The other day, I used the word “a-hole” in a comment on a high school friend’s Facebook post. Another high school friend (whom I think a great deal of) commented, “Andrea said ‘a-hole’!” I laughed out loud and thought, “Oh, S! You are remembering the girl I was in high school. I am certainly not the ‘goody-goody’ I was then.”
I was about to comment exactly that on the FB thread when I realized her surprise was right on the mark. Although a-hole (rather than the full version) is not that bad of a word, I rarely do curse. It just doesn’t feel like me. [I used to occasionally use a few curse words (like “shit”) when I hurt myself or messed something up, but mostly such words did not come naturally to me. Once Emerald was born, I cut even the few I did use out of my vocabulary because little kids mimic everything you say and bigger little kids ask you what the words mean!]
I began to think about my gut reaction to counter the idea that I was a “goody two shoes”. That’s how I used to react back in the day, with an immediate “I am not a goody-goody”. I knew even then that I was [I’ve always been a rule follower] but I took other kids’ comments to mean they thought I was boring and no fun, and I most certainly did not want to be thought of that way.
That was probably my biggest struggle in figuring out who I was between adolescence and adulthood: realizing it’s not only okay to be a rule follower, but it is also possible to be a rule follower who is not the proverbial stick in the mud.
When I was in my mid-twenties, a guy I was beginning to date made a comment to me that he had cleaned up his place because I was coming over. He said, “You have to have a clean house when a prim and proper lady is coming over.” I replied that I wasn’t that prim and proper. He said I certainly seemed that prim and proper. He meant it as a compliment and I took it that way, but notice I still felt compelled to counter the idea.
Since then, I have had friends comment that I could get away with just about anything because I don’t look like someone who would do anything wrong. I guess I don’t, but why is that? Do I lack that mischievous glint in my eye? Hmmm. Something to work on. 🙂
I am now quite comfortable with who I am and what I will and won’t do (although I still frequently learn new things about myself). But the exchange that started this whole post has stuck with me. Not because of me, because of my lovely daughters. Sapphire is known to the director of her preschool (who was also her preschool teacher two years ago) as a “moral compass”. I love that term and I love hearing it used to describe my precious girl. But in time she will have to deal with the perception other kids will have of her. She is most definitely a rule follower.
Emerald, who has also always been a rule follower and does exactly what her teachers ask her to do, is beginning to hear the term “goody-goody” applied to her. And much like me when I first heard it, she has mixed feelings about it. She seems to like that she is being thought of as a “good girl” but she also is picking up on the context of how it’s used and is noticing that it is often used as a criticism. A suggestion that she is not any fun and will not go along with the things others are doing.
She’s also realizing that she doesn’t want to go along if what others are doing does not feel right. Just this week she stood up to a pair of friends who asked her to choose between them and another friend they had recently decided they didn’t want to hang out with anymore. Emerald told them she liked them all, but they insisted she had to choose. She decided she didn’t want to be friends with them if they were going to dictate whom she could and couldn’t be friends with. I am so proud of my girl. That’s a big, big step for a ten-year-old (actually for anyone). It ended up that the pair still accepted her even though she wouldn’t choose (and maybe, just maybe, respected her more for it).
She is also learning that following your gut does not mean you never make mistakes. And that’s okay, too. So many lessons to learn and so much to figure out. A process that takes our entire lives.
Man, life is hard. I may need a glass of wine just from writing this. But I will wait until after 5 o’ clock. 🙂
Do any of you still try to counter the images your classmates had of you in high school, even if you have embraced who you are? Do you think this why so many of us have so much anxiety about class reunions?