An Unkempt Life

I woke up with a start at about 4:30 this morning from a dream. The dream was upsetting and spoke directly to some of my inner fears and feelings of self worth.

I know some people hate hearing dream stories, so if you’re one of them, please piss off.

The dream took place in my hometown, with some kind of reunion occurring at a restaurant in the area of my high school, except–as is true in many dreams–everything was different.

So I walk through miles of woodlands (that don’t really exist) to this restaurant where lots of old classmates are dining. It turns out that I’m there in part to also go on a date with an old classmate. I know who they are, and would never go out with them in reality, but there I was. He was super awkward but I guess I was totally into it. In Maggie Dreamland, I suppose I’m desperate.

At the end of the date, he goes in for a kiss, and we peck each other, but when I go in for a deeper kiss, he pulls away and says, “Nope, that’s all you get.” This is a realistic part: I’m so dumbfounded by this reaction that I stand there stupidly in silence. Just how I would, and have, in many real life situations. When I’m hurt directly, my reaction is delayed or staggered by my disbelief.

I guess we sat back down to talk more, because here’s where it cuts even deeper. He goes, “Has anyone ever referred to you as ‘unkempt’ before?”

I immediately freak out and think about how my hair is unwashed and in a bun (because it was that way when I got into bed), and how I’m not the usual, Hot Rebecca* type in D.C. and wear jeans to work, nor am I svelte or conventionally pretty.

He continues, “Do you remember Jane Doe? [an actual person from HS] She’s the perfect example of a woman. Successful, well-traveled, always impeccably dressed and presentable.” I’m sure he said more. In response–and at least I can be proud of my dream-self for this–I said, “Maybe if I made the kind of money she does I’d look great all the time, too.”

I don’t remember how the date ended after that, but I do know how crushed I felt during the entire exchange. I left the awful, Applebee’s-like restaurant and started in the direction of my childhood home. A handful of former classmates were walking with me in the same direction, but they were silent so I wasn’t sure if they were walking with me or not. At that point, the landscape took on a Yayoi Kusama-esque feature, and the classmates sat down with each other leaving me to continue on alone. Very illustrative of my feelings at that time, no?

At that point the dream veered elsewhere, with me visiting the library, pissing off a random librarian, and eventually venting to friends about this experience. I ask them if they think I’m “unkempt” and one of them says, “yes, to be honest.” GREAT. Pretty sure I yelled at them.

I’m not sure how the rest of it went or how it ended, but it doesn’t matter. What does matter was how I felt during the dream and how those feelings lasted after I woke up. The crushing feelings of:

  • never being enough
  • always on the outside looking in
  • being unlovable
  • feeling ugly

…and so on. I’ve been struggling a lot with these feelings recently, especially when it comes to my romantic life (or lack thereof), so I believe this is how the recent stresses manifested themselves.

I often feel like I did in this dream. I’m never “chosen” by anyone because I must lack something. I’m not skinny enough, presentable enough, pretty enough. There has to be something wrong with me, right? Because I keep getting left behind. So in my head I am convinced that I’m a hideous beast that will never be “included” in some experiences. In recent years I’m finally coming to see how deeply these beliefs are entrenched in me. I thought they’d be easier to get rid of, and that I’d even succeeded in ousting some of them, but it looks like no matter how many people show me the logic behind how untrue they are, including myself, I have not completely disavowed them. I’ve become so used to these “truths” that I’ve allowed them to make themselves at home, and now I need a fucking property lawyer to figure out how to evict them.

In the meantime, here I sit, at my desk, with my hair curly and air-dried and frizzy; my jeans on; a baggy sweater and scarf to keep warm on this chilly day; my shirt wrinkled; with my imperfect body and face. I’m going to be me no matter what the negative gnomes in my head throw at me.


*If you’ve ever seen Parks and Recreation, Hot Rebecca is a “jealousy amalgam” of all the beautiful power-goddesses in D.C. that Leslie worries are going to steal her fiance Ben away.

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