I am, if you get right down to it, a fairly awkward person.
Also, this isn’t a disparagement or a complaint, but more of just a general observation.
I’m vague and slightly erratic. I talk too fast, or else too slow. I give awkward hugs, I say awkward, out-of-context things even when I know I shouldn’t, even when I can actually feel myself starting to highjack my own conversation. I ask nosy, inappropriate questions that no one should have to answer, and even though I’ve been wearing high heels on a semi-regular basis for literally more than a decade, and should totally know how to walk in them by now, I still sometimes just … fall off.
But the thing is, even though I can recognize my awkwardness on an intellectual level, I mostly don’t feel that way. (Which might account for how I’ve managed to maintain this particular status quo for so long—no real incentive to change.) Even when I can watch myself behaving in ways that run counter to what I know to be the social ideal, my internal monologue is usually something along the lines of, Lalala, doing this now, all done, aaaand moving on.
Over the course of my life, there’ve really only been one or two notable exceptions. The big one was during my senior year in high school, when I felt awkward pretty much ALL THE TIME.
There are a lot of reasons for this, and the main one probably has to do with the fact that at almost-eighteen, adolescent Brenna is undeniably in the process of growing up, and is kind of scared of it.*
What’s scary about it, you say?
Let’s start with this horrific eventuality: Suddenly, for no apparent reason, I have a brand new body. Which—I cannot stress this enough—does not mean any of the lies, lies, and damn lies that they tell you in books or movies. The new one is not like where the girl takes off her glasses and is suddenly all seductive and womanly and boys start to notice her for the first time and wonder what planet she magically appeared from.
I have not become taller or curvier or more endowed. The only appreciable difference is that after years and years of lagging behind my peers on the pediatric growth chart, I’ve finally started to develop my adult musculature. Also, it takes up exactly zero-amount more space than my previous, vaguely childlike musculature.
Which is to say, I look exactly like myself, if myself were an ad campaign for veins and tendons and joints, garnished with gigantic hands and feet. I’ve essentially gone from fragile little wood-nymph to wiry, violent-looking engine of destruction, and not to put too fine a point on it, I am absolutely distraught.
(Also, I may be overreacting just a little. Just tiny.)
In retrospect, the whole situation seems overblown and aggravating and kind of hilarious, but at the time, my brand-new set of edges and angles has a profoundly demoralizing effect on me.
Which sounds insufferably vain. And it is.
But it’s also way more complicated than that. The truth is, I don’t feel like myself anymore. Myself used to mean Little Wax Doll. It used to mean super-feminine. Now, myself doesn’t even feel like a recognizable concept.
And to make matters worse, all this new insecurity is directly exacerbated by #4. I mean really, it is all is his fault. (Except for the part about me not being a doll anymore, because he didn’t do that.) (Or anything else.) (At all.)
Really, the only thing he’s done is get taller, sturdier, prettier. Which just serves to underline all the ways that he is progressing toward adulthood like a real person, while I am progressing like a double-handful of steel wire mashed up to look like a girl.
Or at least, I insist this to myself like it’s a stone-fact, like I am doing science. The reasoning is deeply flawed, but I don’t care. My personal box of neuroses has been opened, and even though my teenage-self is ordinarily a good observer, and should be able to deduce from anecdotal evidence that there’s a good chance #4 probably feels every bit as awkward as I do—or at least take heart in how none of his clothes fit right anymore and every long-sleeved shirt shows an inch and a half of wrist whenever he picks something up or opens his locker—I am deeply, irrevocably convinced that he is much, much prettier than I am.
Little Sister Yovanoff and I share a locker in one of the bays with a skylight.
#4’s is in the same bay, diagonal from us. He changed over the summer, or I changed, or something. His shoulders are wider, forearms more defined. He’s taller. He doesn’t look cautious or worried anymore, just blank.
I drop things now. This is a new development. I used to be so composed, but now I look up, see him looking at me and it’s like someone touching your face or the back of your neck when you aren’t expecting it. It short-circuits the part of my brain that’s in charge of fine motor skills. Notebooks, pencils, loose change, it all just goes flying out of my hands.
I run into things. I have to look someplace else if I want to accomplish anything throughout the day. Everything out of my mouth suddenly becomes embarrassing, inane, moronic. I laugh for no apparent reason. Opening my locker, I forget to stop at the last number and have to turn the whole combination over again. This must be how Catherine feels all the time. It’s absolutely horrifying.
About the dropping things.
I wish teenage-me were exaggerating, but she’s not—not even a little. Yes, I’ve never been the most coordinated person, but now, without any warning or explanation, my clumsiness has essentially become … neurological. Like, I can literally be holding a book and telling myself over and over very consciously to please, please not drop it, and my hand will still let go—it is that bad.
It’s sort of surreal though, which is a reassurance that I cling to. I tell myself that this is all just some stupid, stupid dream, because that’s how it feels. Also, I don’t even know if that’s really how it feels, because I’m spectacularly bad at identifying feelings and then uniting them with their meanings.
Okay, how it feels is like this:
My brain feels broken. Which, since I am absurdly attached to my own cognitive process, freaks me out.
However. The very thought that I could be fundamentally undone by a boy is also insanely fascinating, and when I’m not being histrionic and panicking over the way my cortex seems to be melting, I apply myself to the problem, trying to make the facets and the nuances come clear. (Also, because it’s me, Brenna-freaking-out looks essentially identical to Brenna-wondering-if-snakes-appreciate-the-way-they’re-portrayed-in-the-media. So, it’s all relative, is what I’m saying.)
The whole experience is just so interesting, and when I’m not feeling insecure and disoriented and totally like a moron, I’m intrigued by the sheer number of Feelings that I’m having. Mostly, the feeling that there’s a small bird living in my chest, beating its wings furiously against the inside of my sternum at inopportune times. Also, sometimes it climbs up into my throat and then it makes my voice too loud and too high-pitched. The bird is a real jerk.
Okay, yes. I realize that I basically just said that the reason crushes sometimes suck is because birds are jerks.
Regardless, the progression of what has happened—birds not withstanding—maps out like this:
Over the course of the last two years, I have gone from being unaware of #4 to being aware of him, to being actively interested in the fact that he exists. I’ve transitioned from finding him objectively attractive to finding him personally attractive to kind of sort of liking him, to just plain liking him outright.
And now, at the age of almost-18, with my heart fluttering like wings and my hands tragically unresponsive, I’m forced to admit (at least to myself) that I like him an awfully alarming lot. Like, a LOT. With cherries on top.
Which is unequivocally the scariest thing that’s ever happened to me. Also, one time I almost drowned, and it’s still the scariest thing that’s ever happened.
Also-also? This is not normal. Just so you know.**
The question of what’s normal is immaterial, however, because it doesn’t change the fact that I stand fifteen feet away from #4 five times a day, pretending with ferocious conviction that he doesn’t exist, and throw books, hoodies, classroom handouts, and Wild Berry Skittles on the floor whenever he gets too near.
At this point in a truly reasonable person’s life, that truly reasonable person might say enough. They might do any number of things. For instance, they might smile and wave, or start a conversation, or behave in some other way that invites interaction. They might say, “Hey, I like you,” and, “Would you be interested in hanging out sometime?”
Instead, because although I am a decidedly geeky person, I’m beginning to suspect that I might not be a reasonable one, the only conclusion I arrive at is that if I were a superhero, my fatal weakness would probably be shy, pretty boys with translucent skin.
Wait, I lied. The other conclusion I arrive at, after devoting almost a full week to the problem, is this:
I like #4 a lot lot lot whole-hell-of-a-lot, and it is also None of His Business.
What about you? Is it strange to start a new school year? Do you feel different? Do you miss your old self?
Do hopeless crushes make your brain break, or do you simply understand that they don’t constitute any actual threat, and therefore you should not be dropping your English homework all over the floor?
*Terrified. I am terrified of it.
**Seriously. Even if you like someone a lot, don’t freak out. It’s not nearly as life-threatening as drowning, no matter how similar the two things might feel.
… She said, from a comfortable vantage point of adulthood.
In high school and middle school, I was very awkward as well. Still am :D, which isn’t saying much since my friends just graduated about two months ago, but still. When it came to crushes, I was a strange duck haha :D. I have said before to my family and friends, that most of my crushes in middle school were on girls. Partly because the boys usually treated me like crap because I didn’t look like a normal, pretty girl because of my kyphosis and overbite (and as a result of this I found them physically attractive but personality-wise… Not so much, which made things very confusing for me), and partly because boys were like aliens to me that I didn’t know how to talk to because I was raised mostly around girls. But if I had a crush on a boy or a girl, the reaction remained the same: I either watched them from afar and never said a word to them, or I was already their friend and swore never to tell them how I felt because I was fully convinced the love would be one-sided. But my face would always betray me by blushing or grinning/laughing like an insane person. Though I was lucky because I was already known to be a fairly uncoordinated person, so my falling over myself pretty much went unnoticed. Haha :D.
I was very awkward as well. Still am
Ha! I would love to tell you you’ll grow out of it, but I’m still waiting :D Mostly, I like to think I’ve just learned to wear it better.
Also, now I’m trying really hard to think of any boy I knew during the middle school years who had what I would call an attractive personality. And I can think of two. Which has to be some kind of record.
I think I didn’t learn to talk to someone I had a crush on until I was almost 20, and even then I wasn’t very good at it. Something about the liking was so complicated that it didn’t leave very much room for things like constructing sentences.
I was already known to be a fairly uncoordinated person, so my falling over myself pretty much went unnoticed.
Yes! This is basically the best disguise ever. (Except for the actual part about dropping things and falling over.)
Haha yeah, that has to be some sort of record. I knew two as well, and they were my friends’ crushes, so they were Off Limits haha :D.
Even with my friends and family, I have a hard time talking. Or I get so nervous that I say embarrassing, long-winded (sometimes random) things that I regret, and when it’s a crush, it just seems to get worse.
Haha :D yes, except for the hurt that comes with it, it’s a great disguise.
I also wanted to thank you for being so kind to me. You’re great with your fans, epically talented, and very friendly. You’re one of my favorite people :D.
Aww, you’re making me smile stupidly! I *really* appreciate you commenting here and sharing your thoughts. Honestly, my blog is by far my favorite part of social media, because it’s the only place where I feel like there’s an opportunity for real conversation, rather than smalltalk and yeah, wow, smalltalk is just not my style! So thank you for being part of the conversation :)
Oh, I was 100% brain-break. I was completely silent about it too–why would anyone confess such a thing, let alone to the person in question? Crushes were laughable, ridiculous affairs of weakness which I alternated loathed and relished wallowing in. (I am also completely and utterly lying by speaking in the past tense.) I tended to feel like I was constantly falling apart and being annoying and not very clever, but a vast majority of the time I was almost completely silent, and chances are this fundamental crumbling was a lot less obvious to every person who wasn’t me.
This whole issue was complicated by the three-or-so years spent “on” in an on-and-off hate/crush that developed from infatuation to crushing embarrassment and vague resentment–feelings that turned out to have very similar symptoms (all detrimental to my cherished dignity).
Senior year I actually managed for once to behave like a normal human being, and nurse a small soft spot for a boy I actually spoke to regularly and interacted with normally, and this undeniably lulled me into a false sense of security about my ability to cope with having feelings. Then I stumbled into college and was surrounded by dining halls & laundry rooms full of beautiful boys and actually had to admit that becoming the person I wanted to be (someone with the ability of acting like a Real Functioning Human Being in their repertoire for deployment as necessary) would require unmaking a lot of the person I was in high school.
(Then that sounded like an awful lot of work so I ended up just spending a lot of time making people move their seats just slightly so I could strategically observe across dining halls over the course of normal conversation so actually basically nothing has changed except that I’m now more likely to admit it to friends so they can join me in laughing at the absurdities of my life.)
(Man I hope this makes sense like I think it does, this is definitely an hour I shouldn’t be awake for… which I should realize is what always happens when I finish a book at 3:00 AM and then say ‘I’m just going to mark this as read on Goodreads and then definitely close the computer immediately afterwards’…)
I was completely silent about it too–why would anyone confess such a thing, let alone to the person in question?
Exactly! (Also about the weakness and the wallowing.) (And the loathing and relishing.) (Honestly, having a crush meant that I had *twice* the number of feelings, because I was so aggressively ambivalent about everything!)
chances are this fundamental crumbling was a lot less obvious to every person who wasn’t me
Again, something I absolutely failed to take into account at the time. Intellectually understanding that one is not completely transparent just because one is having a FEELING is way different from actually believing that. I just couldn’t fathom any reality in which the way I felt wasn’t completely visible, because it just felt WAY too big to hide.
a lot of time making people move their seats just slightly so I could strategically observe across dining halls over the course of normal conversation
I think this is the name of my entire freshman year in college! I was so prepared to shed all my analytical maneuvering and my various other social oddities (I was finally starting to realize that they were totally unhelpful), and still wound up taking much, much longer to let certain things go than I’d originally anticipated. Mostly, the consuming desire to understand Everything All the Time, and to never have feelings without the express consent of my brain. Which, at some point in my early twenties, I was forced to admit was just not all that realistic.