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.”

Today, the United States government has entered a state of partial shut-down, and I anticipate that things will be at a standstill for some time before they begin to look up. I’m not intending to write about this very current issue, even though it is relevant to all of us. However, I did post a statement on my Facebook page explaining why I’d be keeping oddly silent through a period of controversy, something that is not like me at all. It reads as follows:

“I don’t comment on political things much. It isn’t because I don’t have opinions; on the contrary, I have very strong opinions. But I also have the irritating ability to see both sides of a situation and discuss a problem from that perspective, which seems to annoy both “sides” of any issue. I look for ways for people to compromise and work together whenever possible, and those who see things in black and white tend to get angry with me, because I rarely do. So, I will spend tomorrow avoiding all commentary on the current political issues or partisan “blaming” conversations. I will say, though, if there were more people like me on our Congress, we wouldn’t have an “us vs. them” mentality that eliminates the idea of compromise for the greater good, in favour of behaving like children playing a game where winning is the only thing that matters. That is all I have to say about that.”

So, yes. Although I do not work for the government, it feels a bit like it should be a holiday today. I mean, why I am I meant to sit around being productive today? Instead, I thought I’d head over here and say hello to you guys. I haven’t done as well with keeping up on my blogging projects as I should, and I’m appreciative of the regular readers who drop by to look for new stories, even when there are not any.

For those who missed it, my latest project has been an involvement with Nerdy Minds, an online magazine for all things geek-culture related. They were initially delighted to have me as a contributor, because they really didn’t have someone on staff who wasn’t your “typical geek” writing about the culture from somewhat of an outside perspective. My very first post,
The Myth Of The Geek Girl
, stirred up a good deal of controversy and debate on Facebook and amongst the geek community at large. In fact, the response (both of a positive and negative nature) was so immediate and inspired so many strong opinions, I was asked to write a follow-up piece.

I’m not going to sugar-coat it: writing for an audience that is not yours and expressing opinions on the internet is a bit like wandering into a minefield. When you write on your own blog, you have a bit of a security net. When you write a book, you have a finished work or a character or something to hide behind. When you write an opinion piece based upon your own life and share it with the world, there is no hiding. People judge. The commentary can get personal. You need to be a thick-skinned person to put yourself and your opinions out there in an authentic, vulnerable fashion and not be affected by the backlash. I, admittedly, am sensitive to the point of being overly sensitive. I take things personally when they are not meant that way. You might imagine how I react to the things that are most certainly meant that way.

Yet, throughout my life and my writing career, I’ve had the following pointed out: “You know how to make friends. You know how to get people to like you. If you just employ those strategies and hold back on sharing so much of yourself, you’ll find it easier to ingratiate yourself with any group of people. You’re a charming person; does it matter so much to be authentic and to have your voice heard?”

The answer is yes, of course it does. I addressed this issue in a snarky piece about
Surviving The Social Scene In 2013
at the beginning of the year. If you are an artist in any way shape and form, you understand that none of the aforementioned suggestions apply to you. They simply cannot co-exist with your identity as an artist without one suffering greatly. As an artist, it isn’t your job to make people like you. It isn’t even your job to pay attention to what your readers say, what your critics say, what your friends and family say. It isn’t your job to explain yourself and become a more beloved person. The job of an artist is to get people to examine how they think, how they feel, and how that is reflective (or not) of society. The job of an artist is to evoke a response and initiate dialogue. If acceptance is always the ultimate goal, one must embrace conformity much more than I am willing to do. I like acceptance. I like to be liked. However, the comments that meant the most to me were hearing from women who’d encountered all sorts of experiences that made them uncomfortable, and thanked me for sharing mine. The comments that meant the most to me were from people who wanted to reference my pieces in their own work and discussions on the topic, the people who validated me as an artist with something to say, not as a likeable girl.

Perhaps I don’t need to be liked enough that I believe the only important thing I have to say is on the topic of “Why Yellow Is Out In 2014″. Yet, the truth is, I do care, and when people make personal comments or actively dislike me, I cry. It doesn’t matter if I do not know or will never meet that person. Judgement hurts. However, it doesn’t hurt enough to make me believe toning down my personality, expressing myself a little less strongly, or working to keep the peace and making certain everyone will like me is worth it. I dislike conflict, but I cannot mold myself to the expectations of others to avoid conflict and live a life where I am more “accepted” by all. I cannot refuse to stand out because it makes others uncomfortable.

A good friend told me yesterday that he was quite concerned about me, because he always sees me as a bright shining light in the middle of a world that isn’t equipped for such a thing. He is afraid that the people around me who are not as open and adventurous as I can be, the people both in my personal and professional life who’d like to see me knocked down a peg or two, the pressure to live in a society whose mantra seems to be “conformity and pleasing others is the ticket to success”, and the difficult situations in my life one might characterise as “The Challenging Process Of Growing Up” are all things that will ultimately dim that light. It was the right thing to say, because my reply was along the lines of, “Don’t underestimate me. I may not be too strong or too special, but I’m a fighter. You never have to worry. I will cry and feel bruised and battered, but I’ll always get back up. I have to. ”

I do not consider myself “provocative” or “ballsy” or even “confident”, but I thank those who give me credit for being such a strong type of person. I don’t think there is anything particularly special about me. I write about things that are relevant to me, and things I believe others might read and think, “I can relate to that.” I say the things I think people should be saying, even if not everyone wishes to hear them. And, however much it hurts, I can’t change that desire for authentic self-expression simply because someone doesn’t like me or judges me. After living my life online for 13 years, I’m quite familiar with what it’s like to be a polarising personality. I’m also quite familiar with how important it becomes when someone tells you that you’ve left a positive influence in that person’s life, simply by being yourself. If you have that gift, and most of us do, why should fear keep you from sharing it?

In fact, the experience has rekindled my passion for blogging, and reminded me to pay more attention to my own. In October, I will be bringing back the ever-popular “Literary Libations” segment, and will be creating a group on Goodreads to bring together authors, bloggers, and others who realise that building a brand, marketing a book, or getting traffic to a blog isn’t something that can be accomplished in a bubble.

I’ll also be attending the annual SIEGE Conference this Thursday through Sunday, where I’ll be helping to handle registration and bringing my own unique version of sunshine and rainbows (i.e., snark, vodka, and glitter) to a really diverse and fun crowd of people.

And did I mention it’s October? That, of course, means Halloween—more events, more costumes, and more zany adventures when possible. If you’re not yet my Facebook friend, I urge you to come on over and join me and my unique crew of peeps, and share in the adventures.

See you all soon!:)

Sometimes, what starts out as a piece on your personal blog can evolve into an essay that strangely finds the right home. :) I posted a personal piece on this topic about a year ago, after feeling rather alienated, isolated, and generally unappreciated at a Meetup hosted by The Guy I Am Currently Dating. With a little revamping, it became a female-positive essay about how it’s always better to be your authentic self, published on a site for members of the community which had a few representatives initially made me feel a bit judged and insecure.

If you’re bored in the middle of your Monday afternoon, stop by Nerdy Minds and check out my first contribution. This one is an essay on “The Myth Of The Fake Geek Girl”. Whether you are a geek, a girl, both, or neither, you’ll likely relate.
Check it out and show some love! :)

This weekend was an exceptionally fun one, followed immediate by a huge sense of sadness and my body deciding to be ill because of all the emotional stress and anxiety. I promise, I shall return soon, but visit my guest post and tell me what you think!:)

You may have noticed there was a blog here updating the world on my life over the past week or two, and now it’s gone. On Friday night, a friend of mine contacted me to say “Talking about your problems with other people on the internet isn’t likely to win any friends or help you solve your real-life inter-personal disputes.”

Since I’m usually blogging about people who have no longer decided to be my friend and why that decision was made, I was very confused by this. He then went on to remind me how much he did not like it when I blogged about issues with him, and that, really, nobody likes when I do that. So, I said “Whatever”, and took the blog down. Peer pressure means a lot.

I then went on to do some thinking. The thinking went like this: “OMG! I’m nice and sensitive and smart and entertaining, and yet, people don’t like me. I am shunned by social groups, have people stop talking to me for reasons I don’t understand, have been threatened in order to get me to leave town, embarrassed socially by strangers, know more than one girl who has made “not knowing Alayna” a relationship condition, don’t get invited to parties all my friends are attending, and generally have a small circle of people who really “get” me. What am I doing wrong? I’m a great friend! I should be adored and loved by all! Why is my awesomeness and love of life not apparent?”

I have to admit, I am very perplexed by the world. Apparently, self-expression in the form of sharing what’s happened in your life does not win you friends. Discussing your feelings does not win you friends on FB, because people remind you to stop complaining and how the world has bigger problems. (Yes, but I don’t know the world. These are *my* problems and feelings? Why am I not entitled to discuss them?)

There are a lot of things that don’t win you friends, and I’m afraid I don’t know what they are. However, here’s what I’ve observed during my time in Atlanta regarding the kind of person you’re supposed to be if you want to be someone who is invited to parties and whom others can actually tolerate in a social setting. Please note, this advice is written with a heavy dose of snarkiness and sarcasm (you’ll see this on the list as a quality others may not like about you.). Perhaps, in the future, I will write a new etiquette book, “Surviving the 1950′s Social Scene In 2013″ (or whatever year it happens to be finished.)

1)Don’t have any secrets in your past that may cause other people to judge you, or reflect scandal, impropriety, or imperfection in any way. One of my favourite books is Edith Wharton’s “Age Of Innocence”, about New York society in the early 20th century. One of the characters, Countess Olenska, is charming, beautiful, cultured, well-traveled, and many people secretly admire her or fall in love with her. Yet, as far as society goes, people incessantly whisper about her and are not inclined to invite her to social functions. Despite the fact that she brings a sense of life and adventure and refreshing honesty to those around her, she has “scandal” in her past, and her disposition is too “free-spirited” to suit those around her. She generally feels terribly alone and misunderstood, especially because some of those in her social circle are her relatives, and she can’t figure out why being a charming and lovely person does not win her acceptance, and even her admirers keep their admiration to themselves in “polite society”.

It’s 2013, and society has changed little. Unless you’re famous, having disreputable secrets from your past is the curse of death. If you tell people about your colourful and scandalous life, they are shocked and don’t wish to get to know you. If you wait until you know someone and then thell them, they feel betrayed, because they never would have been friends with someone like you if they’d had all the information that allowed them to judge you based on your past actions, rather than who you are today. This is especially true if you live in the Bible belt, but have broken most of the Commandments. If you want others to like you, don’t do anything wrong. And if you do things that are wrong, either have the good grace not to be caught like everyone else, or act as suitably shamed for your life of sin as your society deems you should. Some people may actually like you and admire you for your colourful life or unconventional outlook, but don’t count on them to ever express that in public, because that is not how society works.

2)If you have feelings, don’t tell anyone. An instant way to not win friends is to have feelings and express them. If someone has hurt your feelings, if you are annoyed, if you feel disrespected, if you are sad, if you are going through a tough time in life, only your close friends and perhaps your relatives will care. (I say perhaps because my relatives made it clear they didn’t care, and told me to take my whining back to Atlanta when I was sick and in need of medical attention.) In social situations, being hurt is “oversensitivity” and being displeased is “high-maintenance”, while being sad or expressing negative thoughts makes you a “downer” and discussing your life openly is just “too much information”. This is especially important on the internet, where the people who know you want to know more about you, as long as it’s suitably happy and superficial and doesn’t allow anyone to really know you.

3)If you have thoughts or opinions, don’t express them. Again, people care about what you’re thinking, but if you start talking about literature or philosophy or the meaning of life, you’ll immediately become “boring”, “heavy”, and “depressing” to those around you. If others are discussing politics and religion and you don’t believe in either, it’s best to nod and smile. If others are talking about their happy personal lives, and you happen to have a happy yet non-conventional personal life, it’s better just to not let anyone know you at all. This will make you liked and socially acceptable. Remember, it’s always better to be boring than scandalous or offensive. If you are a woman, smiling and talking to other women about perfectly neutral topics is the best way to go. Do not flirt with the men around you, even in jest, because you will immediately make estrogen-fueled enemies. Also, do not give the impression that you’re “one of the guys”, unless you actually are a guy, as the idea that you can bond with a guy in a way his wife/girlfriend cannot is threatening and cause for social banishment. Do not spend too much time talking about yourself in an attempt to get others to relate to you or to get them to open up, or because you misguidedly think “People will like me if only they understood me”. False. They will simply think you are egocentric for talking about yourself, and weird for being open about the “real you”.

4)Cut down on the free-spiritedness. You may think your crazy adventures are entertaining because your friends laugh, but every story you tell or crazy night out you plan, there is someone who is judging you for your unsuitable behaviour. Enjoy life within the constraints of the society around you, lest you be disapproved of for being “different”. Don’t talk too much, too loudly, flirt, tell off-colour jokes, try to be witty, or express your personality. Remember when your mother told you “Be yourself, and everyone will like you?” She lied.

5)Make sure your dress, personal style, and mannerisms don’t stick out. You may think you’re perfectly ordinary and non-objectionable, but if you wear skirts when everyone else wears jeans, or polo shirts instead of t-shirts, you’ve provided an instant reason for others not to like you. Conformity, conformity, conformity. It is also helpful if you have a job that others respect or can relate to, yet is interesting enough that others don’t avoid you in case you’re discussing your latest project. If you have a job that is odd or unconventional, avoid mentioning it too much, or others will stare blankly and wonder why you can’t be steadily employed by a respectable corporation, school, or government agency. However, not talking about your job at all is also a recipe for disaster, because people will get curious and Google you to find out if you’re really a drug dealer, car thief, or stripper. These professions may seem interesting, but it turns out, they are not socially acceptable.

6)Do not be snarky, sarcastic, witty, or rude. Most of the time, people will not understand you, and if they do understand you, they are not likely to be impressed. First of all, many people are so self-conscious, they’re afraid that your “joke” may cause them to be judged in the future—as we’ve established, the one thing that brings about social disapproval and ostracism—or that you’re passive-aggressively saying you don’t like someone. This is even true if you’re known to be the sort of person who will just say “I do not like you.”. Secondly, others are likely to feel stupid if your particular brand of snarkiness is something they don’t get, and that makes you wrong. Thirdly, you may think you’re witty, but in reality, others find you obnoxious and tiring. If you write a blog like this one or keep a constant stream of banter going in your conversations with others, you can count on pretty much never being invited to anything, by anyone, ever. Also, you’ll have the vague sense that people don’t like you, but not know why. This is why. Unless, of course, you’ve already done one of the things mentioned above. Then, they already didn’t like you before the snarky remarks you made, so you might as well.

7)Like doughnuts and M & M’s, life is best when sugar-coated, at least in social situations. If people wanted to hear the truth, they’d turn on the news or read a book. Making other people feel like they are the most awesome people in the world and avoiding being the centre of attention is important. When you do speak, you have to be extra careful to ensure that nothing you say may accidentally have a double meaning, or can be taken in an insulting way. For instance, I personally have been de-friended for using the word “crazy” in conversation, and because I proudly called myself an “uber-liberal person”. Ooops. If there is something about anything that you dislike, it’s best not to mention it, because nice people like everything and everyone, at least to their faces.

8)Don’t talk about other people, unless they’re the socially unacceptable individuals everyone else is already talking about. Because that’s just rude, isn’t it? It’s also important to remember that you will call unwanted attention to yourself by expressing you like or admire someone that other people do not. It’s fairly obvious that being socially acceptable means liking and disliking the same people everyone else likes and dislikes, even if that’s not exactly how you feel. Did you not learn anything from high school?

9)Don’t assume that because you think you’re “nice”, others will like you. You may be a very kind-hearted individual who makes an effort to know others and do nice things for them, but there are still things that are fundamentally wrong with who you are and possibly worthy of judgment. You may not even know what’s wrong with you as a human being until you hear it from other people. After all, people are not *born* knowing why they should not like themselves, they must be taught by society to recognise their inadequacies.

10)Know when to concede and accept defeat.If you know that others do not like you and all attempts to win them over or make others see the “real you” have failed, or you’re just so scandalous and/or insufferable that you’ve alienated large groups of people, you have a few options. You can become a really happy misanthropic introvert, use your disenfranchisement from society to launch a career in the arts, or you can become so intimidating to others that they may not like you, but they’re going to shut the hell up about it. Also, you can move someplace where people don’t care about whatever it is that makes you so disliked in your current surroundings, or where people find your personality “normal” rather than “objectionable”. This is not recommended if people have confronted you and tried to bully you into leaving town, because why would you give someone who dislikes you the satisfaction of making their life easier? That would not be a self-respecting behaviour.

Alternatively, you could decide you just don’t care what others think of you or anyone else. However, don’t be surprised when you realise you’re suddenly the least popular person you know. Caring is essential, even if you don’t, not really. After all, deep down inside, you really do. Just don’t tell anyone, because your honest emotional vulnerability makes others uncomfortable 99.5% of the time.

I’m sure these useful tips will ensure I continue to not be invited to social functions throughout 2013, but it’s cool. They may just save you from that social faux pas you were accidentally going to commit, and make certain that you are still seen as acceptable by those around you. And, you don’t have to worry about me. I know that somewhere, someone is reading this…and that person may like me. And if that person doesn’t like me, well, my comments are disabled.

Let the fabulous self-delusion continue! ;)

“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