Friday, June 24, 2011

I Know What I Believe Don't Need To Wear It On My Sleeve


That's why I sometimes stand alone at parties, that's why I drink so I'll be who they think I am- Voice of the Beehive

For many years, I would have said this was my theme song.

I know, on the surface, this sounds like a clever, less well known take on the ground already covered by The Go-Gos with Our Lips Our Sealed. But where Our Lips Our Sealed was the complaint of the popular, the narcissists who actively sought attention complaining when they received it, the celebrities who won't leave the spotlight yet can't bear its constant glare, I Say Nothing by Voice of the Beehive always felt to me to be the thoughts of the outcast on the subject of gossip and suddenly having people pay attention to one, "I'm not what they believe and if they find out they will leave." And the bemusement that someone who had always been invisible feels when it is suggested that others may see them, "If we come and go alone why do they need to know?"

And you probably are thinking, "Alison, you talk all the time, on what planet would a song called I Say Nothing be considered your theme song?" The thing is, I talk as a defense mechanism. I used to say I practiced the hiding in plain sight principle of self-revelation in that I talked all the time, no one paid attention to anything I was saying, so if I slipped and gave out information about myself or others which was important, well, who would notice, wouldn't it just get lost in the shuffle? I may say a lot, but trust me, I say nothing.

So, to put it bluntly, this song makes me think of college (though it came out a couple years before I graduated high school). It makes me think of the awkwardness of transitioning from someone no one bothered with to someone who suddenly had to navigate the attention of people who didn't have a pre-existing notion of who I was. It makes me think of all the conversations with boys who told me they would leave me black and blue and rip my heart in two and how I said nothing. But most of all, it reminds me of the feeling of running around campus in crinolines and combat boots with my best friend.

A couple of weeks ago, we joined Tracy and her daughters in Portland to celebrate Reed's Centennial. We stayed in the dorms (ones which were there when we were students) and relived our youth, except that the food was way better than it was when we were there (probably because society's tastes have evolved in twenty years and not just because Commons has been rebuilt into something shiny and new) and the weather was nicer (it being June and not February). The presence of our respective entourages meant we could not ignore our real life responsibilities entirely which actually was a great thing. Tracy commented that it was good to have a reminder of what she values of being a grown up. I did not think anything so deep, I just thought we had way more fun with kids there and, really, the set up was able to offer them a freedom they wouldn't normally have. Julian, Kate, and Bridgett ran around unsupervised with other kids, reminding me a bit of the dogs which ran in packs from back in the day except far cuter, much better behaved, and less smelly. It was nice to be forced to go to sleep on time and wake up far too early because, let's face it, I have grown into the sort of person who needs to eat breakfast.

But for all my talk of adulthood, I was surprised how campus felt so familiar, how eighteen years could be stripped from me and it could feel like no time had passed since the last time I ran from the Cross Canyon bridge to the Sports Center because I was late for a dance class. I would have expected eighteen years to have left more of a mark on me. And there was a moment, that last night we were there, when I was walking around without Tracy or Fred or any of the kids (all of whom were sensibly asleep) and looked at the crowds of revelers and I felt that same outsiderness which I thought I left behind when I graduated. Maybe I should blame the trees. Maybe I should blame memory. It would seem that everything stays with you, that you never stop being the person you once were, that the past is never truly past but is forever lurking just behind the present, waiting to leap out and yell, "Surprise!" For awhile there, it felt like the only people I knew were people who still won't talk to me, even though you would think they got over whatever they hated about me all those years ago. But then I recovered. People appeared to shout that they had missed me all these years, I talked to some people I cared about while stealing sips of their wine because I liked the taste (and did not need the mind altering effects of getting a whole glass for myself), and then I walked back across the canyon and went to bed.

Believing myself to be one of the lonely few who's laughing at the joke.

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