looking in the mirror (vs. how others see us)

I spoke at a meeting tonight — probably the last lead I’ll give before I leave — and a woman told me she’d always wanted to get to know me better but she’d thought I was scary because I was “too cool” for her, with my tattoos and “neat clothes.”

My first reaction was to laugh. I think I stifled it okay, because I don’t like to negate anyone else’s experience, but it surprised me because that’s (a) not at all how I see myself and (b) not at all how anyone who’s come to know me would — I think — come to describe me.

It’s a little bit of a wake-up call, though (putting it harshly). Over the years I’ve heard that I intimidate people, that I seem one way or another, that I’m x, y, or z. I don’t have a lot of awareness of the image I portray, other than I know that I’m often socially inept, sometimes annoying and headstrong and brash and other negative things. So it’s weird to hear things that clash with my basic feeling that, on the inside, I’m still just this 16-year-old Texas girl who has no fucking clue about anything.

At age 38, you’d think I’d have figured this out by now. I haven’t. But I’m also fairly certain that we’re all works in progress; I’ve seen and felt glimpses of what it’s like to just be me, as in the adult me who’s complex and sometimes inept/annoying/whatever but who’s fundamentally a decent friend and mom and person with a vast array of amazing (and not-so-amazing) personal experiences in my past.

When I see that woman next, I’m going to apologize for laughing and also give her a big hug, just to show her I’m definitely not scary or even very cool — just another bozo on the bus, as an old friend of mine says. It’s good to know what others think of me; it’s even better to be learning what I think and know about myself and try to make the two perspectives align.