Trying to Be For You What You Want to See

by Penelope Smallbone

“I feel like a quote out of context
Withholding the rest
So I can be free what you want to see
I got the gesture and sound
Got the timing down
It’s uncanny, yeah, you think it was me”
-Ben Folds, Best Imitation of Myself

Since childhood I’ve had trouble making friends at first. I am a harsh, offensive, rough-around-the-edges girl with the emotional hierarchy of a man. (Of course I am an optimist so I prefer to call myself “honest, upfront, genuine, confident and strong”) The females in my life who I consider my best friends have realized that most of the bad parts are tolerable because there also a lot of really great things about me: namely my enthusiasm for… everything, my cheerful personality, openness, honesty, and compassion for those around me. (some even think I’m funny!) However, the first few items on this list continue to creep up on me every time I try to make new friends. I’ve learned to be careful about what I say to new people in my life.

That being said, when I moved to New York I got a little careless. I let my guard down, which I think is okay. I don’t like feeling like I have to walk on tiptoes around people just so that my insensitive comments don’t offend them. In the grand scheme of offending people, I am pretty moderate, but sometimes sensitive people can really be put off by my attitude.

My personality has come back to bite me twice in the last month when a particularly sensitive friend (who I am still getting to know) has called me out twice ex-post-facto about something I said. The first time I thought it was nice they avoided passive-aggressive anger in favor of openly discussing a problem. But the second time really put me off. I rarely talk to this friend outside of our gatherings and the fact that she would call for this specific reason is a little unsettling. This method of problem-solving by making oneself feel better by speaking up about your feelings is relatively fine by me… I’d much rather communicate an issue and reach a resolution than sit alone and worry about it. However, it brings me right back to the same
issue I’ve had since childhood. I know who I am, and I know that I am all of the things mentioned above, good and bad. When I was younger I really struggled with reconciling my behavior with the world around me (as most adolescents do). As a young adult I’ve learned that people will think what they think and you certainly can’t aim to please everyone. But where is the line between being yourself and making sure that you don’t displease the people you care about? Is this another situation where I should shrug off this criticism as just another sensitive person who can’t handle my humor? Or is it time to seriously reexamine how I treat people?

I’m honestly not sure. I do acknowledge my flaws, but also believe that my flaws are what make me great, and without them I wouldn’t be me.

But then it brings me back to the age-old question, “Who am I”? And then I end up in a circuitous philosophical debate between myself and my other self and it leads nowhere and then I get tired. Sigh…