I’m not really what you would call a “people person.” Most days I prefer books, baths, and solitude to the company of humans. One on one I thrive. I hold my own in small groups. I can command a crowd as the speaker. But the dynamics of the large group is something that I usually try to avoid.
I get along easier with members of the opposite sex. In my herstory different girls with different faces have played different villains, evil stepsisters, and wicked witches. All with the same intention to deceive, betray, and harm. Sometimes unconsciously, most often with intent.
I would rather don my hiking boots and backpack prepped for the zombie apocalypse, walk into a dinner party hosted by fire-breathing dragons knowing my chances of survival are slim than squeeze my wide-ass feet into a pair of high heels, do my makeup and attend a dinner party hosted by strange women. I’d rather be eaten alive by dragons covered in scales than by dragons wearing Jimmy Choos.
At least I know what to expect.
Which brings me to my current predicament. I have been invited to a VIP party for a Women’s conference/fundraiser for a charity that promotes education and self-love for young women. Female leaders in business, family, and celebrity will be speaking at the event in the hopes to connect, inspire, and create community for women moving forward. Sounds awesome right?
This is the story I told myself:
They will all know each other. They belong to each other. They belong here. They will all look the same, they will all be beautiful. They will know exactly what to say, when to say, and in what volume is appropriate. They will all be dressed beautifully and their shoes don’t cause them pain, they are accustomed to this privileged life. They will all be fake, fake boobs, fake eyelashes, fake hair extensions. They will be young and beautiful. They will be perfect and know this. They will be drinking.
Here is a list of reasons I do not want to go.
I won’t fit in. I don’t belong. I have short hair (yes, I am imagining all of the attendees with Rapunzel locks). I don’t know how to contour my face. In the lack of this knowledge my makeup will look comparable to a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Queen. I won’t know what to say. I’ll say the wrong thing. I’ll say the right thing then have to keep talking. I won’t say anything and will be that odd quiet girl with the short hair and bad makeup standing in the corner by herself. I’ll be too loud, too much. I’ll be too quiet, too little. My feet will hurt from wearing uncomfortable shoes and I’ll want to stab someone with the closest salad fork I can find. (This is inevitable. I prefer flip-flops, sneakers, and combat boots) It will be cold in the room and my nipples will show through my dress. It will be too warm in the room and I will get sweaty pits. Holy hell, what if I drop food or beverage on my dress and the temperature of the room fluctuates between extreme hot and extreme cold? Then I will be the sweaty, stinky slob with rock hard nipples pointing to the the food on her dress. Fuck my life.
And lastly, small talk. This comes easily to some people. My husband can chat with anyone, anywhere, and make them feel at home. I meet people and am all like “you will never believe the existential crisis of morality I had as an addict in recovery when I was prescribed painkillers” She asked me where I got my shoes.
In the past I have sworn off small talk. Stating simply I DON’T DO SMALL TALK. (to make a point, those are BIG LETTERS) This keeps me safe and strokes my ego, my conversations are just so much more enlightened, so much more real, don’t you see peasants? I don’t have time or words to waste on that petty banter.
It took me about a year to realize just what an ass I was being when I said this. Yes, I don’t prefer small talk. And not everyone just splits open and melts the first time they meet people. Not everyone questions everything and seeks deeper meaning in life. Many times my honesty has created space for another’s honesty. Something about me invites strangers in the coffee aisle at Trader Joe’s to walk directly towards me and tell me how they just lost their husband of 32 years and are struggling with heavy responsibility of funeral arrangements and the all encompassing grief they can’t seem to make sense of. This I can do. I can listen and just Be. It’s one of my gifts.
But the weather? Hating your job? The cultural martyrdom of “buzy-ness”? Fashion? Or worse, gossip, cattiness, cruelty? Who cares, and I can’t.
There has to be a middle ground, maybe it’s small talk?
Maybe small talk can be the preamble to truth and connection with many humans. It has potential to create a safe space for sharing and opening up more authentically. Like dipping your toe in the ocean to see if the water’s safe before you dive in. “Oh you like cake too?” She says, getting her toe wet. She thinks “maybe this is a safe place to talk about how my son is being bullied at school?” and ponders wading in to her waist.
I created an intention to practice small talk. It started with my neighbors. People I’ve lived next to for close to three years and had barely said Hi to. It was awkward for me and I did it. I listened as they shared about their favorite college team or the goings on of a day’s work. I openly gave them my attention, choosing not to space out or admire the clouds. I came inside Casa de Cuckoo one night and said “I did it, I talked to Gayle, it was nice. I didn’t die.” to my husband. He responded “great, was that so hard.”
The thing about this man that I chose and that chose me is that he is spiritual but unknowingly so. I share my insecurities about being around other women and he says “people are just people Kim. It doesn’t have to be so complex.” He’s a sage dressed up as a hairy man with a growly voice and an offensive sense of humor.
And he’s right. People are just people.
I’ve been considering this event for close to a month now. Chasing the rabbit down the hole and having conversations with the Jabberwocky that is my mind. I’ve spent time in prayer and meditation, seeking guidance other than my own.
People are people. My judgements and imposed perfection on these women was just an easier way for me to mask my old stories of not being good enough and not belonging. It’s easier to point the finger and blame than it is to seek within and get comfortable in my shadows.
Is any of it true? My punishing list to myself, or the punishingly impossible set of standards I created for these women?
I discovered that the self-imposed limitations as well as the unrealistic perfection I had labeled these women (who, as a reminder, I have yet to meet) both stem from the same place: fear. (This is not new news to me, nor my first rodeo with this horse.) I accepted the information and gave myself space to be ok with feeling afraid.
My next task was to transform the fear, to allow it to be the kindling for the fire I desperately needed lit under my ass to get me out of my comfort zone. Compassion is what She whispered to me. Compassion for myself and for the women I am soon to meet. Humans who just want to be seen, heard, and valued, just like me. Compassion for our likenesses and for the ways we are different. Compassion spoke the truth to me saying that if I am feeling this way surely, another woman, if not all of the women have felt this way at some time in their lives.
The coals of fear forged the fires of compassion. The flames of compassion stoked the honey of my heart into liquid gold light and bravery was birthed, from within. No haircut, dress, makeup, or shoe opened my heart and mind. Nope, that was an inside job, me and God, doing the damn thing. And if my magic is not defined by my hair, or dress, surely that is not what defines another woman. Free will is our species’ gift from the creator. That being said, every choice is divine (even hair extensions) in its existence. Who I am to judge?
I have decided to give women a break. ALL women, including myself.
I said out loud, to no one, to everyone, to myself “I belong there. I belong here. I have a right to be here. I am enough.”
With this mantra pulsing through my veins I will don my little white boots (small heel, giving leather, it doesn’t have to be so hard) and apply my make-up in the only way I know how. I will suit up and show up to life; renegade nipples out, headlights guiding myself and my new friends to the welcoming of my heart and maybe their own.