I am dismantling myself, one individuality at a time.
I start from the top. My hair is still shorter than society likes. I have no time to grow it out, but the platinum blonde bob with all its two-tone glory has been replaced by a neutral ginger.
My three-in-the-left-ear-two-in-the-right hoops are gone. Tiny diamond studs hold the places I chose to mark life events; law school, marriage, getting out of that abusive relationship that people still don’t know I was in. My ears itch and ache because I had to gauge up to find barbells short enough to look like ordinary earrings. The shortest one is in cartilage, the piercing a co-worker used to demonstrate that I “had weird piercings” once. Obviously I didn’t use the work locker room.
I can’t make my face conventionally pretty, even with makeup, but I can control my expressions. I practice in the mirror, mimicking what I hope are the right moves to show human emotion. I’m not good at this. I always thought it was the glasses; I didn’t see a facial expression until I was five years old. Could be autism, too. Either way, I’m a freak and I need to fake being human. I know people don’t like me. My face is alienating and I’m terrible at small talk. I have to make people like me.
Small talk. Shit.
Reminders: Ask about them. Wait. Listen. Don’t debate, even if it’s interesting. People don’t like that. Pretend to be wrong sometimes. Slow down. Your IQ is a liability. It makes people feel threatened. Feelings. Remember to make the noises that mean you care about their feelings and you feel too, even if you are sure the feelings you have are not the appropriate ones for this interaction. Fake those. Check your face. Hope you’re making the right one.
I hang up my cookie-cutter black Banana Republic suit to get the wrinkles out. I wish the grey suit fit right now. Grey makes you look friendly, black makes you look formidable. After three years of weightlifting my shoulders are too broad for the grey suit, my thighs too thickly muscled. I can squat two hundred pounds, deadlift three-fifty. I can do three strict pullups in a row or twenty kipping. I don’t feel powerful when I try on the grey suit. Just fat.
The green silk shirt with the row of pleats like a jabot, I think. The one that makes me look individual but not too individual, the safe sort of individual that might live in Lake Oswego and go to Saturday Market to buy other people’s ideas. I offset the individuality with my wedding ring. Polish my too-short nails. Safe, safe, safe.
I don’t know what to do about shoes. I have black pumps but they’re worn and shabby even after a round with the old Army boot polishing skills. The heels I fell in love with and wore to Federal court for years have a platform, and I’ll be speaking to women. They know platform = whore. I put out my low boots with the round toes to be polished. They’ll hide the borrowed trouser socks. My own socks have patterns, swirls. Unsafe. Individual.
By the time I look in the mirror again nothing is left of me. I have been disassembled and disappeared and discontinued and dis-everything-elsed until I can fit in my cookie-cutter suit in a cookie-cutter office and drive home to a little pink house. Now I just have to make myself stand out.