When I was 19, I was in a fairly well-known musical called The Fantasticks. I’m not sure why, but the other day, I began blogging about this musical–specifically, the people I worked with, and how it affected me sense of self. It was the first time I realised the way I saw myself–both positive and negative—was not how others saw me. I only saw all the ways in which I wasn’t good enough, the ways in which other people around me were better than me. Granted, the entertainment industry is not the best place for teenagers and 20-somethings with this issue, which is almost everyone. However, there are few aspects of life that are much better. Somehow, however unique and wonderful we are, most of us end up with a sense that our adult selves are somehow never enough.

In any case, I may or may not post my theatre-related reflection another day, but in The Fantasticks, there is one female character. She is a 16 year-old girl who is the epitome of your average girl-next-door, but her spirit is rebellious. She wants pretty much every life experience there is. She delivers a brief monologue before her well-known song, in which the final line is
“Please, God, please…don’t let me be normal.”

It is not a mystery why I played this role, as it was perfectly written for a high-spirited, rebellious girl who just wanted to live an extraordinary life and be someone special. People found me endearing as this character, despite my lack of inexperienced-girl-next-door stage presence, because I really only had to be myself. I happened to find myself landing the job over some far more experienced, talented, and prettier young women, and I never knew why. I know now, and the answer is simple: authenticity is charming. In the eyes of much of the world, it is more charming than perfection. It’s a very difficult thing for someone who has a mental list of imperfections streaming at all times to make peace with, but that summer of my life was the first time I learned people would still see you, still love you, still appreciate you—even if you couldn’t be perfect.

That brings me around to the point of this post, which (no,really! Seriously!) is not about me. I love this blog, and its tagline, “Ideas For A World Out Of Balance”. I especially enjoyed a recent post,
Lies We Tell Ourselves To Be Liked
. The daily struggle so many of us engage in–to be liked, to be successful, to be accepted, to be like everyone else, to be respected, to have money, to be found attractive, to make others jealous, to climb ladders that don’t exist and think that ‘sameness’ means ‘respectability’– it all comes at a very great cost.

When I look at many of my friends, I can separate them into two different groups: one full of free-spirits who have always elected to take the “road less traveled”, and another full of those who took the “right path” and did what was expected in order to be an acceptable, respectable, and above all, successful, person in today’s society.

The irony is, I see both groups of people in my age range (mostly Gen Y-ers, but a few late Gen X-ers, as well), struggling with the same problems. The first type of person has gone through life valuing authenticity over everything else, only to end up oblivious to the fact that wearing a mask called “non-conformist” is no less authentic or free than making any other choice. The second type of person has been willing to compromise personal authenticity and freedom in order to make the choice that will be rewarded through money, status, and recognition.

Neither group seems happier than the other. Everyone’s problems sound alike. And, no matter what, few people get to be who they really want to be or live as they really want to live.

I have a few close friends who have been in my life a long time, and by and large, they are quite unlike me. Over the years, it has hurt me to see these people give away pieces of themselves. They abandon idealism for a paycheck and a corner office. They abandon romanticism for someone who is a “really suitable partner” instead of a soulmate. They abandon hobbies, dreams, visions of who they once wanted to be, because there is little time left in the grown-up world for passion. They do not post what they’d like to post about the reality of their lives on social media because they are afraid of what their bosses will see, how future employers will judge them, how their peers will judge them. They spend a lot of time living a carefully-crafted presentation called “What My 30-Year-Old Self Is Supposed To Be”.

And it hurts me to see that so many are dreadfully, and painfully unhappy. The corporate ladder-climbers feel like they’ve compromised their happiness, and aren’t nearly as successful as doing such a thing promised. The free-spirited artistic types wonder if there will ever be any value, appreciation, or stability in what they do. Those who have married and had children secretly miss being free. Those who are single and without children secretly wonder what’s wrong with them. But, when you get them all together in a group, everyone is happy, glowing, charming, the picture of “What Our Generation Is Supposed To Be”.

It is painful to me when I see someone I love change abruptly, because while people do change, a very abrupt transition usually signifies the point where someone has relinquished a bit of their uniqueness and has figured out that it’s just so much easier to do what’s expected, what everyone else is doing. There is comfort in feeling “normal”.

What people seem not to see is that giving up what would really make you feel happy and fulfilled in life for what the world tells you creates happiness and fulfillment is just another version of lies we tell ourselves to be liked, to be successful, to erase doubt and confusion. And years later, we are shocked to realise that we are not happy, not fulfilled, doubt and confusion still reign.

In some ways, I see so many people (myself included) living as prisoners of their own lives, but we are the ones who create our prisons, our limitations. We do not see ourselves the way others see us. We do not live freely. We do not create and work freely. We do not love freely. And, for all our technology and social media, we do not represent ourselves honestly.

The more people I sit and talk to in a very open, one-on-one fashion, the more I see this is a generational epidemic. We do not value our own authenticity. We do not value our own emotion. We are willing to compromise things that should never be compromised, because we are taught that colouring inside the lines and making ourselves monochrome is the only shot at success. And when we are old enough to know that success and fulfillment and happiness are different and distinct things, we often think it is far too late to do things differently. It is too late to change course, to threaten any sense of stability, to break someone’s heart, to shock the world, to reveal who we really are, what we want, what we dream of, and reveal the loving, idealistic child that lurks inside that only wants to be told he or she is accepted, loved, and good enough.

It is never too late to stop compromising. It is never too late to strip away all the carefully-crafted lies. It is never too late to post that horrible photo of you on Facebook, because nobody is beautiful all the time, and why should we spend so much time forced to pretend everyone is? All it does is create pressure to keep up, and the same feelings of inferiority almost all of us had at teenagers, looking at the perfect lives of those around us.

We lied a lot then, and we lie a lot now, and it’s not only accepted, but encouraged. If you don’t play along, you may never be liked. You may never be loved. You may never get a good job. You may always be perceived as weird, or a troublemaker, or less than respectable. You may risk being alone. You may risk not having all the material things everyone else has.

Or, you may realise you’re the happiest person you know.

I’m, of course, as hypocritical as everyone else because I’m not the happiest person I know, and I don’t always have the courage to be whoever I want to be. I am afraid of failure. I am afraid of rejection. I am afraid I will always be the person who isn’t taken seriously, who isn’t special, who isn’t good enough.

And I wonder, what happened to the 19 year-old girl who felt liberated by understanding that strangers loved her because she wasn’t afraid to be herself in a world that largely is? Is authenticity something we have to sacrifice in order to grow up? Do we need to keep our mouths shut and our images perfectly maintained to be liked, to have someone fall in love with us, to be successful, to be respected? Or do we just need the courage to start being human beings?

When do we stop compromising the things that matter the most, in order to be “normal”?

“Please, God, please…don’t let me be normal.”

“Men are stoics when it comes to matters of the heart.”
“You seem very stoic to me, too.”
“Yes,” she said. “But I work impossibly hard at it, darling.”

“The Paris Wife”

I’ve been going through a little bit of what might pass for writer’s block over the past few weeks, and I’m not sure what’s inspired it. At the beginning of January, I started feeling really compelled towards spending time with the introverted side of my personality. I watched a lot of movies and television, read a book every two or three days for a majority of the month, and began writing in my personal (private paper version) of my journal. I began work on a new creative project I was initially quite excited about. However, I now think everything I’ve created sucks, and if I open the document, there’s a high possibility I will trash the entire thing.

Not only do I feel the creative spirit has left me, I feel filled with a mixture of ADD, emotional angst, and wanting to go out in the world as often as possible. Restlessness has hit hard, and has not left much in its place. The problem with my creative phases is that they come and they go, as does my desire to party and to be around people more often than the average person. When I’m left with neither, I don’t have much of a sense of what to do with myself, and feel generally bored and frustrated with my life and angry at myself for not being a more interesting human being.

The thing that made me decide to blog today was reading this article, about P.O.S. and the concept of anti-commercialism. I may be anti- any number of things, but I am definitely not anti-commercialism. I love shopping and new and shiny things, and if I won the lottery tomorrow, would be entertained for awhile by the freedom of buying whatever I want, going wherever I want, and being able to adorn myself however I’d like. Yet, I do go through phases where my life feels chaotic and cluttered and restless, and simply throwing away all the extra shit I don’t need and never use makes my world feel like a slightly simpler place. Although I’m about as anti-commercialism as Paris Hilton, there is a part of me that understands the freedom that comes with “not being weighed down”—literally and metaphorically.

The part of the interview that resonated the most deeply with me was this one:

Why is it that you think that no one is happy?

I think a lot of it comes back to the stresses and the pressures of what our lives have kind of become. How many people do you know that are in their forties that like their job? How many people do you know in their twenties that like their job? It’s not encouraged in our culture to find your passion and go after it. It’s encouraged in our culture to make as much money as you possibly can. And that doesn’t necessarily mean happiness for the people that find it, and the people that don’t find it, find the money I mean, that definitely doesn’t lead to happiness. I feel like if you get to the root of it, people don’t feel fucking free.

The times in my life when I’ve felt the happiest have not always been those when I was the most secure, but when I felt the most free. In fact, some of the worst “How do I get over this and start again without this killing me?” kind of experiences have led to a feeling of freedom that happened to be almost euphoric.

There was a point in my life where I absolutely lost everything, all at once. I was not blameless in this happening. It was the culmination of an extended period of bad decision making, not really thinking too much about others, living moment-to-moment, bad karma, bad luck, and allowing people in my life who had their own (many similar) issues with which to deal. But, as the saying goes, when it rains, it pours. I lost absolutely everything I counted on as “security” in my life: my condo, my job, my friends, and all of my personal possessions.

I walked away from the fallout with one or two people willing to be a part of my life and support me, and a few things that fit into a faux-leather travel backpack. Even my family was so pissed off at me and my part in causing the problems I was facing, they temporarily cut me off. Nobody volunteered to send me any money for clothes or food, or even to mail things I’d left behind when I moved out years before, in case they’d be of any use. They made it clear they couldn’t help me rebuild my life and I was on my own. Most of my former friends made it clear I no longer existed, and some wanted me to leave Atlanta. One, who was actually a surprisingly well-meaning person who wanted to stay my friend but felt he was not quite strong enough to stand up and do so, offered to buy me a bus or train ticket and drive me to the station so I could disappear and never look back. He offered the gift of helping me start over, but I didn’t take it. I couldn’t. I didn’t feel strong enough.

Fortunately, I had an ex-boyfriend who was, at the time, every bit as screwed up and lost as I was. He’d also made a lot of mistakes and suffered consequences, and understood. I also had a secondary partner who stood by me, even when the person I was in a relationship with turned his back. This friend was older than me, and despite going through his own stuff, remembered what it was like to be in my position at my age. Between them, they stood by me, and helped me keep the pieces together and provide the basic necessities a person needs to feel an inkling of safety, love, and survival in the world.

One day, I woke up realising I could go anywhere in the world I wanted, be anyone I wanted to be, take any chance I wanted to take. I remember feeling intensely happy, and free. That was the day I realised I was strong enough to handle life on my own again, to crawl out of the minimalistic cocoon in which I’d been hiding.

Mostly everything I owned still fit in my backpack, and what didn’t could be left behind. Over the three months I didn’t care to show my face to the world, I gained 10 pounds, but started to build up my savings. I had a laptop, courtesy of one of the “friends” instrumental in causing my situation, who said “I wish there was more I could do for you.” (and there was, but he didn’t care to, as it was ultimately a gesture of closure on his part, something that absolved him of the feeling that he was abandoning me in favour of his own self-interest.)

I was unhappy in those three months, but I came to value security more than ever. I, who had always been addicted to being at the coolest place with fun people who allowed me to be the centre of attention, found intense comfort in staying in a small one-bedroom apartment, watching TV every night, and eating fast food, or macaroni and cheese, or Hamburger Helper. Most days, I’d fall asleep grateful that I’d had a good day, that nothing bad happened to me. I’d spend time lying in the sun by the pool, reading a book, or being on the internet (where I consciously avoided sites that focused on social interaction.) I knew people were talking about me, that the world did not love me, that I had next to nothing, and yet I was happy because this tiny little world became my solace.

I, who had spent most of my life performing and was constantly conscious (and hopelessly insecure) about my own appearance, suddenly had to rotate through a small pile of garments. I had one piece of dressy clothing, because I realised that eventually, being social and using whatever connections I had left in the world was going to be the thing that helped me put my world back together. The thing that helped me keep my sanity, some days, was that I’d managed to hold on to my iPod, and I had songs that reminded me of when I was a happier person.

The oddest thing happened. As I became more appreciative of living in such a small, portable world, the world started to look a lot bigger. I was able to visit friends in other places who’d stuck by me through all the drama, and made it clear they still loved me. I slept on couches and on floors in artists’ lofts. I traveled through cities with $20 in my pocket. I wrote a great deal; letters that were never sent, journal entries that are painful to look back upon.

When I realised I needed a plan for the future, I started thinking about the kind of things that someone like me would never consider doing. I learned about all sorts of opportunities for people who didn’t have much except youth and an adventurous spirit. The closest I came to embarking on one of those journeys was sending an e-mail to a kindly man, an aging hippie who owned a B & B with his wife and daughter in Asheville, NC. They were looking for someone to work the front desk and answer phone calls, in exchange for modest pay and room and board at the B & B. I was terribly close to taking the job. To this day, I wonder what I might have missed out on by not doing so.

However, fate works in mysterious ways, and a few hours after the job offer, an acquaintance called me out of the blue to ask me to take over his social group. I told him what had happened, and that I was the most ill-equipped person around for that task. He disagreed. I’m not sure if he really thought positively about my personality and my abilities to be resilient, or was simply interested in sleeping with me before he left town, but it didn’t really matter. I took over the social group, and the remaining lease on his apartment. The social group gave me a new group of supportive and understanding friends, including two who became future roommates. I found a new job, and eventually, bit by bit, my world got bigger again.

These days, I am not terribly portable. I have so much to be grateful for, including a boyfriend who is there for me almost unconditionally, friends that have such an important space in my life that they’re like family to me (albeit of the dysfunctional commune variety. *laughs*), a dog who is there every morning when I wake up and every night when I go to sleep, and time to figure out what it is I am meant to do with my life. I have a two-bedroom apartment full of furniture, a closet full of clothing and shoes and accessories, and almost everything I missed so terribly during my times of trouble. Yet, the exchange is that I feel less free. I am constantly worrying about money, and finding not what makes me happy, but a way to pay the bills. I don’t explore my dreams as much, because I feel like dreaming too much or making my world too big will cause me to lose things I love.

I’ve lost some things, too, while I was busy putting my life back together. Along the way, I got terribly hurt and screwed over by someone I wanted to believe in. I lost my health, and for some time, believed I might die. My parents became seriously ill, although not only am I back on speaking terms with my family, my mother calls me at every inconvenient time possible because she’s bored. I lost my youth, my attractiveness, my confidence. Working to rebuild these things is every bit as much of a challenge as rebuilding your life. I’ve had to find myself all over again.

When I travel, no matter how hard I try, I find myself weighed down by luggage that’s over a third of my body weight. I don’t remember how to be simple, how to be without all the comforts I again feel I can’t live without. Yet, some of my happiest days are still when I am away from my world, sleeping on a friend’s couch or a lumpy hotel bed, and watching the sun peek through the blinds. I feel like the world is big, and I am light, and anything is possible.

I like that feeling. I hope there’s no need to go through dramatic loss to get to that, and maybe it’s as simple as, from time to time, getting rid of all your shit.

The next time I travel, I’m going to remind myself I need far less than I think I do, and I will be happier for it.

“I had internalized messages during my youth—messages of being too big, too loud, too passionate.I had been told by my experiences that people stayed around longer if you made your needs as brief and palatable as possible, and then went about your day becoming exactly who they need you to be.

I remember the exact day when I realized that I could, instead, choose to be myself.”

—-Mara Glatzel,Medicinal Marzipan

Being yourself isn’t always an easy thing to do, especially in a world full of people who look at the concept as something that’s weird, scary, unconventional, or something worthy of shaking your head at disapproval. For a world full of people who all want to grow up to be celebrities for one reason or another, there’s a total lack of awareness of what it really means to put yourself out there. You know when you put yourself, or some public image of yourself, out for public consumption and people tear you down just for being you? Multiply that by tens of thousands, and that’s what it’s like to be a celebrity or public figure.

Being yourself requires you to be a strong person. Remember when someone told you, as a kid, “Be yourself, and everyone will like you?” Well, it took you five minutes of social interaction in the world to realise that person straight out lied to you. What they really meant you to learn is “Smile, conform, fit in, and pretend to be just the same as everyone else, and you’ll be accepted.”

Accepted, maybe. But will you stand out, make an impact, fulfill your dreams, make the most of your potential, take chances? Never. You’ll get sucked into a quiet comfort zone of acceptance and security, and as you grow older, that translates into a seemingly secure and traditional career path, a car you can’t really afford, a house, a spouse, a dog, a cat, and a few interests you mostly keep to yourself. If you’re young and single, you’ll spend your time looking flawless, making your life sound exciting and perfect, and remind the recently-Botoxed ladies sipping martinis at your table that you are someone to be envied. If you’re a bit older and have children, you’ll sip lattes with the even-more-recently Botoxed crowd, and smile perfectly while you point out that your child, whom you’ve named Kieran or Brendan or Madison or something that implies your child will never pick up a dirty sock in his/her life, is so far advanced for his/her age. That is life, of course. Conformity, playing nice, following the rules, and realising the reward is “I get to pretend I’m better than you whenever possible.”

When is the last time you spent time with someone, even a close friend, who stripped away all the bullshit and was completely honest, authentic, and willing to “be themselves” with you? Look around your world. It’s less common than you think, unless you intentionally make it otherwise.

I happened to, recently, cross paths with a 21-year-old sorority girl, properly coiffed dyed blonde hair and perfect manicure in place, along with an attitude that said “I’m not here for your approval”. Yet, despite my attempts at conversation, she pretty much ignored me, looking at me like I was the most boring person in the world. When, after the group had a few drinks, I turned up the charisma a little bit to include off-colour comments and snarky remarks, she actually told me “Shhhhh. People can hear you”., as if I were a five year old child in need of correction.

This girl, who tried so hard to exude enough confidence that other females would believe she wasn’t in need of any approval and loved her perfect life, was made uncomfortable by the fact that I would say anything I wanted to say without really giving a shit if a total stranger overheard me. That’s when I realised this: I am old. I don’t spend my time faking confidence and pretending to be comfortable around people. I have spent so much time “being myself” in social situations that I don’t even remember how often that can be scary and off-putting to others.

Not shockingly, she immediately re-seated herself at a dinner party to talk to the only two single, available men who were interested in making her the centre of attention, and convinced them to leave the dinner, and the rest of the group, which was too “lame” for her tastes. Prior to her re-seating herself, I’d been having conversation with these people, and it obviously didn’t occur to her that it was more rude to interrupt someone’s conversation to deflect attention to yourself than to tell a joke in a loud, boisterous tone that made old Southern women scowl at your lack of class.

Whatever. I know I’m a classy bitch. New York *totally* wants me back. :P

I remember being that girl, in some shape or form, always needing to compensate for some insecurity by making others think I was unapproachable, remaining a little aloof, to give the impression that “I’m just a little out of your league”. I would hijack your party and take people elsewhere, turning it into my party without a second thought that I was being disrespectful to the host. It didn’t occur to me that it should matter, honestly. Being that girl was a way to deflect any kind of insecurity; “As long as you pay attention to me, I have the validation I need.”

Except, the thing is, there’s never enough attention in the world to provide the validation that comes from “being yourself”.

One of the harshest things anyone ever told me, back when I was 25 or so, and still approached the entire world as my stage and every time I left my apartment, it was a public appearance…was that I wasn’t real. This actually came from someone who was sufficiently charmed by me, regardless, to invest time and energy and affection in me…so it proves men can be a little hypocritical, and still want your company when you’re 25 and attractive, “real” or not….but he said, at an event, “Every time I spend time with you, I feel like I’m spending time with a character, and not a real person.”

That person isn’t someone who I kept in my life, or I’d care to say hello to if we ever crossed paths, but he did provide me with that one sage-if-hurtful piece of advice. I knew that “being myself” was being someone who didn’t fit in here in the South, someone who was loud and boisterous and weird and flamboyant and covered herself in glitter and says “Ooooo!” to stuff a 6-year-old girl would love. So, I tried to reinvent myself, to put on a version of me that would be socially acceptable to a world I found very judgmental, very superficial, and very insecure.

Long story short: That didn’t work. That didn’t work to such an extreme I almost ended up being driven out of town by hate and judgment and gossip, about less than half of which was true.

After that, I said, “Fuck it”, and took “being myself” to a whole other extreme. If I couldn’t be accepted and perfect and flawless, I was going to shock everyone with my unconventional ways.

That was actually pretty fun, for awhile. But it also didn’t work. I felt there was nobody in my life, save a handful of people, who really knew me or cared about me. I didn’t trust anyone. And while you can combat the scandal of a bad reputation in a small town that pretends it’s a city (like Atlanta) by exaggerating your notoriety and making jokes at your own expense, at some point, you realise that what you need is a new perspective.

I never decided I was, one day, going to wake up and “be myself”. I was just too tired of caring what everyone else thought to do it anymore. And once I did, I found a whole group of people who never would have been scandalised by any of my behaviour—past, present, or future. I found friends who stuck around for years and years. I found people who made fun of my quirks, but still loved me and supported me. As soon as I bothered to be who I was, I found it easy to invite people in my life who liked that person.

I can still be a little guarded, a little insecure. I’ve learned the hard way to choose my friends wisely. I don’t open up easily. I have thousands of acquaintances, and a select group of friends. Some people still don’t like me because I’m “too much”, or flamboyant, or downright odd. They don’t think my stories about dating equally odd, “high-profile” people or anecdotes about the silly situations I got myself into before I was older and wiser are entertaining, and I don’t blame them. You can’t please everyone, and “being myself” does often mean being weird, unconventional, flamboyant, and saying things that cause others to turn bright red. I get how some people, especially in the South, especially those who aren’t particularly secure in themselves, don’t like that. I get how my snarkiness annoys others in the same way overly perky, upper-induced people make me want to go home and listen to Nirvana. (I think one of my favourite people, Dorothy Parker, would highly approve.) Some people just don’t like me when I’m “being myself”. And, yet, some people are devoted admirers because of those things.

Being sick over the past year really put things into perspective for me, made me seek out different kinds of friendships, forced me to become more introspective, gave me the opportunity to see things in other people I’d previously missed. I’ve become not only more self-aware, but generally more intuitive and perceptive as a result of needing to take time out from the world. I’ve become a huge fan of one-on-one interactions with others, and realised just how much I hate “clubbing”, and maybe, I secretly always did. I’ve learned that most of my insecurities over the years weren’t real (if you think you’re fat at a size 6, there’s nothing like gaining 30 pounds and five years to make you re-evaluate that girl you judged so harshly.) I’ve learned that most of what was off-putting to people wasn’t that I dared to be my unconventional self, but because there were so many times when I didn’t. I was a social hypocrite, like so much of the world, living one way behind closed doors, yet putting on another face for social occasions. I didn’t let anyone in, didn’t let people get too close. Most of my relationships had an element of superficiality to them I wouldn’t tolerate now.

Yes, as it turns out, I am kind of old. Because I can’t go back to being that faux-perfect-looking, alpha-female, “slightly too good for you” 21-year-old girl, mostly because I know I’m not going to grow up to be that same, even more successful, more socially appropriate 31-year-old-woman. I’m going to realise that’s not me, it never was, and if that means I’m not as appreciated as I should be as a consequence, it’s more likely because I’m in the wrong setting than anything about me is flawed.

Out of all of life’s lessons, “be yourself” is the hardest to learn, mostly because we’re conditioned at such an early age to learn there are social repercussions if yourself happens to be kind of not like everyone else.

Here’s the memo: Everyone else isn’t like everyone else, either. They’re just more people who are scared to be themselves, and believe there’s safety in numbers.

Conformity and blending in isn’t happiness. It’s just one more way in which you’re doing the world, and yourself, a disservice. I have a magnet on my refrigerator, with a quote reading “Stop spending your time trying to be regular. It robs you of the chance to be extraordinary.”

I got fired from my “regular” job yesterday, a primary source of income and responsibility in my life for well over two years. I’m still processing, and not ready to write about it, or deal with the sudden lack of security and constancy this represents in my world. Strangely, it feels like a loss, yet a loss that has freedom as a side effect. I slept 12 hours in a row last night, peacefully, when I should be worried as hell about my future.

Instead, I wonder if someone taking away the safety of being regular is what it takes to remind me that I’m extraordinary, and should be focusing my energy on doing extraordinary things…or at least living a life that makes me happy, instead of settling for one that resembles “secure adulthood”.

Earlier today, The Guy I Am Currently Dating, who would be proud to label himself a “geek guy”, forwarded this article to me. It took two seconds for me to roll my eyes. I’m sure the article came my way because he was sure I’d blog about it, and of course I did.

Why is there a question mark in the title? Of course it’s offensive. It encourages stereotypes and how to pretend to be someone you’re not to attract someone you have to work to click with, rather than just organically bonding with someone who seems like a natural match. It’s no different than “7 Steps To Get A Mega-Hottie To Talk To You”. Could the media stop perpetuating this bullshit?

What about “Stop trying to find a certain kind of guy by pretending to be something you’re not, and maybe you’ll actually meet someone who likes you? ”

I’ve attracted a geek guy in my life. Or 20. Or maybe way more. I’ve had serious relationships and meaningful friendships with more than a few. Some of them are fairly well-known geek guys. And, you know what? I don’t watch sci-fi, Felicia Day annoys the hell out of me, I don’t program computers, I don’t play video games, and I don’t see the need to dress like Slave Leia or dress in duct tape to get attention.

I have some geeky hobbies. I keep a blog. I play trivia every week. I’m a literary geek, a theatre geek. I’ve been to both Dragon*Con and Burning Man. But I also love shopping, reality TV, and all things girly. I don’t wear glasses. I’m emotional rather than rational, and people don’t often see the intense and substantial side of me until they get to know me.. Yet, geeky guys tend to be attracted to me, and although it’s not always an instantaneous attraction, I often find myself falling for geeky, introverted guys with whom, on the surface, I don’t have much in common. Often, though, it’s a balance that works. My strongest and most emotionally bonded relationships and friendships have been with geeky guys, and I don’t have to pretend to like Star Trek or Halo to build those.

Not every person is attracted to the same kind of person. One type of geeky guy may want an uber-rational, scientific, logical type of person who will communicate and share interests on a more intellectual level. Another might want an outgoing social butterfly who is going to open him up to new experiences. Still another may want a girl who genuinely enjoys the same hobbies. Some may simply want the hottest girl that’s willing to sleep with them, even if the relationship is largely superficial on both ends…you know, kind of like every “type” of shallow person out there. Thinking that a guy you label as “geeky” is a stereotype is just kind of ignorant. Thinking that turning yourself into Felicia Day or Zooey Deschanel is what’s going to land his attention is as stupid as assuming he’s looking for Scarlett Johannsen or Angelina Jolie.

For the record, I’ve had geeky guys I’ve been attracted to tell me they didn’t want to date me because they perceived me as the crazy manic pixie type that was going to disrupt their universe, or because I was too outgoing and socially exhausting. I’ve had geeky guys break up with me for low-key, plain librarian types, and for blonde, surgically-enhanced California girls. People change. Just because someone is intelligent or unconventional doesn’t mean they know what they’re looking for in another person, or that what that person thinks is right today is going to be right in the future. So, not shockingly, nothing in this article has much value, unless you’re completely one-dimensional and seeking an equally one-dimensional partner you can manipulate into falling for you, and never changing or growing.

I’ll admit, my life is a little bit of a stereotype in certain ways. Quirky manic pixie attracts geeky guys who want help coming out of their shells? Yeah, not an uncommon story. It’s happened to me more than once. I’ve “inspired people”, helped them to “explore life” and “come out of the shadows” and “live more”, only to have them leave me when they’ve figured out they’re now who they want to be and don’t need me anymore—or they can land a prettier, richer, or saner girl thanks to their newfound confidence and experience. They don’t show that part of the story in all those indy romance flicks.

I’m just me. I’m kind of smart. I’m kind of quirky. I’m kind of attractive. I’m kind of off-the-wall sometimes. I can be a little too much for some people. But geeky guys tend to like me because I’m unconventional and willing to accept people for who they are. I don’t try to change anyone. I don’t judge people for not being like me. In fact, I often am drawn to people because of it I’ve learned there’s a balance between similarities and differences that is essential to a relationship that works for me. This is not true for every person. The people for whom this same balance is important seem to seek me out…or, if not, I seek them out. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

I must repeat: I have never, ever played Halo. I don’t read comic books. Sci-fi bores the hell out of me. I suck at math. And I’m not the shy, quirky librarian type. If you are into these things and want to date a geeky guy because you have stuff in common, that’s awesome. But this article isn’t going to help you with that either.

Yes, I naturally attract geeky guys. I think it has to be the blog…which many of them have refused to read over the years. *lol* Surprisingly, I don’t do it purposely. For a long time, I defined my “type” as someone way different. And then I learned the shocking truth: people aren’t categories. It’s not “geeky vs. hip”, “assholes vs. nice guys”, “friends vs. romantic partners”, “alike vs. different”. People are not simple, and relationships certainly are not on one dimension of compatibility. This is part of the reason I’m fully convinced that people who go into relationships looking for everything they’ve ever wanted in one person, or need to be “completed” are doomed to fail.

The biggest challenge I’ve faced with geeky guys is not meeting them or attracting interest, but convincing them to be straightforward and emotionally open enough to take a chance on approaching me and trusting me. More than once, I’ve heard someone was afraid of me. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard “A girl like you could really hurt me”, I’d have some serious extra spending cash. But, again, that kind of judgment really isn’t good. Anyone who really knew me would know I’m not the heartbreaker, and not the manipulative type. In fact, I’m not a type at all.

Neither are the geeky guys I know, even if they are proud of their passions, accomplishments, intellect, and unconventional interests.

I really resent articles like this that tell you how to change yourself and other people to attract a certain kind of person. It’s demeaning to you, and it’s demeaning to that person. What happened to just being yourself and attracting people who click with you? The more you know and love who you are, the more objectionable the idea of changing yourself or anyone else in order to attract a partner or make a relationship work.

Being as authentic as possible is what works for me, and it means I don’t have to spend a lifetime pretending to want to stay in playing Halo on a Friday night when I’m planning to put together a social event. It means I don’t have to dress as or emulate a TV character in order to be “different”, because quirky is what’s in right now.

I think a lot of people who identify themselves as “geeky” go through life looking for a certain level of acceptance, someone who really feels “I care about you because you’re you, not because I see you as a type or because you might have potential if I change you enough.” I think it’s not just something “geeky” people feel and want, but something anyone who’s ever felt a little bit not like everyone else has experienced. I think I attract unconventional people because I understand the importance of authenticity and acceptance. If you don’t have that, you don’t have the kind of openness and level of trust that builds strong relationships.

If you want to attract a geeky guy, sure, you can do the stuff that’s in this article, and find a guy who’s interested in sleeping with you and hanging out with you for a little while, until it becomes obvious you have nothing in common and pretense wears thin. That’s true of almost any “type” of person you want to consciously try to attract.

If you want to have a meaningful relationship or friendship with a geeky guy, don’t do a single thing this article mentions. In fact, give up on the idea of people as “types” or attracting a “type” because it’s cool, or what they might have to offer you, and just be comfortable enough with who you are to put it out there and attract people because they are somehow right for you.

Maybe then you’ll be on your way to a healthy relationship, whether your partner is a geek, a hippie, a prep, a yuppie, a hipster, or any other “type” you can think of. Because, in reality, that person isn’t representative of that “type”. They’re just a compatible partner for you, on whatever level that connection happens, and you don’t have to fake it to find it.

Spending your life faking it isn’t good for anyone. I don’t care if this article, or Cosmpolitan, is telling you otherwise. Both you and your potential partner(s) deserve waaaaay better, right?

Yeah, there’s way too much bullshit on the internet. I exist to counteract that. :P