not palatable

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.

I hope I remember that I posted this.

Posting this so I can remember I had this thought.

Been feeling like human garbage again. If I’m being honest, all I can see is someone who is ugly, boring and annoying. All I want is for someone to comfort me, to hype me up. I want someone I’m attracted to, to tell me that I’m beautiful, hot even. I want them to tell me I’m interesting and a delight to converse with.

And here comes the reason I’m posting this: it doesn’t matter if someone else says it, if I don’t learn to see myself that way, I’ll never believe it. Every person I find attractive could say those things to me and right now I’d call them all liars. I do not believe I’m beautiful or interesting or delightful.

I can look back over my life and see the instances when people I trusted, loved and looked to for validation betrayed that trust and love. I can easily pinpoint when they callously and, at times, cruelly tore me down. To what end? I don’t know.

Now, all those people are gone from my life but the damage they did is still there. This isn’t some unique experience I’m describing. This is just how humans work. But this is how I sort myself out. Writing.

I don’t know if I’ll ever feel beautiful or interesting or whatever. But I do know that no external validation will ever be enough. Yes, external invalidation is what fucked me up in the first place. But getting someone else to validate me would just be letting them fight my battles for me and that won’t ever work. No one can be with me 24/7 to keep these demons at bay. And wouldn’t that be an exhausting job for anyone? Constantly, having to boost someone else’s mental health.

Here’s the fucked up thing, as I was typing that last bit, I realized that I’ve been that person for others. I’ve been the one constantly boosting someone else’s mental health to the detriment of my own. And, yes, it’s exhausting. I don’t want to put anyone else through what I’ve been through.

I get that it’s ok and even good to reach out to people when you’re not doing well mentally. And I’m not saying I don’t because I do. I have people I trust and reach out to often. I just know that when it comes to this issue, there is no one in the world that can help. As badly as I want external validation, it’s not gonna help me.

So, once again, I’m here. Writing about my private (very ordinary) pain, publicly. My sincere hope is that I’ll think about the fact that I posted this every time I start to feel bad about myself. When I’m hoping and wishing for that external validation that isn’t going to come, I hope, instead, I’ll remember that I posted this.

I don’t know how to make myself feel all those wonderful things about myself. But I do know that I’m not gonna get it from someone else. And that’s what I want to remember. I have to be brave enough and strong enough to fight my own demons.

Crutches burned in funeral pyres

Struggling with how I feel about myself lately. It’s easier for me to be upbeat and put on my crown when I don’t fucking care what anyone thinks of me. But that’s just not the case right now.

I have a long history of being told I’m unattractive and annoying. I could cite examples for you but you don’t care about that. I’m not unique in my feelings or experiences. I’d say most people have been made to feel like the meat they’re wearing isn’t wagyu. And we each deal with our own feelings of inadequacy in varying ways. This is one of the ways I deal. Whining about it on the internet.

But for the sake of the mean voices in my head, I will share a few things. Maybe writing it down and letting strangers read my private pain will shut the voices up for a while. (Spoiler alert: it won’t.)

I don’t know if I’ve written about this before but I think I probably have. Nonetheless, I’m gonna write about it again.

I’d say one of my core memories is the weekend I went to visit my mom when I was maybe 10 and her husband at the time told me I looked like a fat, pregnant girl. He and my mom did a little mini intervention with me that weekend. They put me on a scale. I weighed around 90 lbs. My mother was appalled. She only weighed 95 lbs when she graduated from high school, she told me. My stepdad’s family had all been talking about me. They were shocked when, at Thanksgiving, I’d gotten seconds of green beans. Everyone was talking about how much I ate. If I didn’t lose weight and didn’t work to stay thin, no one would ever want me and I’d never have a career, they said. I spent that weekend crying. When I went back to my dad’s that week, I coped by letting myself eat as many oatmeal cream pies as I wanted. (I’m down with OCPs. Yeah, you know me.)

Ten year old me, when I looked like a “fat, pregnant girl”.

When I was 18, my stepmom had a talk with me. She was worried I’d never get a boyfriend if I didn’t lose weight. I weighed around 140 lbs, maybe. I didn’t often weigh myself back then because I usually felt ok about my body so I really don’t know exactly what I weighed. But, clearly, I was heavy enough to warrant another talking to from a caregiver. I needed to be reminded that my worth only comes from my physical form and I’d only find love if that form was thin.

When I got married, I weighed around 125 lbs. If I go back and look at my wedding pictures, all I see is how fat my upper arms were. I think about what someone, who I thought was a friend, said to my ex-husband right after we got married. “Don’t let her just sit around. She’ll get fat.” There really isn’t a good reason for my ex-husband to have told me that. But he did. And it stuck in my head. Clearly, the worst thing that I could be was fat. This was the message the universe wanted me to understand. Yes, I’d managed to find love, beyond all reason since I’d been warned so many times that I was not thin enough to attract a mate. But if I wasn’t careful, I’d lose that mate.

And then all their predictions came true. I developed hypothyroidism. I noticed something was wrong with my body. I went to doctors who told me I just needed to eat right and exercise. Doctors are so smart. It took about 15 years to get a diagnosis of hypothyroidism and to get on medication. My weight fluctuated and ballooned. At my heaviest I weighed around 250 lbs. No diet or exercise regime did anything to affect my weight or alleviate the other symptoms that plagued me. The only thing that I could tell myself to bring me any comfort when I hated my body and my appearance was, “At least Nick loves me. At least he wants me and thinks I’m beautiful.”

Now, Nick is gone. Our parting was traumatic for me to say the least. And amongst one of the many things I lost when we split up, was the ability to say “at least he wants me”. Twenty-one years of propping up my self-esteem with that stupid, idiotic statement like a crutch, only to have that crutch ripped from me and burned in the funeral pyre of my marriage.

The last year and a half has been a collection of journeys that I’m traveling all at once. Clearly, one of those journeys has been to try to figure out how I feel about this body that’s been deemed too fat to be loved so many times. Sometimes I look in the mirror and see a beautiful woman. But that’s not the case most days.

Full, vulnerable honesty: I cannot imagine a world where anyone is sexually attracted to me, even if I’ve had sex with that person. For some reason, I still find it hard to believe they could actually be attracted to me. I can already hear your arguments on this so just know that I have all sorts of convoluted logic to make that make sense in my head.

A lot of my female friends hype me up when I post selfies. I always take it as females boosting females. That’s what we do for each other. But not one of them sees me as a sexual being. “Sexy”, “gorgeous”, “hot”, etc. are all just ladies trying to boost my self-esteem. I won’t say it’s not appreciated. Of course, I love to read those comments. I want to believe I’m those things. And when I don’t really care if anyone finds me attractive, I can actually almost believe I am those things.

Lately, I just can’t see it. It really sucks to want someone to find you attractive. “I want you to want me,” lyrics that were written just for me, I’m sure.

I have a lifetime of internalized bullshit to unlearn. Caregivers whose idea of care was metaphorically kicking me in the self-esteem bone in order to “help” me be the best version of myself. (Apparently, the best version of myself is thin and hot and has a man who wants a hot, thin woman.) Instead of spending those 21 years of marriage learning to love my body and myself, I leaned on the idea that I’d found love already and that his love was all I needed to sustain myself. What a poetic load of manure.

At the beginning of this post I said that sharing my private pain with strangers wouldn’t really help me feel better. Surprise! I was wrong. I do feel better. Marginally. (And this is why I write this shit. It actually does help sometimes.) I’m getting to the end here and it’s just kinda hitting me that this IS a journey and I have to keep going. I think I can learn to love my body. It may be possible to think I’m attractive. I might even get to the place where I believe people are sexually attracted to me. (Don’t start. I know my thoughts on this are absurd and illogical. I’m working on it, okay?)

I guess where I am landing on this subject is that it’s not hopeless. I have a lot of healing to do. I have to learn to love myself. It’s not something I’ve ever made much of a priority. I’ve always put my efforts into showing others my love for them and I kinda just forgot about myself. I’ve never seen myself as particularly important. In fact, I usually see myself as invisible. (Topic for another emo post, on another emo day.) But maybe, just maybe, it’s time to change all that. I don’t know how to change the way I see myself but I’m gonna work on it. Because I hate feeling like this.

Maybe instead of “I want you to want me”, I should start singing, “I want me to want me”. Idk. I’ll get there.

Post Script: After posting this, I got to thinking. My love languages are quality time and words of affirmation. Maybe the way to learn to love myself is to just spend meaningful time by myself, hyping my own self up. Idk. It’s a start.