Today I love how I look with paint all over me. Nail polish serves the same function. It makes me feel sexy, like I’m daring and artistic, not just like I should take a shower.
P.S. Send me photos of yourself eating or with cake! I’ll post them in my cake section. It’ll be great. I promise.
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P.P.P.P.S. That was the most ever. Penelope Trunk should read this post. And then she should text me back. Please?
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