Lovely imposter syndrome
It was Rain’s birthday recently, so if you see him, wish him a good one?
Years ago, he told me about this comedy skit where there’s this guy that has a speech impediment where he can only speak in a sarcastic voice, which makes his life totally miserable and lonely.
Rain told me about it and then I told you about it.
Finally found it, if you’re interested.
It’s not like I didn’t want to have friends.
I just talked like a weird 49-year-old Chinese-American man with a Queens accent…when I was 13. That was my speech impediment.
Met a pretty girl once in 7th Grade. Told her she looked lovely. And she and her friends called me a weirdo and worse.
As an aside, I say lovely all the goddamn time now.
In junior high, the closest I had to friends were a girl named Julia and a guy named Phil. I’ll tell you about them someday but, not for a while because I wasn’t exactly kind to them.
And the reason was because I started making friends here and there.
Books are really amazing things. But I digress.
By the time I got to high school, I (kinda) started figuring out how to talk like everyone else. I always had a Queens accent but used words like lovely and idiosyncratic all the time – studying for the SATs didn’t help matters.
In many ways, I always felt the weight of imposter syndrome – as if someone people would figure out that I was super mechanical at being social.
Step 1: Introduce yourself by looking someone in the eye.
Step 2: Shake their hand.
Step 3: Repeat their name.
Step 4: Smile.
And so on.
Yet, for the most part, people didn’t figure out that I was a ghost in a machine, pretending to be human.
The girl I called “lovely” was named Stella.
She wrote in my junior high school yearbook that I shoulda asked her to the JHS prom. She went with a guy named Edwin instead. It was junior high school where I slimed down and started dressing better.
It was also then I learned that if you look good, people will talk to you, even if you talk like a weird 49-year-old Chinese-American man with a thick Queens accent.
Hence my being unkind to Julia and Phil. That is one of the earliest of my 10,000 regrets.
A much smaller regret was that, for years afterward, I wished that (a) I didn’t tell Stella she was “lovely,” and (b) I asked her out to the JHS prom.
Didn’t realize that I was speaking Martian while everyone else was speaking English.
I wanted desperately to be understood, like that guy in the video above, but I didn’t know how.
I’m bringing alla this up because the two arguments I had recently have been on my mind.
Both were with people that mattered to me in some way and in both, I couldn’t make myself understood. And I suppose the same was true in reverse.
35 years after Stella, they were speaking English and I was speaking Martian. Or vice versa.
One ended with me being told to leave in the rain, the other, being told to get out at a desolate intersection after midnight.
Everything I said was construed in the worst possible way and there was no way I could make myself understood.
I always say that we’re the prisoners of our 14-year-old selves. In both arguments, I felt like I was telling Stella she was lovely and all she heard was that I was weird.
Every so often, we feel the weight of the chains we forge for ourselves as kids.
I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.
In the end, the question really is, how much do we want to be understood and how much do we want to understand someone else.
These days, for me, most people aren’t worth the effort. I’d rather just be with my (e)books again.
But some people are worth the effort, even if you realize it too late.
Spoke to one of the women that helped me survive 2017 recently.
It wasn’t – at all – what you would call a “good” talk.
But she also didn’t tell me to go fuck myself, so I suppose that’s a net positive.
Location: West 79th Street, giving the boy a hug and telling him I’d see him soon
Music: you do not need to speak (Spotify)
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