Many second-degree friends think that I’m some kind of a misfit who has a lot of vices and do crazy things just for the hell of it. Somehow, people think I drink a lot and I wouldn’t be surprised if they think I started drinking the moment I came out of my mother’s womb. Others also expected me to smoke, since a lot of my friends do, and that I have tried to smoke pot at least once in my life. As much fun and wild that version of me sounds, I’m a little sad to say that it’s not true.
I had my first sip of alcohol in 4th year high school and I thought gin mixed with juice tasted horrible. I didn’t drink again until I was eighteen, and even then, my friends and I only ever had two bottles of beer at the most, a few shots of brandy or a few cocktail drinks. And those rare drinking occasions happened only twice a year—during sembreak and Christmas break. Needless to say, I also didn’t go out much. Back in college, days off and weekends were spent at the school library hunting books as references for our papers, or at home reading a book due the following Monday.
But anyway, I didn’t want this to be a detailed account of every alcoholic drink I’ve had, the consequent stupid and/or fun decisions I’ve made after, or the countless exciting Saturday nights I’ve spent with Shakespeare, Chaucer, Yeats, Dickinson, Plath, Woolf and our other friends. This is about the unexpected reputation I’ve apparently built over the years.
Okay, to say “reputation” would be an overstatement. Perception may be a more appropriate term. It’s crazy that people I barely know think that I’m some kind of a drunken, foul-mouthed, socially inept twenty-something with whom it is okay to joke around. Yes, I drink. No, I don’t smoke. Yes, sometimes I stay out so late that I come home at 6 AM just as my parents are waking up. No, I don’t always tell my mother where I go, but no, I don’t do things she will disown me for. Yes, I curse a lot, but most of the time I try my best not to be rude to other people. So, no, I don’t appreciate when someone I barely know makes a joke at my expense and expects me to be cool with it. Because I sincerely could very well do without someone acting like a complete jerk.
I have to say it straight. I don’t blend well with people I don’t like. It’s not about being a bitch or treating other people like shit. It’s about knowing my crowd and knowing how to communicate only to certain types of people. Take me out of my comfort zone and I will either say something incredibly stupid or unknowingly intimidate someone. Either way, I will stick out like a sore thumb. In the past, I’ve always been uncomfortable when I’m in a room and I realize that I don’t belong there. But eventually, I’ve made peace with the face that I’m me and other people are other people—and all of us are uncomfortable one way or another.
Despite this, there are times when I would come across someone who is unbelievably—what’s a lighter term for uncouth?—let’s say rude, and whom I wouldn’t know how to talk with, other than with complete honesty, and by honesty I mean telling him off that he’s socially stupid and should, therefore, remain quiet for the rest of his life.
Instead, I shut up. Most of the time, I just shut up and let these people get on with their lives, never knowing what tact is, partly because I don’t care enough, and partly because the devil inside me wants to wait for them to hit a wall (metaphorically or literally, I don’t care) and be punched in the face for being rude. Meanwhile, I continue to talk to people who could carry conversations beyond how wasted someone got that one night back in college, who got whom pregnant, or how many beer bottles one could down in under ten minutes.
It’s silly to think that sometimes, people still judge us based on such shallow criteria and think they know us after a few weeks. I’ve spent 25 years inside my head, and even I surprise myself sometimes. How could anybody else think that we are but mysteries waiting to be deciphered and understood?