Observations / Rants

Social Anxiety & Aging Backwards

Inspired by the lovely people on social media who feel obliged to critique “older women who wear unflattering booty shorts” and “people over 30 who still like boy bands”.

I guess you could say that I’ve spent the majority of adulthood immersing myself in things aimed at a younger audience. I’m editor for a magazine that people always mention loving “when they were kids”. I’m the buyer at a comic shop, for god’s sake. I’m also a writer, which essentially means that I make shit up for a living.

Recently I bought a pair of super short shorts. Recently I developed an awkward love for a British boy band. Well, would you look at that! I must be aging backwards.

Is it weird to speculate that I’m not reclaiming my youth through these things, but enjoying them because I never got to be a normal teenager?

I was never reckless or rebellious or wild or gaga over boys in BOP magazine. My obsessions were bizarre, and I was stoic and measured and enjoyed things mostly by myself. Carrying on in complete secrecy. Passion in private. Shale comes away from rock more easily than shelled defense, and I had defense in spades. It was called social anxiety disorder.

I didn’t know that my thoughts had a diagnosis, see. I didn’t know that what kept me from going out at night was actually treatable. I didn’t know that hearing insulting voices in my head over and over was quite possibly not normal at all, or that panic attacks resulting from too much positive attention might be a sign of something wrong, or that most people didn’t have to stare at the phone for thirty minutes to work up the courage to call for a pizza.

“That sweater is too small for her. It looks dumb. What’s that girl doing with a wallet chain? Doesn’t she know they’re lame and out of style? Her hair is messy. Her hair is too long. She doesn’t look like us. What a weirdo. What the hell is she doing? Doesn’t she ever talk? Why the hell is she eating that? That’s disgusting. She’s wearing a hat? What kind of girl wears a hat? What a wannabe. She sucks. She looks bad. She’s just a stupid shy skinny girl who can’t fit in and never looks as good as the rest of the girls.” –Samples of what I heard in my head, written down in 1999.

So I listened to metal bands and headbanged and wrote and hid candy in favor of spinach and read too many books, but never late at night. I never partied; I was a jaded college professor by age 15. I held my tongue at gunpoint. I fell in love with words because they were indifferent to my shortcomings. Hello, poetry. Nice to meet you! Never would have guessed your goofy smile or bent logic.

I was a kind of barbarian. A soldier of social ineptitude. My idea of socializing was trying to get people to watch or listen to something I was obsessed with. I thought, maybe this thing will open a wall of knowledge, will help them understand what stalls your hands, will give sense to your feelings and finally validate them—

Watch, I said, and see if you can see my heart open, because it certainly didn’t any other way.

I’ve loved music and movies and words and followed musicians for most of my life. I’ve watched my favorite bands break up because of marriage bullshit; I’ve discovered glam rockers who disappeared or developed eating disorders. Narrative has always been key, so I never really allowed myself the luxury of liking something just for the hell of it.

“There is art in here, somewhere.” –Nicole Blackman.

I turn 34 in three weeks, and a lot of people my age choose babies, careers, closets, convenience. I’m not blaming them. I’m not a better person—just a delayed one. I am the very definition of a late bloomer. Almost alien-like.

I guess we often become afraid and fragile, what I was at age 15; resigning to tradition, to what is acceptable. We seek stories for hope and still come away from them like veterans with glam wounds. When I was a teenager, my hopeful side looked over a cliff of bullshit and said “Nope, nevermind.” And I guess most adults do the same thing.

Now, I am not like most adults.

I went through five years of cognitive therapy. I’m not fixed, but I am on medication now, and I am confident enough in my own skin to say FUCK YOU, world, I am going to wear booty shorts and crazy leggings and see-through shirts and obsess over Nick Jonas’s new album and buy too much jewelry and fly down the freeway blasting One Direction. FUCK YOU, world, I never got to do this earlier in life, so I’m doing it now. FUCK YOU, world, I can finally admit that what I enjoy does not dictate my relationships, and carry on actual conversations. FUCK YOU, world, I will run through a fucking sprinkler at age 65 if I want to.

The narrative is always there, somewhere. Sometimes it’s in heaps of skull jewelry, sometimes it’s in a superhero, and sometimes it’s in a shitty boy band.

If it makes you feel something, awesome. If it loops you into bizarre places, all the better. Even if those places are only in your own brain.

“Quit being so fucking judgemental of everything and you might actually have some fun for a change. Contrary to what you seem to think, life is supposed to be enjoyed.” –Rick Remender, DEADLY CLASS #9.

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