Recently, at the library I work in part-time, an elderly disabled gentleman winked at me as he was leaving, said, “Stay sweet.”
Unfortunately, among the musician, artistic, tattooed set I tend to associate with (um, because I am all of these things), I often find a lot of pretension.
I do. I find a lot of standoffish arrogance outside a select group of folk who are awesome and sweet.
My point being to talk about being sweet. One of my girl friends said to me recently, “We need to toughen you up,” because I’m “too sweet.”
I’ve been pondering being sweet versus being tough for quite some time. When I was a teenager, I thought it was cool to be hard and surly and mean, that people would love me if I was all of those things. I soon learned that being hard and surly and mean attracted others who were hard and surly and mean. (Regardless of how hard, surly and mean I try to be, I’ve always been sweet underneath, so therefore have always had a handful of dear friends no matter what I do. Besides, it’s hard to look surly when your face look like a twenty-year old doll face. Cute and surly don’t work together.)
It’s a tough world out there, and it’s easy to get run over. I’ve noticed many writers and musicians adopting a devil-may-care exterior, being rude and sardonic and cynical to others, only letting a select few in. In the past, I gravitated towards these people (OK, I lie, I still do, but I’m trying not to) because they presented a challenge.
My father said to me once, “You always like to adopt strays,” meaning, people who are bruised, broken or socially inept. I don’t know, maybe because I am or have been all of these things, I have a soft spot for delicate folk with tough exteriors. But I’m getting a bit tired of the challenge in general, I dunno, maybe I’m growing up?
And really, it reflects on me and who I am now. I’m realizing lately, the universe is giving me all sorts of signs, that I can’t always keep people an arms length away. They will get bored. They will leave. A lot of people don’t like a challenge. I may like a challenge, but I’m a rarity, and it probably speaks to my own insecurities that I need to be validated by people who to most others are simply “An asshole I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole.”
Some guy was interrogating me the other night. Well, psychoanalyzing me actually, because he was getting his big PhD in Psychology and he maybe wanted to practice it out? I dunno. You tell me.
Anyhow, he said: “You build a big wall up around yourself, so that no one can get to know the real you.”
I was like, “Uuuh…,” because I barely knew him, only that he was a PhD in Psych. “Is it the tattoos and black attire?” I quipped. Really, I think he was speaking specifically about himself being let in in this instance, because the dude wanted a date with a seeming “wild girl.” Bug off, buddy. I’m not as “wild” as you think. Appearances can be deceiving. Go to a sex club.
It’s not really recommended any person let every single person in, in my opinion. We each have all these ropes and hoops and barriers for others to jump through, our manners of selection, our biological assessments, our need for certain kinds of symmetry, for damn good reasons.
But really, I’ve realized recently that I’m not a misanthrope, and I don’t like to isolate. I like getting out there and being a part of things. I like meeting new people. I like making friends. I like to explore and find out new things every day.
At the library, I can get a little surly at times. There are some patrons who yank my chain again and again. If you give them an inch, they want a mile. It’s fear on my part, fear they’ll keep pestering me. But I’ve made a goal to be nicer. There’s just something to letting go of prickly fear and letting people in that changes a life. Sure, you don’t want people to hurt you, but people do hurt people. Maybe not always on purpose, maybe on purpose sometimes, who knows. But if you never risk, you never grow. If you live in a tight sheltered little bubble, never venturing out, you can become really smart and read a lot of books, get a lot done, but if you want to meet people, find out what you can learn from others, you gotta stick your neck out sometimes.
I’ve been hurt in my journey to get out there and meet new people, but not in ways that are impossible to come back from. Just ways that bruised my ego. And perhaps my ego needs bruising. I’d rather be a person people remember as sweet than a person people remember as mean. I’d like to continue to be tough, but maybe only in the way I lift weights and speak my mind and get through seemingly impossible challenges with a smile on my face.
I’d like to stay sweet.