My mother loves to walk on the beach for hours on end. She doesn’t walk slowly with her head down looking for treasures like I do; she marches on with her head held high, her eyes meandering over people and buildings. My mother is the queen of people-watching. She tells me I walk too slow, and when I finally catch up, she tells me about how she would love to live there or have that kind of room at that kind of resort like this person or that person. My mum has an infinite ability to imagine herself in all kinds of exteriors. She constantly challenges me to not limit myself in definitions or categories. I was always obsessively anxious about fashioning the right shell to contain my snail-like self. She would challenge me to spread my slime all over the place.
My mother’s emphasis on freedom from self-imposed restrictions is perhaps why she continuously challenged my insecure, category-loving and rule-following self. I regretfully struggled with my identity and what was real and fake. If my true insides were a good cup of coffee, I spent my adolescence making shitty watered-down Americanos.
I remember as a young teenager googling “How to be a Hipster” because I desperately wanted to seem “cooler”. This whole expedition began when my friend Benazir told me in science class that I looked like a hipster. I had no idea what she was talking about. When I asked her what she meant I remember her saying, “Aren’t hipsters just people who ride bikes and stuff?” Clearly no one knew what a hipster was in 2010, but even so, I appeared that way to Benazir. When I did discover the definition of a hipster, I desired nothing more than to appear to be a part of that counterculture. I was so proud that I had been previously labelled as a hipster. The endowed definition meant that I belonged to a specific group, a clearly defined assembly of glasses-wearing and bike-riding people. And helpfully, this group came with an eHow website page to instruct future recruits! I think now that instruction manuals for “How to be this or that” are mildly cultish and sad. Back then I found the article instructive. I remember convincing myself that my minute farsightedness was problematic enough to warrant buying reading glasses from the optometrist when I was 14. I wanted to have glasses and look like a real hipster. By that time, I had absorbed these frivolous hipster qualities into my identity. Apparently, a true hipster can’t have 20/20 vision. Besides, there was no way that I would ever buy fake glasses. That would just make me a fraud! Somehow, I wound up the proud owner of a pair of $100 reading glasses at the age of 15. They now sit on my dresser collecting dust. I think I wore them twice and they gave me a headache.
To clearly see who I am is still difficult for my wavering sense of certainty. I am not even wedded to the concept of universal truth embedded in the aether let alone within myself. Can I be essentialized into a list of characteristics? Am I as easy to perform as the characters I perform onstage?
I am many things. I used to think that made me hard to swallow.
“Boys don’t like tall girls because they get intimidated.”
I can now see that makes me human.