What are those questions that stop you in your tracks? The ONE that gets me every single time is the innocent “what do you do for fun?” question from well-meaning people whose lives don’t revolve around esoterica. And yeah, esoterica is a word, Google Chrome. Don’t red-line me. And THAT is why I have a dictionary collection, BTW. Time to break out the big boys.
So the last time I was visiting my hairdresser, she asked me “the question.” Now, she’s been doing my hair for going on two years, but this is indicative of how I interact with people. In these necessary life relationships that I have, I simply don’t talk about myself (yeah, I know it’s hard to believe!). I listen to them. So when Belinda asked “so Tiffany, what do you do for fun?” I was thinking…“look….I don’t come here to be subjected to loaded questions, OK.”
It’s not that I don’t know what I do for fun. It’s not that I don’t HAVE fun. I have as much fun as anyone, and probably more than many people. It’s that in those “what do you do for fun” headlight beams, I know I’m going to misrepresent myself. I’m going to suddenly give the impression that I’m odd. These people from Planet Normal aren’t going to see me as I see myself. Ever.
I have this memory of myself as a child peering up at Miss Inez Radford, my ancient (she was born in 1902) piano teacher, and listening as she said “if you love music,you’ll never be lonely.” I remember thinking how very sad that was, and at the same time, I knew even then that it was her truth and that there was nothing sad about it to her. I never knew her to be lonely or sad. Au contraire, she was one of the most fulfilled human beings I have ever known. I knew, even as a child, that she was completely oblivious to the “sadness” of her comment and that my reaction was formed from my own paradigm.
So when, after two years of knowing me and Frannie, my hairdresser popped the “what do you do for fun?” question, I winced. And I stammered. I asked for clarity.
“For fun? What do I do for fun?” I asked her.
She nodded patiently, never looking up from the task of removing foil from my hair. “Yes, what do you do for fun?”
See, here is the thing. I don’t generally care if people think I’m fun or not fun. Miss Inez may have been oblivious, but I’m not. I know fully well that I’m a bit unusual and that anyone looking down into my life is going to be like…”Whoa. That looks boring.”
But, I’m still a girl, you know? There are times in life when it all comes back to the fact that every one of us has some level of desire, at one time or another, to fit in. To be “normal.” Everyone has something that makes them unsure of themselves. For me, it’s that horrible grey area that is far outside of my immediate awareness and comfort zone: girl stuff.
Hair. Clothes. Matching shoes. Jewelry. Want to see me freak the fark out? Challenge me outside my uniform. Tell me that I have to wear something different. Want to really have fun? Tell me that I have to go to the store and buy something different for a special occasion. Are you a really sadistic person and want to see a strong woman reduced to a simp? Tell me to put on makeup that is beyond eyeliner. Or better, do my makeup FOR me and then entertain myself with my shocked reaction when you hold a mirror up for me.
Whoa. It’s scary. Like, sweating bullets and “I need a Xanax” scary. It’s uncharted territory for me. It’s unfamiliar. I get the exact same feeling that I get when I’m driving in the downtown of an unfamiliar city.
And simp IS a word, too, Google! I can’t even trust the internet to give me a proper and quick link for this, so here:
So if you’ve got your hands in my hair making me “pretty” and I’ve already told you “oh, just do whatever you think looks good and wake me up when you’re done!,” you KNOW I’m probably on unsure footing here, and you ask me “what do you for fun?”
Look. It’s an innocent question. One she probably asks seven times a day. This isn’t complicated, right? She probably doesn’t even really care that much, but is trying to make polite conversation. Or trying to keep me awake.
I paused for a moment as my mind searched frantically for something that I thought might click with her, something that might make me “normal” in some way. Something that will make me feel a kinship with the “cool girls.” I began.
“Well….I like to read. A lot. I like to study things. I love projects. Building blogs, learning new stuff. I like my computer, and the internet. I like to write. I write a lot. I collect things. Books, antique toys.”
She was nodding and smiling as if I just told her I like tea parties and crafts. As if I were….normal! Still nodding, she said, “OK, so you like to read?” The OK only had a slight uptalk at the end (that’s a word, too…..). I knew that she was practicing active listening. She really did want to know what I do for fun.
She wanted more. OK. I was encouraged.
Then I found it, a gem hidden in a little pocket in a dark corner of my mind (not that kind of dark corner, you pervs).
“I like to work out!” I proclaimed. “I love going to the gym!”
She beamed. She’s a fitness freak. I explained to her that “Yeah, I know I don’t LOOK like I like to work out, but I really do enjoy it. Lots. Got any tips for me?”
I had found it — the common ground. So for the next ten minutes, as she finished up my hair, we talked about working out and fitness and healthy living, etc…Her journey. My journey.
That’s how you do it, folks. Navigating Normal 101.