I talked yesterday about being different, of feeling like I’m some sort of alien at times, aping human behavior in an effort to fit in, an effort which usually feels futile to me, though given that there have, as yet, been no townspeople at my door with torches, apparently I’m doing a decent job at passing as “normal.”
The other thing I have always struggled with is the sense of being an imposter.
I was an unpopular kid. Seriously unpopular. You know those kids that sit at a table alone in the lunch room, the ones that no one else sits with?
They didn’t sit with me.
It sounds like a Henny Youngman routine gone bad, just how unpopular WERE you?
It is true, though. Let me make it clear I’m not trying to garner pity here, but I think it’s part of the story that matters.
I never went on a single date in high school. I never went to a dance, or to a prom. I didn’t have friends, with one or two exceptions, and they tended to be as awkward and fit in as poorly as I. One was my gay friend John, who was sleeping with one of the substitute teachers who was 20 years his senior, and one was a half Japanese friend who was going through her own horrors at home.
So, I was not popular and, frankly, had one of the more popular kids reached out to me, I’d have been suspicious anyway, waiting for the unkindness to follow.
I didn’t go to a great high school. To illustrate that, I will only tell one story. My female friend from those days, with whom I do keep up, went to her class reunion a few years back. She’s a couple years younger than I.
We talked about it and she told me that the class had given, in addition to the usual Who Traveled Farthest and Who Has the Most Kids awards, had given a Most Changed for the Worst award.
I was appalled. “Seriously? Most changed for the WORST?”
She shrugged and said, “You know Hawthorne.”
And I was forced to nod my head and say, “Yeah, I do.”
So, I have never had a great sense of security in one way. That side of me never really expects anyone to care what I think, or defer to me.
That part of me sits back, when I’m speaking on a stage, or teaching a class, thinking, really? Really? All you people are sitting there listening to me, rapt, as if I know what the fuck I’m talking about? Who died and made ME god…
And yet, it’s funny, people DO listen to me. And I can be charismatic, I can be the person in the room that you want to watch, I can be a leader, absolutely, and I’m good at it.
I can also be imperious and a bitch, making it, I’m sure, hard to believe that I do not believe I was born to the ermine, as one might say.
The sense of being an imposter comes and goes. Right now, it’s not so present. I’m doing a lot right now, so in some ways, it seems like it should be more apparent. I am in the Executive Director position for the community center I’ve written about.
I am the Special Events Director for Great Lakes Leather Alliance.
I am the Director for MAsT: Derby City.
I am the moderator for the Dominant’s Roundtable specifically, and I moderate the time we spend together, too.
I am the producer for Bluegrass Leather Pride, a contest which feeds into Great Lakes Leather contests. I’ve judged contests around the country as well.
I present regularly and around the country – I have gigs on my calendar at this moment for Indianapolis this month, Atlanta next month, Chicago in October and Dallas in March.
I was nominated for a lifetime achievement award, which I won’t win, but the nomination is nice, though it makes me feel a bit old.
Right now, I don’t feel so much the imposter, but it will rear its head again, I have every reason to believe, because it always has.
I’ve discovered that I feel the least out of place when I have a role. Take me to a bar, tell me that you own the bar, or run the event, or whatever, and need ME to get on the bar and deliver an announcement and, without preparation, emcee the show.
I am your girl. Hand me the mike, get me a boost up – I’m short, you know – and I will do it. Won’t bother me, my voice will be strong and clear, my hand will not shake holding the mike.
I will make the audience laugh, and it will be fine.
If I don’t have the role, though, I can spend the evening on the fringes, certain that no one would really want to talk to ME, really, why? The old insecurity comes back, and the hold is still chilly and cold, and I can hear my mother’s less-than-supportive voice, reminding me that I’d be so pretty if I’d just lose weight, and then that imposter weighs in.
I’ve got you all fooled, you know. If you REALLY knew me, you’d not like me. All those people from my youth knew me and didn’t, so you won’t either, it’s inevitable.
I’ll have to sit at that pariah of the outcast table, striving mightily to look as though I don’t care, as though I actually wanted to sit alone with my thoughts.
Once you figure it out.
Sometimes it’s not so unkind, it’s just incredulous.
Why do people come to me for advice, for leadership, for insight? And I am, every single time, reminded of the Scottish poet, Robert Burns:
“O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!”
Isn’t that a frightful thought? Seeing ourselves as others see us, mostly impersonally, probably more kindly than we see ourselves, often, and even more disturbingly, not as the center of the universe?
But there are times I would give a great deal to see myself through the lens of someone else’s eyes. I wonder if I could catch that thing, whatever it is that it is.
Please don’t take this as false modesty, it really isn’t. I know I have a history, I know I have proven myself both in word and deed, this isn’t meant as some sort of disingenuous eye-batting, a veritable, “Who, little old me?”
I remember once years ago I was putting something together and had a meeting of about 15 people. It was an event I wanted to put on, and I needed and wanted their help. We were trying to come up with some sort of loose leadership structure, and I suggested something obvious, like perhaps a two thirds majority, and they all agreed.
And then one person said, “Unless you disagree. I think you should have final veto power on everything?”
I was both puzzled and disbelieving. I said, “You mean, you think that if all of you agree on something, all of you think this is a great idea, but I say no, you all think that should trump all of your voices?”
And she said, “Yes,” and all the people at the table nodded. Not one person raised their hand or voice and said, “Well, yeah, but I mean, suppose she goes rogue psycho on us, if she’s the only one who says no, don’t you think that might indicate something” No one even drew breath to speak.
Now why on earth would anyone do that? I sure wouldn’t. I wouldn’t even give that deal to myself.
Although, now that I think about it, I would give that deal to Ms Kendra, in fact.
The Board of Directors for GLLA is a cohesive and pleasant group that, interestingly, works well together, something not always common in such groups. We have little drama, there are minor territorial and administrative skirmishes, but really, nothing that’s even worth mentioning in the end.
We’ve all known each other a long time, too, most of us at least five years, some of us more than ten.
But if we said yea to something and Ms Kendra said nay, I suspect all of us would say, in varying ways, “Yes, Ma’am.”
Some of that is recognition of reality. Her name is the one on the dotted line, she is the one with the exposure and liability should something go awry, she makes the final decision, always.
Some of it is the depth, I think, to which we trust her. I *know* her. She would not do something wrong. I might disagree on details, but I would not disagree on intent or purpose and if I did, I must not have all the info, because my faith in her is unshakeable, and has always been proven well-placed.
So, I don’t know, maybe that’s it. Maybe what they see is what lies behind me, but even so, why did the first people listen to me?
What was it that they saw?
And then I’m back to wanting to see myself as others see me, and that’s a conundrum, isn’t it?