Category Archives: introverts

If Pinterest Had Existed When I Was A Girlfriend

The saddest sentence popped into my head:

If Pinterest had existed when I was a girlfriend, I would’ve been so much better at it.

As soon as I heard it, I couldn’t not hear it.

Hours earlier, I had leaned over the kitchen sink and dumped cereal dust (crushed up frosted mini wheats, if you care) into my mouth. I had eaten peanut butter and jelly on saltines.

I had gone to the gym and slow-jogged a pathetic sixteen minutes and eighteen seconds before giving up. I had worn mid-shin socks with mesh shorts like some sort of preteen girl version of a lax bro and I was pretty much the least likely person to get asked on a date at that community clubhouse.

So the sadder and truer fact that came next was that I might’ve been better in some ways, sure, but mostly I would’ve been the kind of person I’d always been: coming home to wear sweatpants and a sweatshirt, cooking boring rigatoni and olive oil dinners, spending too much time reading books or blog posts or Twitter feeds.

I would not have been much different. A little better dressed, sure. A little more crafty, maybe. A little better at designing graphics or managing Facebook feeds or knowing what desserts I’d never make but love the idea of.

But I wouldn’t have been any different.

I don’t know if our whole generation, at least the single side, is wrapped up in feeling like we’ve got to at least look cool online, but I don’t really want to end up with friends or something mores who don’t know I sing sometimes. Or own only boy-sized sweatpants. Or rarely worry about matching my pajamas or hanging my coat in the closet or opening my mail the minute I visit the PO box.

And probably, it’s appropriate that the song stuck in my head is “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys. (Let’s just be honest: I haven’t heard that song in years, but somehow it’s lodged in my brain.)

The visible things, though, the pretty pinned pictures of skinny sour cream dip and gingham button downs with coral bubble necklaces and skinny black dress pants? Those are just things that might be nice. They’re not always real.

It takes half a second to want to collect your life visually so someone else can imagine how cool you must be, but it takes much more time for someone to figure out that you, you just want to have tomato soup and stand at the counter with your hood up and your hair pulled back. You don’t want to try so hard to be the cool girl.

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BRB, I Didn’t Forget You

I have always measured myself against the taller ones. The smarter ones. The dumber ones, even, if I am honest. The ones with boyfriends and girlfriends and better clothes. The ones who had straighter hair. Curlier hair. Longer hair. The ones who had a cooler phone, more people to text, options (any options) on Friday night. The ones who downed ten shots or always won at beer pong.

And yet I have never wanted to be taller. I have never wanted to drink much at all or go out on a Friday night. I have not spent the last six months scouring the Internet for somebody to call my boyfriend.

I just thought I needed to. That me, this small-and-sometimes-hard-to-know me, was never going to be good enough for anyone. Especially myself.

I thought that I had gotten pretty excellent at being almost someone. I was almost good enough to be on the varsity team. Almost made it to the championship for 100-meter hurdles. Almost ran a six-minute mile.

I was always on the brink, close enough that it burned when I failed.

And now, now I am surrounded by no one and everyone at the same time, now Facebook has made it near impossible to catch up with friends without putting myself on one side of the scale and all the beautiful, perfect ones on the other.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. When I was in high school, IMing boys I had crushes on, I used to quick type the tough questions and minimize the window. And do you know how hard it is to conjugate Spanish verbs when that window starts blinking blue-yellow-blue-yellow-blue? Do you know what strength it takes to reopen it?

It felt like proposing to someone you’ve never even dated. Like there could only be one answer, and it would leave you wishing you’d never asked at all.

We used to play this game. You wouldn’t tell the other person who you liked, but you’d answer questions. Like, yes her name begins with an A. Like, no we don’t have French together second period.

The worst words ever programmed were always this: “(Screen name) is typing…”

You prayed they didn’t hit enter before you got around to minimizing the window again. Sometimes, you prayed they didn’t answer at all.

And then they’d stop and start and pause and backspace and you’d think you asked the wrong thing. That you had lost a friend. That they were just thinking of ways to politely excuse themselves from the conversation.

Really, their mom was making them empty the dishwasher.

But you were sure they were crafting this response to let you down easy. All because they didn’t use those three little letters: BRB.

I wonder if our insecurities stem from the way we handled ourselves as 13-year-olds, telling the other person not to worry, that we would. Be. Right. Back. That we weren’t running scared. That we weren’t finished with the conversation.

We don’t go around warning people like that anymore. Sometimes, we leave without BRB or BBL or G2G. Sometimes, we tell ourselves it’s because we’re not good enough that we didn’t get a proper goodbye.

But it’s not. We are forgotten or misplaced or misguided for a multitude of reasons and few of those are reflections of ourselves.

Laughing Over Bowls Of Chicken Soup

The first thing I ever ‘liked’ on Facebook was laughing.

It was April 23, 2009. 10:52 p.m.

It wasn’t an organization, a brand or a nonprofit. It wasn’t a blog or a photography company or a celebrity fan page. It was just a sound, a sound that changes everywhere you go, but always comes back to that deep-rooted feeling of okay-ness.

I think I knew not to like something that might change, like my taste in music or favorite food or clothing style. I think I knew, on some level, that that first commitment had to be transcendent.

Laughing is something I didn’t do a lot of in college. Not that I wasn’t happy – just that I didn’t laugh out loud, let myself be me, not the way I had all the way through high school.

In high school, I felt embarrassed for laughing, always at the wrong times: when I was nervous or someone had whispered something under their breath during a lecture.

Maybe, on some level, I thought there were limited numbers of laughs in this world. Like I was diluting the level of humor floating around the atmosphere and other people were overcompensating, trying their hardest to be funny because it wasn’t easy to find joy anymore.

That’s a shame.

Because I can tell you, having laughed more in the last six months than I did in four years, probably, that it is a release some people don’t allow themselves.

I’m undoubtedly self-conscious. And there is this weird feeling of hyperawareness that settles over me when I’m trying too hard to be still or not care one way or the other. I could never be one of those royal guards in England. I’d be fired within minutes.

Good thing I’m not a tall guy, right?

Because if I was having a rotten day, like somebody in my life had been hospitalized or my best friend was in a car accident or my sister’s car got keyed – all of which have happened to me – I would not not not be able to stand in front of some building and stare into the abyss of the world.

It would feel a little like giving up my power to live. Like giving up my ability to contribute to society in a meaningful way.

I’d probably have some sort of dormant self-esteem issue because I’d feel like a doormat. And I know those guys are working for the protecting of others, that they are serving, that it is their calling, but imagine how hard it would be to go home and laugh.

Imagine how it might feel to suppress joy for ten hours a day and then try to conjure it up over a pot of your wife’s homemade chicken noodle soup, the steam fogging over the microwave as you bend down and ladle a bowl for yourself.

I want to be able to laugh over my chicken soup. Or let the newly-reached one billion Facebook users know that laughter, well, that’s something I’ll value for another couple decades at least.

It feels worth liking. Unlike Cookie Dough ice cream, which I will no longer be indulging in due to digestive concerns.

What else have you liked – or regretted liking – on Facebook that’s maybe a bit bizarre or hyper-specific?

The Perks of Growing Up In 2012

Maybe eighty percent of the time, Facebook will lie to you.

It’ll make you feel like everyone in your news feed has it figured out. And by everyone, I mean only the people you want to stalk at 2 a.m. when you’re starting to wonder where they are now: the people you haven’t seen since high school, the ones you shared a class with once, the ones you met when you were old enough to get excited about the ice cream truck.

Those people.

Those people will make you think you’ve got nothing in common. You’ve got enough insecurities to stack up a wall between yourself and the rest of the world and they? They have the world in their hands and they’re just molding it.

I promise that’s not true.

Our generation is getting a whole lot of heat for writing our lives onto the pages of the Internet, cluttering it with status updates about last weekend’s bar hop or Happy Hour downtown on Tuesday or the vacation we just went on. We’re blogging our lives in real time, including those moments when we’re unsure and those when we’re virtually pounding each others’ fists for those awesome nights we just had.

I get that. There is a line between telling you what I ate for breakfast and using that same knowledge to connect over comments and Likes and re-tweets.

It’s a line I don’t know how to walk. I’ve been here three months and don’t know where to find the bars. I’ve never been to Happy Hour—ever. Never smoked a cigarette or gotten high. Never thought about sleeping with someone I’d just met.

I’ve got a dating history that probably looks pathetic compared to some of my friends whose arms are always covered with leather motorcycle jackets or big zip-up sweatshirts from boys who think she’s the world.

And that’s OK. I’m just not that kind of wild.

But I understand, even if I can’t read those blogs that seem to center around trivial matters, issues that won’t even exist in the morning, that we do it for the same reason: to connect.

And why wouldn’t we?

If, 20 years ago, Facebook and WordPress and Tumblr existed, would our parents be writing their lives onto the Internet? Would they be connecting over cups of coffee and barstools or hash tags that pinned their collective statuses to each other and made them feel like yes, this is growing up?

This is growing up.

It’s the pain you need to remember if you want to parent your children. The elation you should hold for as long as you possibly can. It’s the last thing you want to lose and the first thing you’re willing to ditch.

And my experience versus yours versus someone else’s will be vastly different.

I’m the kind of girl who waits for sleepovers because she doesn’t have stories like that. The kind of girl who listens in the passenger seat because she might have an objective opinion to offer. The kind of girl who prays the sunroof in her car never stops retracting and the wind never stops blowing and the radio never stops streaming.

And if I write those small moments down for you, a few people might say, “Yes, I get it. Yes, I’m painfully normal, painfully quiet, painfully safe too.”

A few people might feel like their Facebook news feed doesn’t matter. That they don’t have to search for someone worse off to make the night a little better. That this game we’re playing isn’t Us vs. Them, but Us vs. Ourselves. Us vs. Our Brains.

It’s the reason Taylor Swift is a millionaire.

So those of us who write our brains down on the Internet do so because we want someone else to match brainwaves, to light bulb at our insecurities, to nod at our fears, to fist pump at our accomplishments.

We just want to grow together and be understood.

That’s all, dear critics. That’s all.

Magical Friendship Stories

It was much easier to scribble handwritten notes to my best friend when my Spanish teacher was busy musing over the pieces of his heart shattered by the local weather girl.

I learned that lesson at thirteen, recounting how boys weren’t noticing me in a marbled composition book, taped over with cut out words from Seventeen & CosmoGirl.

And it was driving back to my apartment on Sunday, the driver’s side window saran-wrapped and electrical taped that I knew it to be true. Still so true.

There was a box on the floor between my chair and the backseat. A box from Amazon.com. It wasn’t sealed, but that didn’t change the fact that three girls in the church parking lot across the street from my best friend’s yard insisted I keep it closed for the 100-mile trek. So I did. Because some promises should be honored. Because it was supposed to rain later. Because you need something, sometimes, to look forward to.

I sat with a bowl of soggy Golden Grahams and unfolded the flaps. Inside was the handwriting I knew so well. The penmanship that hasn’t changed in years. The words that made my mother stop and take notice eight years ago.

“Who’s this Emily girl?” she asked me, fingers tracing my eighth grade yearbook. “She seems nice.”

I told her people were nice. They hoped you had a great summer and never changed. They hoped you’d IM them sometime. They didn’t wait by the phone for a call. They had other friends, didn’t they?

My mom didn’t think so. And so it is that girl, sitting inside my memory, that took up residence in my unlit apartment on Sunday while I read her words and cried and set aside my soggy cereal and prayed the letter never ended.

Some friendship stories are blurry, like the road lines in a summer storm in Cecil County Maryland when the fat drops pool along your driver’s side door.

Ours is clear and sunny. Same as the town fair my mother drove us to that first night after I called and prayed she meant it. Prayed she meant more than “Have a great summer,” when she left her phone number.

Some friendship stories are magical. Like the beginning of a book you’ll pick up in a few years and already know the words on page 157. They sound like heaving sobs in empty apartments and look like recycled cardboard boxes filled with trinkets from Target: a strawberry plant, a lint roller, crazy straws, a compact mirror, a CD that spins and catches and starts with words you never knew existed until you hit play.

But those words, they find you. They are exactly what you need to hear, on a Wednesday in the dark on the way to the public library. On a Sunday with a week of unknowns ahead of you.

Some friendship stories are blurry. Mine are magical.