Illusion of Depth

I saw this handout (for art class) sitting on my office printer and giggled to my colleague that this should be the title of my autobiography. She joked back that she thinks the opposite is true – I am deeper than I appear to be. I cultivate the impression that I’m more shallow than I really am.

I guess I do let people underestimate me sometimes, ‘ All the better to see you, hear you and eat you,…My dears.’

Sometimes having a persona that doesn’t totally match who you are is helpful – passing, for example, means I overhear so many conversations that latent homophobes would never have in front of me, if it occurred to them that I might be queer. That’s when I slide into the conversation.

Sometimes it’s for self-preservation – it maintains a buffer.

It’s true. It’s raw being an open vein, walking around feeling everything and thinking the dark thoughts. Plus people don’t tend to appreciate getting blood on them when all you were actually asked is, ‘How are you?’

People tend to want stock answers.

Not – the Trump administration is bumming me out; I’ve been contemplating the death of god; I just dealt with a teen suicide attempt; I am worried about rape culture; I’m not sure how I will pay for our fertility costs and am harbouring a deep feeling of rage, mixed with self-pity that so many thoughtless people are easily reproducing without actually actively wanting to have and raise real human beings.

Nope. I play up the light and rosy hued. Today I’m wearing a sweater with appliqués of popsicles, cacti and bananas on it. I wear bright lipstick. I talk about Instagram and Beyoncé. I often use teen slang – awkwardly for students, to emphasize our age difference while using it without irony with my own friends. Why?

It has occurred to me before than I present differently, depending on the company. But it wasn’t until G said this that I realized there is a method to the madness, and some people are wise to it.

I add a softer edge to the part of me that is bold and outspoken. It’s the spoonful of sugar that helps my truth go down. It is apparent to me, after at least two decades of dumb comments made to me, like ‘wow, I never realized how smart you are,’ or ‘you’re so pretty for a lesbian… are you sure you are one?’ … usually followed by some implication that mascara and brains don’t tend to go together. Right? We can’t be more than one thing.

I have been told some people find me intimidating, even though I spend half my life laughing and smiling. I get it, I have big feelings – but I am deeply fair. As loving as I am fierce.

This works to my advantage. It means I can stop a room full of teenagers from talking (or throwing chairs.. really) with one word and sometimes a look. Or send them into fits of giggles. It means my friends, in stressful moments or high pressure work gigs, have told me they say to themselves ‘channel Alison’. But it also means that when I care about something enough, my anger makes me cry, like twice in the last week, and that I can come across as one of those ‘ angry lesbian feminists,’ which says a lot about people and their attitudes about what should make people angry. Legitimately. My own feelings wreck me sometimes. No wonder I’ve learned to costume them.

I blame my parents. They have always supported my right to own my own feelings. They never dismissed me with the typical adultism we all experience.

But it’s hard, too, when you realize the lipstick and floral dresses are also your armour, as much as a passion for adorable prints, because society is conditioned to accept and welcome nice packaging. The Trojan horse. While they might recoil at a woman in full armour and battle gear, they invite me to sit and never see the double agent coming; so we wear ourselves under our manicures, ready to ‘speak daggers, but use none’ (shakes).

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Is it impostor syndrome or a survival instinct?

Anyone else ever feel like they cultivate a persona that lets them navigate the world less perilously?

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Bottoms up.

I started my day by falling out of my car straight onto my ass, as my foot hit a patch of ice concealed under our first big snowfall of the year. This was also my first big snow fall.

There’ve been so many ups and downs. Classes went well. Snow tires got installed by our auto shop department, saving me 90 bucks. After school I had two hours of rehearsal for the musical Annie. I finished choreographing and amazingly adorable number for the orphans.

Then, as I’m getting ready to leave, go home and cook some dinner, I walk out of the rehearsal only to hear someone yell “get your hands off me faggot“. Can I not just have one day go by where I don’t have to deal with hate speech at my place employment? I always address this kind of stuff when I hear it and see it, queer or otherwise, but it just gets to be so demoralizing when it happens and it seems like we have to get murdered for anybody to actually do anything about it. I have a student who was targeted during anti-bully in week, the perp was spoken to, spoken to…. and three days later pushes the same kid in the hallway, and tells her to burn in hell. Yes, let’s talk to this child.

I’m 10 years into my career, and yes things of gotten better, but today for the first time in a few years, before leaving and getting into my car I burst into tears in my staff room.

I can handle conversations where I point out the obvious, that language like this is not appropriate, that it hurts actual people, and that I really like them to do better next time. What I can’t handle is having everyone pretend no one else heard what was said, even though it was screamed in the hallway with 12 people in it, and no one will say anything. So I say… it’s really disappointing that if someone feels comfortable enough speaking that way they won’t take responsibility and apologize for using hate speech in a building that is supposed to be for public education. And then…

I should’ve known this was happening, because it’s been the allotted amount of time for a major outburst, a girl who is lying and her boyfriend’s lap on the floor, chirps, he didn’t say it the way you think you did. And then gets into a five minute argument where she screaming at me, yelling that I don’t know the way people mean things, that it’s not a bad word to the guy who said it, why don’t I (the teacher) just go home, why am I talking to her … she might have well just yelled “you don’t know me!!?” And then scatted …

I was still trying to breathe and find a way to simply ask her if she could consider, it’s reasonable for me to do my job, and ask people not to use profanity, or hate speech, or language that makes people feel unsafe or uncomfortable, while I am at work doing my job. It’s a rare breed that feels comfortable screaming at the top of their lungs at a teacher, and then telling them to go home, because no one wants to hear them talk.

And this, when I had put myself, vulnerably into the conversation, responding when she claimed ‘no one cares,’ that I care. I’m gay. And I do care.

To make matters worse, right at my shoulder was the sweetest trans boy, a student of mine, who is doing everything in his power to try and back me up, and getting so upset at all the horrible things this girl was saying. Ironically, after leaving the hallway to go get an incident report sheet, no one had copped to saying the initial remark, but out of nowhere screamy decides to say out of the blue, that she is sorry I was offended.

And for a second she realizes I’m a human being.

And we talk. And I Replay how I expected the conversation to go. That I’m thankful for her apology, and I’m sure that she had no intention of the conversation going in that direction. And that it’s really hard to come to work and expect multiple times a week to deal with people using your identity as an insult and hearing hate speech when sometimes you are just really, really tired. I feel like we actually got somewhere; her back down, my nerves raw.

And I made it to my office before bursting into tears.

And maybe it’s just that I’m waiting for myperiod to get here, because we can’t do a transfer until it does. Or that, yes I’ve dealt with multiple cases of homophobic bullying experience by students in the last few weeks. And maybe it’s even that my brother and his wife just told us that directly after deciding to ‘not try’ to not get pregnant… are.

It’s all just a lot sometimes. And having to hold yourself together in front of an audience, of judgey, riled up teens, while someone spends five minutes screaming at you…when your day started with falling on your ass, even though it also included laughing your ass off, it’s all just a bit much. And it takes a lot out of you to be a grown-up, and try to be professional, while also being an advocate and a real live human, when the world can be so profoundly shitty.

So, bottoms up. This time no ice. Just a glass of red wine. The couch and some NETFLIX.