I've said it before - people accuse me of being guarded. Of not letting people in. Arms length. Aloof. Cynical. The Ice Princess (which my roommate reminds me of occasionally, as he was around in the time when I acquired that nick).
Yes, I am all those things. All those things and more. The question is why? And how does it affect my life? Is there anything to do about it?
First, the why.
Mostly as a protective mechanism. Some of it is learned behavior, as well.
I was a *serious* ugly duckling as a child. A tiny little thing, all knees and elbows with an Annie haircut. I was the kid that the bullies picked on and everyone made fun of. Or overlooked. Picked last. I didn't have dates, I was the one that people came to for advice (even as a teen). Was never asked to a dance, but people wanted my advice on them. I didn't really have friends as a child, pretty much only my horse. Kids can sense fear and unhappiness and will prey on it as sign of weakness, so it was always better to hide it. It’s funny – the high school reunion people managed to find me yesterday via email. I am attempting to write a polite and cheerful note back without giving them any of the information that they want. I’m torn – on the one hand I really don’t want anything to do with those people. High school was a miserable time, and I cannot honestly call one of those people my friend. On the other hand, it would be entertaining to show up in a little black dress just to taunt them. *sigh* It merits some thought.
I was also a precocious child. Brilliant. Genius. All those terms were thrown around with great abandon when I was a kid. Being publicly smarter than the adults is *not* a good thing. Also, being publicly smarter than classmates is equally bad, if not worse. So I learned to hide the brains a bit. To accept information but not give it. Not always successfully, mind you. I also hung around more with adults than with kids my own age. Which is many ways helped me to mature and deal with life better than many of my contemporaries, but in other ways it kinda squished my outgoingness.
I had one sort of pivotal experience in high school. The only boy I dated before I hit my 20's was a German exchange student in high school. Charlie was gorgeous and smart and definitely sought after. Like by every one of the pretty little girls at school. For some reason that I never really understood he chose me to date. Which immediately made me a target. *Shrug* That was hard, but bearable. And frankly, having that many gals jealous of me was exciting and fed my ego a bit. But then, one humid Midwestern morning he killed himself. Stabbed himself 17 times. The other kids blamed me, as we were ‘going out’ at the time and I had yelled at him. And he wrote it in the damned letter he left too. Within a couple of days it was discovered that the real problem was dosage issues. I understood that and managed to keep the guilt to a dull roar for the most part. But back then most kids had no idea that some people needed to take medication, unlike now where it seems that everyone takes pills for something or another. So, they just blamed me instead - *that* they could understand. I think it was then that the mask became a permanent feature.
Reserve is also a learned behavior from my father as well. He was a generation older than my mother, and his generation was more reserved as a general rule than subsequent ones. Drama wasn’t really tolerated in our house. Yes, we were kids with all the attendant events, but there was never a lot of shouting in our house. Come to think of it, I can only think of seeing my Dad cry twice.
I think some of it comes from losing part of my childhood - those teenage years. I never really got to be a crazy teenager. The accident at 13 turned me into an adult almost overnight. In some ways I am more daring now than I was as a young adult.
Some people are threatened by me, which I really really don't understand at all. Never have. But I've seen it and it is real. Intimidated is perhaps a better term, tho that seems even more silly. Being reserved is a reaction to their… fear. I try to be unassuming to make others feel more comfortable.
My attention can be disconcerting, I've discovered over the years. I hear the stories and don't quite believe them, but still. I think it might have something to do with reading lips. When I pay attention or speak to someone I really *pay* attention to *them*. I can be as serious as a heart attack and blunt to a fault, on occasion. Mostly I try to hide it behind politeness and such. I can be intense and many cannot handle the full force of my personality, so I keep it under wraps for the most part. I am also a complex person, so it requires some actual effort on other’s part. Which doesn’t happen often. So being reserved is safe because it means there is less of an investment on my part. Less hurt occurs when I’m blown off.
Don't get me wrong I can be a great conversationalist and people always seem to understand that I am genuinely interested in what they have to say and how they are doing. The things that I know about people are absolutely amazing. Some of the things are frightening. Maybe I just make a good confessor or something.
Someone mentioned that I was reserved, guarded, just a few days ago. I
pointed them to a Technicolor example of why I was. All could think was ‘Can’t you *see* why I hide in my cave?!’
Romantic and friendship things don't go very well for me. I think I do not make a very good friend or SO. It's like I make a great friend *to* people, but they rarely seem to be there in return. I was once best friends with someone. She was having problems with her marriage and I phoned her almost every day long distance, in addition to seeing her on many weekends (it happens in the SCA). I held her little hand as best I could. I was there when she was attracted to someone else and it was tearing her apart. I drove 500 miles to be there for her when she asked her husband for a divorce. And in return, what she told people is that *I* was sleeping with her husband and that’s why they were divorcing. It seems that when I do let myself get involved, when I do let people know what I want or need that I get *bapped * by the universe somehow. I’ve gotten other big baps from relationships as well (husband, Britboy). More recent events have only served to illustrate the point.
It's gotten worse over the years. The walls are raised every once in awhile, as I get *bapped!* on the nose.
So why not be reserved?
People can not hurt you if you do not give them the ability to do so. If you hide the pain, the confusion, the angst then the illusion is preserved. I can almost convince myself that I don't care. Makes it easier when the inevitable disappointment happens. Gods know why I'm stupid enough to place myself at the mercy of others anymore - you would think I woulda learned that by now. So the take home lesson is if you don't *care* then it won't matter what happens in the end. It won't hurt.
The bar is high, and when people make it I fall hard, whether it be as friends or as more. Maybe I need to raise it more, or be more careful or… something.
Perhaps I am too subtle. Actually, I know I am generally. Another legacy of my father, with a good dose of rich girls private school thrown it. It's not polite to be obvious. So few understand the understatement. But that’s a whole ‘nother topic…
What is there to do about it? Not much, I think, other than live with the consequences. In the end it's just easier to keep things on the superficial level, because that is all most people want.
Welcome to the masquerade.
So I will continue to have these conversation with myself here, in hopes that I will learn something. That I might not keep making the same mistakes again and again.
Faith is... impractical. And trust is just an exercise in pain.