I Am Not Like Other Girls
I am not like other girls. I have interests that range from the intellectual to the deliciously superficial. I enjoy reading Stephen Hawking, and watching the Real Housewives. I wear glasses sometimes, and other times I don’t. More often than I’d like, I forget to take off my makeup before I go to sleep and I wake up looking like a melting panda bear with these crusty black circles underneath my eyes. I enjoy sitting in corners by windowsills and drinking a cup of tea with a good book in front of me that I can get lost in for hours, for days. This scenario is greatly improved if it’s raining outside. I enjoy rain against my window.
I have had my heart broken, and have broken hearts. I have gone through breakups that made me question whether or not I was beautiful, smart, or ever worth loving again. I watched romantic comedies that, while a bit patronizing, made me feel a little less alone in the world and in my heartache. I considered myself, at turns, a Samantha, a Carrie, a Charlotte, and a Miranda. My girlfriends and I still sometimes categorize ourselves that way when we’re out on the town, having a little fun over cocktails. We know it’s not really who we are, but it can be nice to put ourselves into neat little boxes and pretend we are characters.
I live on my own now, but I have lived with roommates. I have found myself in the experience of living with others, and what it means to cohabitate, though I think I find myself even more clearly when walking naked past my mirror on the way to the kitchen. Though learning to love my body — dimples, ripples, scars, and all — is a constant, uphill battle, it’s one that seems more feasible every day. Sometimes I catch myself in the mirror and do a little double-take. “Eyy,” I say, like Fonzie, “What’s up, gorgeous?” I think it’s important to feel beautiful, and to feel healthy in your skin. As I get older, I want to become progressively more comfortable with the person I am on the inside, so as to be less dependent on the waxes and wanes of my physical beauty. I know it’s easier said than done.
I consider myself smart enough, but often find myself doubting my capabilities when presented with people who seem to so effortlessly achieve things that do not come naturally to me. My skill set can seem at once insufficient and overqualified, depending on the scenario. I often feel as though I know too much useless information, and not enough concentrated knowledge in one area that can allow me to be an “expert.” It’s hard not to wonder what makes someone an “expert” on something — like the people you see on science channels, explaining phenomena and telling obscure facts about history. Maybe no one is really an expert, and we’re all just kind of faking it, but I hope to be one someday.
I say that I am not like other girls because I know that I absolutely am. Yes, I know that no two women — no two people, in fact — are ever the same, and, God, wouldn’t the world be boring if they were. But I do know that I am not more special than any other girl, or more worthy, just because I wear glasses and read books. Just because I have had my heart broken and felt incredibly tortured about it for a while. Just because I think about philosophy and how it relates to my own life — whether or not I’m fulfilling some grand kind of purpose. These things are facets of all our personalities, and though they manifest in different ways, none of us are unique for experiencing them.
And yet, it’s hard not to feel inundated with this discourse about how you’re “not like other girls” because you hold what you perceive to be some set of interests that separates you from and makes you better than the other girls around you. It’s a slightly less aggressive way of saying “I am the one who does not melt into the monotonous background of femininity — I am the one who cannot be pinned down by pop culture or stereotypes or jokes that men might make about us. I am the exception that proves the rule.” But who can be pinned down by pop culture? Who is defined by a stereotype? Even amongst the people you’ve met who’ve appealed to you the least, who’ve seemed to be as one-dimensional as a person could be, were they not full humans with stories and flaws and redeeming qualities? Was there not a single thing that stood to be learned from their presence and perspective?
None of us are original, because we all are. There is no competition for who can be the most “special” or “unique” woman, and as soon as you’ve put your hat in the ring for that title, you’ve already lost. Because the unfortunate truth is that hundreds of thousands — millions, maybe — of girls every day give themselves the tiniest pat on the back for being what they define as better or more whole a person than the girl in front of them who likes Uggs and Katherine Heigl movies. Think of all the things we could be doing with our time and our lives if we weren’t so caught up in proving we weren’t “like the rest.” We could maybe be — as crazy as it may sound — individual human beings.
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If you’ve been looking for a chance to say something then this very well could be it.
I wish to God I’d had a list like this when I was 23.
Answer phones better than anyone else has answered phones before. Relay messages so brilliant, they bring people to tears. Turn the coffee run into the choreography of Swan Lake. Become best friends with every intern and every underling and every taxi driver you encounter.
I remember taking the pen and notebook from that woman outside the courtroom, flipping to a clean page in the book, and writing, JESSICA IS SAD in big, bold, uncoordinated letters. “My sister is going to be a good writer someday! Look at how nice her lines are!”