If I look back over my life I can say the one thing I’ve consistently tried to be is palatable.
You’re going to consume me, the way that all humans consume all other humans. You’ll consume me with your eyes – taking in my appearance and making judgments. You’ll consume me with your ears – listening to my voice, my words, my laugh and cry. You’ll consume me with your mind – assessing my personality, intelligence and humor. And as you take me in – chewing, tasting, digesting – you’ll decide whether or not you like my flavor. Do you want to swallow or spit me out? Am I your cup of tea or do I turn your stomach?
I’ve spent so much of my life knowing I was emphatically not most people’s cup of proverbial tea. I grew up in a world where I was strange and off-putting. Awkward. As I child and for most of my adult life, I didn’t know I was AuDHD (autistic and ADHD). I just knew that what came naturally to me was unnatural to everyone else. Forever and ever, amen. So I tried to make myself more palatable.
(It’s called “masking”. Look it up.)
At some point when I was around 17, I got tired of being palatable. (If I’m being honest, I was never really trying that hard before then. My sense of fashion spoke for itself.) My senior year of high school I just stopped giving a damn. I was discovering Bonnie and all her idiosyncrasies, her joys and delights, the things she most desired and what she disliked immensely. I was peeling off the mask layer by layer and letting myself breathe.
I joined a band and married the guitarist at 19. I thought we’d play music for a long time, maybe go on a DIY tour like a lot of other small bands were doing at the time. I didn’t want to have kids for at least 10 years because I had oats, baby. They were wild and I was gonna sow ’em. But when your band breaks up after just 2 years of playing together and you get stuck in your small town, well, that changes things.
Shoulda, coulda, woulda.
I could spend the next few paragraphs waxing ineloquent on all the shouldas, couldas, wouldas, etc. But that’s boring. What happened is what happened. And what happened is that my ex-husband and I became involved in the local church scene.
I hope it’s no surprise to you that I did not fit in with the church folk. My ideas about life and liberty, coupled with my love of the strange and unusual, not to mention my rampant undiagnosed AuDHD, meant that I was once again unpalatable. I had learned that in the right peer group I could unmask and be my weird self. But in this new setting, I definitely could not. I had to layer the mask back on.
I tried. Holy Mary, Mother of God, did I try. I wanted to be both palatable and myself. I looked for other Christians who shared my interests or held my beliefs. I tried to make friends in the hope that I could eventually peel the mask off all the way with someone, anyone. But I never could.
What’s worse, is now that I’m divorced and I’ve been on my own for a while, I see that I wasn’t just masking at church. I was masking with my ex-husband as well. Not my kids, unless their dad was around. But with my ex, I knew I had to make myself palatable or we’d fight or he’d brood. I had to be what he needed to keep peace in the house.
What can I say to all this? My story is not unique, certainly, but who the fuck gives a flying mouse’s fart? I had to live through this bullshit. I spent my whole goddamn life chopping off the bits of me that no one wanted to see or deal with. Bleaching my soul, compacting my heart, crushing the life out of me. In the brief moments of my life when I can truly say I wasn’t trying to be palatable, I felt the most freedom and pure joy of my life.
And I hope you’ll forgive the amount of swearing I’m about to do but…
I’m so goddamn, mother fucking, fucked in the goddamn ass TIRED of being FUCKING PALATABLE.
You don’t like my flavor? Choke, bitch. I taste like magic, unicorns, and fucking rainbow cupcakes. I am a mother fucking delight. Not your cup of tea? Drown, asshole. I’m the best fucking tea in the whole goddamn British Isles. Shove a crumpet up your ass.
I’m 17 again and I don’t give a damn. If you don’t like me, that’s not my fault. I’m wonderful. If you don’t like me, that doesn’t mean there is something wrong with me. It just means our vibrational wavelengths do not match, homie. So kindly, fuck off elsewhere, brocito.
It’s exhausting and painful to spend so much time trying to figure out what’s wrong with you. It’s one of those unsolvable math problems that even Matt Damon can’t solve. He can’t solve it because there is nothing fucking wrong with you.
Like everyone else, I want to be loved. I want to be desired and wanted, not just needed. In fact, don’t need me at all. Just want me. Want me until you ache for me. But want me, not some masked, palatable version of me. Desire the Bonnie hidden under the layers of bullshit. Because I am peeling off the mask again. Layer by layer I am revealing a real and raw vessel of pure Bonnie.
It will take time and if the gods of therapy see fit, I may try to get a therapist at some point so I’m not just screaming into the void, but instead paying to scream into the void. But the time and screaming will be worth it.
My name is Bonnie Margaret. That means “beautiful pearl”. And that’s me. This little irritant that wormed its way into the world but is becoming this thing of rare beauty. I am a thing of rare beauty. And, I don’t want to be palatable ever again.