How to get published on Thought Catalog

1. Write a list instead of a coherent short story/blog that actually leads to an interesting revelation. make sure it’s a list with an ‘original’ number, i.e. “23 (NOT 25, come on now! what are you, an amateur?) reasons to determine if you’re dating a sorry excuse for a human being.”

2. Know your audience (twenty-something American hipsters + the genuine odd one out).

3. Describe your average conundrum but photoshop its premise. And every detail.

4. Use adjectives like Taylor Swift-esque (make sure to completely disregard the fact that Taylor Swifty would’ve been funnier and more original).

5. Make up a persona that’s either blue-print girl-next-door or blue-print wannabe 21st century Kerouac/Thompson/Palahniuk/Bukowski.

6. Exploit white people problems. Non-ironically. Emphasize the whiteness.

7. Don’t overdo it. Approach every subject and emotion with perfectly balanced mediocrity.

8. Be open but not too open. Write about taboos but don’t actually say what you’re thinking.

9. Use sarcasm as a tool. Sarcasm is a totally cool way of expressing how edgy you are. But what is even cooler is if people can’t quite tell if you’re actually being sarcastic.

10. Your success-rate vis-à-vis the aforementioned is reflected in the comments. Comments determine your worth. Write with the future comments in mind. *be* the comments.

11. It helps if you’ve been published before. It’s even better if you refer to yourself as ‘a writer’ even if you haven’t written shit (‘struggling’ is cool. even if you’re a trust-fund kid.)

12. Popular topics: the ’90s, how to find love, how to move on after a break-up, how to determine the meaning of life based on the pop culture references du jour.

13. Topics to avoid: politics, religion, genuine lack of self-love, the entire spectrum of mental illness, anything that’s been embraced by the plebeians unless it’s been approved by the gay mafia (i.e. enjoying discussing “How I Met Your Mother” is off limits, Neil Patrick Harris’ revamping of the nuclear family is ok).

14. Make this mantra your bitch: “generalize, under-analyze, prioritize (yourself)!” Repeat until brainwashed.

15. Don’t use big words unless you’re being ironic. Big words are elitist. They scream ‘nonrelatable’.

16. OMG I’ve arrived at 16 already? I have so much more to say but  to stop at 16 feels exactly right. Original. Edgy. People will not know what hit them.

Post Scriptum: the interwebz hath no fury like a woman scorned in the form of not even getting published in a glorified online diary.

so you want to be a writer?

In his poem ‘so you want to be a writer’, Bukowksi makes it abundantly clear what it means to be a writer, in his eyes of course. I love every word of this poem but the bit that really grabbed me was:

“don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,

don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
love.”

This made me die a little inside,

“Bukowskiiiiiiiii!,” I want to scream (à la Brando reaching for the stars, or, you know, just the one in particular).

(where was i? oh yes.)

“But Bukowskiiiiiii, isn’t the mere act of writing in itself a form of self-love? Or even THE ULTIMATE form of self-love?”

You see, Charles, i find it terribly presumptuous of myself to write down my thoughts and ideas and half-expect them to be read. Not even to be semi-appreciated or even -gasp!-admired, but the fact that someone would sit down and take the time to read what I have to say seems so…elitist to me. Look at me, writing things down and expecting someone, anyone, to have or even form an opinion, any kind of opinion, about it.

Might as well get a tattoo on my forehead that says: BOW TO THE MIRACLE THAT IS ME.

It’s ridiculous, I know. I’ve read thousands of written things in my life. Books, newspaper articles, song lyrics. I’ve visually and emotionally invested in ‘reading’ films and other form of art. With relish.

And of  course I have felt at times that it was a massive waste of time. WHY DID EVEN READ THIS GARBAGE? But my anger was never wholeheartedly directed at the writer.

I might’ve been annoyed with or even (more likely) irrationally enraged at the (media) outlet for posting less-than-mediocre work on an otherwise usually though-provoking platform. But never at the writer itself.

More than anything I admire these people. They clearly have an uncanny ability to promote themselves, to conjure up promises of magic (read: financial gain/hipster allure) in the eyes of those in power. They must have an excess of self-love, to be able to produce something that lacks even the slightest form of originality, wit, or honesty,  but still walk around with their head held high as if the plebeians should be grateful that they were even handed the opportunity to get a glimpse into their wonderful mind.

I sound bitter. I’m not. I’m not even jealous.

I am in complete and utter awe of these individuals.

I would literally sell my soul, my beaten up and worn out shadow of a soul, to be allowed to dance underneath even a handful of these sprinkles of self-love, delusion, bravado, whatever you may call it,  in whichever shape or form they might appear to me.

No, Charles, I do not want to “be like so many thousands of them that call themselves writers”.

But I do want to be consumed with self-love. Even for just a moment.

Just to know what it feels like to find yourself worthy of something, anything.

If only to be able to believe the very few who say:

“You’ve got that je ne sais quoi.”

Because I really don’t know what they’re on about. And I need to know.  I feel like I am running out of time here.

There’s only so much melancholia that people are willing to put up with. And even if it’s in the cards for me to become a shut-in, that severely unhinged bat-shit-crazy lady with the tiara that mumbles incoherently those few times she wanders off onto the streets, I would like to have experienced what it’s like to belong. To just live life, and see myself as the heroic main protagonist with a few hurdles to overcome, with an intense drive, or even a tiny shred of hope, that it might all work out in the end.

So maybe when I do write something one day, something non-pretentious (how can you be pretentious if you think that literally everyone is better than you?), something raw, something pure, something i simply cannot hold inside any longer, something that needs to get out before I completely lose all ability to think and speak and feel and be human, I might have scraped together enough self-love to believe that I can thrust it into the world without being unanimously ridiculed.

How do you purpose I do that, Charles?

I’ve tried drowning the negative voices in alcohol, like you used to do. But it only seems to make them more vicious.

Frenemies

So, yeah. Thought Catalog & Ryan O’Connell. Yada yada yada. Hopefully no introduction needed. If so, let this be your introduction to both. You might hate (one of) them, you might adore them, you might hold the fact that you just wasted 5-20 minutes of your life (depending on how freakishly fast you tend read, or if you’re  a browser rather than an absorber, or if you suffer from dyslexia rather than AD(H)D) against me until the end of time or the fact that I got you to read this might be exactly that ‘pro’ you needed to tip over the ‘why the fuck am I still even friends with this girl’- pro/con list” to my advantage, PICK ONE OR PICK NONE, I just hope it at least serves to ignite some sort of, you know, spark of a feeling or whatever.

So. Where was I? Ahh yes. This piece of advice inspired by genuine concern for people’s (mental) health or, you know, passive aggressive rant ( I know you are reading this <insert name of frenemy who has finally crossed the line> so GET THE HINT. oh and you better be extremely honoured that i devoted an entire piece to you. On Thought Catalog, I may add. Not just my diary.) that I stumbled on ( all be my onesies, not actually through StumbleUpon) called: “Everyone Should Get Rid Of Their Toxic Friends.”

This right here will lead you to it (click–>read–>absorb–>return to me if you have absolutely nothing better to do with your time.)

http://thoughtcatalog.com/2012/everyone-should-get-rid-of-their-toxic-friends

Aside from relating to both content and style of aforementioned piece, what struck me most about it was its excellent timing, as, coincidentally, quite a few of people I know (friends and frenemies alike) actually seem to be ‘going through this’ (first world problem if I ever saw one).

I am no expert on this, or anything at all for that matter, and obviously this subject, much like that of romantic love, can hardly be approached in a purely subjective manner. In light of that, I would like to offer up a few reasons why I felt compelled to elaborate on it, rather than just assigning the appropriate amount of brownie-points and sharing it on Facebook.

First of all, I have a bazillion opinions. About a bazillion subjects. And I like to know other people’s opinions about those subjects. Well, not all people, obviously. But definitely the opinion of those who take the time to read what I have to say.
I do not pretend to know a lot, in fact I am a big fan of Socrate’s approach to (gathering) knowledge and classifying it as such (or, you know: not) I tend to read a lot ( which I love) and I tend to ponder a lot (which I don’t). So I obviously greatly appreciate any Gandalfian guidance through that maze of information you might have to offer me.

*intermezzo* for those who do not actually know-know me: vocab-wise I am greatly indebted to “Zoolander”. Also, those who actually do know-know me will also know why I just felt the need to point that out.

Secondly, last time I checked I am, for all intents and purposes, a human being. Admittedly a beaten up, vintage, marked down illegally downloaded version of one, but a human being nonetheless. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but human beings tend to be social beings. At least the half-way quote-unquote normal prototype. Ergo, most of them,  at some point in their lives deal end up dealing with the concept of ‘friendship’ in all its facets.

So. Friendship. Sigh. Remember, way back when? When friendship was kind of, I dunno, uncomplicated and straightforward? As was life in general? Maybe that’s just me with my Mediterranean, immigrant, lower-middle class version of a WASPY upbringing ( yes, I do realize that this description doesn’t actually make sense on any possible level, bear with me.) POINT BEING, I was a fucking happy-go-lucky kid. Despite 15 years of (psycho)therapists/shrinks/random know-it-alls trying to convince me otherwise…I just was. Capeesh?

Yeah, so I had loads of friends, and I also had frenemies and I was both a bully and bullee (I’m not even going to, just no.) I had good days and bad days, mostly good days with the occasional bad mood, and we fought and we made up and we laughed and we cried and ..and…and. But friendship never seemed to be…stressful. Despite having had massive fights with people back in the day, people I cared about, not only did they seem so easily revolved, no-nonsense style, but during the fall-out, despite the obvious sadness of not being apple to hang out with them, you didn’t feel as tense, as hyper-aware of everything you said and did and they said and did. There was not as much over-analysis. Shit happened, shit got resolved and if not you just grew apart. No hard feelings. The End.

Alas! ‘Tis not a socially accepted modus operandi  anymore. Everything needs to be over-explained, over-analyzed, over-elaborated, over-everything’d. Because, you know, imagine if we would just let things run their course. That would be madness, MADNESS I tell you. Sodom and Gomorra comes to mind.

Ironically, this only seems to be the case when it comes to friendships. Ahhh, because romantic love takes place in a completely different parallel universe, you see? When a man/woman/whatever the politically correct term is nowadays just dumps you out of the blue like a piece of trash without even offering up a made-up explanation to somewhat soften the blow (I personally prefer the truth actually, but you know, you gotta stay reasonable and adapt your expectations to whatever type of miscreant you’re dealing with) and a week later you are still walking around in complete shock, people usually tell you to man the fuck up and stop being a pussy (I have cool friends who say shit like that to me even though they are more feminist than fucking Steinem, I kid you not. That, to me, is true feminism.) AND THEY ARE RIGHT. I mean, I obviously relapse about 12 times a day and those same friends are still there to pick up the pieces/slap me in the face/drag me out of bed/verbally abuse me/hug me/hate me/love me but still: they are right. Not because it is normal to be treated in this manner, fuck no, but they are right because if someone is willing to treat you so disrespectfully then they are not worth your time and honestly, in the highly unlikely event that you actually get them to give a fuck about your feelings and your desperate need for closure, what sort of explanation would make their previous behaviour acceptable? Exactly.

So, my point is: boyfriend/girlfriend is a  douche-bag-fuck-face-skanky-bitch-psychopath? Deal with it. Not worth your time. Move on and let karma take care of it.

But then! What if you happen to find yourself in a similar scenario with those boy/girl-friends you don’t have sex with or pledge your everlasting love to and feel the need to share every single fucking detail of your day with?

Those who actually find you whimpering on the bathroom floor in the middle of the night, emotionally unconscious, after the aforementioned evil beings have ripped out your heart, stomped all over it, taken a dump on it and skipped away dancing and smiling like an extra on Glee?

Those who pick you up from that same bathroom floor, fucking insane pathetic mess of a being that you are, drenched in your own tears and self-pity, and know exactly whether to slap you in the face (in case of a psychotic episode) or just hold you ( usually the best way to go).

Those who have listened to you go on and on and on, ENDLESSLY and DELUSIONALLY, about that horrible excuse for a human being without ever judging you for it ( at least not out loud, or you know, to your face.)

Those who watched you disappear into that honeymoon-phase bubble, not hearing from you for days, weeks, sometimes even months, only to welcome you back with open arms after reality came a-knocking.

(Yes, I know what you are thinking. And yes, I do realize how awesome my friends are. Believe me, I do. I really do.)

To be fair, the type of friends described above are extremely rare.  If you find yourself in a situation where there is even the slightest chance that you might actually lose them, I advice you to throw your pride/ego/whatever it is that usually gets in the way of your happiness and BEG THEM NOT TO LEAVE YOU. I am not even half joking.

Like I said, they are a rare breed. If you have one of those, I am happy for you. If you have more than one, I applaud you. If all of your friends are like this, well, you are either blind, deaf or delusional because that is just the stuff Disney is made of.

But..there are so many types of friends. And one type is not necessarily better than the other, it’s just different. You can’t even properly determine their value, can you? I mean who says that the friend you only go out clubbing with is ultimately less important to you than the friend you like to have hard-core political discussions with? Who says?

Thing is, and yes, I believe that after many an insane detour we  might have actually arrived to what could possibly be revealing itself to us as some sort of a, could it actually be?, point.

We are only human. Our friends our only human. We have flaws, they have flaws. Just as it seems to be commonly acknowledged that just as we tend to inexplicably fall in love, we also tend to, infinitely more explicably I would like to add,  fall out of it. So  my point is, if you fall in friendship, who says you can’t fall out of friendship too?

Why, when we realize that a friendship has run its course, do we feel like horrible people, why do we agonize for weeks ( if you’re lucky) on end about it, why do we feel like heartless traitors and soul-less abandoners? Why do most of us put up with days, weeks, months, yes even years, of frustration, stress, self-hatred, hypocrisy and, to put it very plainly, deception and lies because we are afraid to tell someone that we fell out of friend with them?

I mean, don’t get me wrong. It has happened to me and ouch, it is ROUGH. It is PAINFUL. It is AGONY. But the most painful part was not the fact that I suddenly ( felt like, although in retrospect, rationally of course this was not the case at all) wasn’t good/funny/interesting/adorable/exciting enough to be someone’s friend. Yeah, that hurt too, but after the vile things men, from ex-boyfriends to random by-passers, have said to me over the years…nothing, and I mean NOTHING shocks me anymore.

Point being, it hurts when people imply that you aren’t ‘cool enough to hang with’ (insert personal variation on this euphemism here) anymore.

But that doesn’t even belong to the same hemisphere of hurt as finding out that all this time, unbeknownst to you, someone who you thought was your friend PRETENDED to be your friend, lied to you, deceived you, trash-talked you behind your back to other ‘friends’ ( theirs, yours, common ones) all because of what? Because they didn’t know how to execute the platonic break-up with you? So on top of being dismissed, you are dissed, emotionally peed on, humiliated and degraded.

I sure know what sort of treatment I’d prefer.

Back to Ryan O’Connell’s piece:

“If you don’t like the way you act when you’re around someone, maybe you should reconsider being around them.”

‘Nuff said.

Be nice to your friends, but be nice to yourself first and foremost, because how can you be a good friend to someone if you can’t even be a good friend to yourself?

post scriptum: comments, discussions, hate-mail &  fan-mail are all equally welcome. Infamy beats mediocrity. Holla.

Doooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooom!

The result SHOULD have read: “You are sooooooooo not any sort of hipster. You are a tortured intellectual. Meaning, you are a masochist who reads. It’s also a shitty thing to be, BUT, at least you aren’t a *barf* hipster.” Also, I think Kerouac is ‘meh.’ And I am not a dude. Unless they mean I am the girl sighing and staring AT the ‘intellectual’ (glasses, reading a book? no?) …well that would sort of make sense but then the result should have been ‘girl who sighs and stares at love interest.’

What sort of Hipster are you?

You’re sensitive, you’re emotional, and you wonder why everyone else in the world exists on a different plane. You cannot eat, breathe, or sleep without analyzing each action to death. You’re usually sombre, depressed, lethargic, but you can be nearly glad from time to time. You wear whatever you can find on your cluttered bedroom floor. You carry books, notepads, reading glasses with you wherever you go. You have friends, but only a few who truly get where you’re coming from. You frequent coffee shops, libraries, and the less crowded bars. You’re obsessed with past people, past ideas, past lives. You wish you could die and be reborn as Jack Kerouac.

You're the Tortured Intellectual!
You’re the Tortured Intellectual!

Seasonal Affection Disorder (SAD)

Four seasons have come and gone.

I lost you in summer.

I missed you in autumn.

I loathed you in winter.

I betrayed you in spring.

Four seasons have tried to comfort me.

Summer by distracting me.

Autumn by hiding me.

Winter by sedating me.

Spring by awakening me.

Four seasons have come and changed you.

Summer made you distant.

Autumn made you doubtful.

Winter made you cruel.

Spring made you disappear.

Four seasons have re-defined my love for you.

Summer made it profound.

Autumn made it helpless.

Winter made it desperate.

Spring made it eternal.

Four seasons have come and gone.

Everything has changed.

Except it hasn’t.

At all.

Ponder

I may not be perfect, far from it actually, but I am real.

It hurts to be me, I spend most of my time wishing I was someone else but the older I get the more I realize that this is all I’ve got to work with, so I better make it worthwhile.

I might piss you off, I might alienate you, I might make you thank God, or the stars above, or whatever you believe in, that you’re not like me.

But as long as I make you ponder, as long as I make you reconsider your choices in life, as long as I make you be the best version of you, I know my incoherent ramblings serve some kind of purpose.

Stay true to yourself, please.

 

I couldn’t sleep last night. So I wrote you something instead. I hope that’s ok.

“You”,

 

One of my favourite things used to be to send you lyrics that described my feelings for you or that simply reminded me of you, or us.

But things change, and so do habits. I haven’t sent you lyrics in a long time.

Maybe it’s because lyrics, ino other people’s words, aren’t enough any more. 

Maybe I have too many original thoughts about you now, thoughts that became alive, just because you walked into my life, and so many words, created especially for you, grew inside my mind, and they are screaming to get out. So here are some of them:

 

You think with your mind. I think with my heart. One of the many ( that’s what you say) or few ( that’s what I say) problems between us.

When I am angry at you, I scream. When you are angry at me, you become silent.

When I am sad I run to you. When you are sad you run away from me.

When I have a problem, I want to share it with you.

When you have a problem, you don’t want to share it with anyone.

 

But when you are happy, you smile. And when I am happy, I smile too.

When we are happy, we don’t scream, we don’t become silent.

We don’t run to each other, we don’t run away from each other.

We don’t share.

We just smile. Together.

 

You say you don’t have a heart. How can that be? When it is your heart that finally caught me, like you have caught many birds…and even an eagle. (why did you do that wle? haha)

 

Your mind caught my attention. And the more you let me inside your mind, the more I wanted to stay there and discover more.

 

Your smile taught me that a smile isn’t always a smile. Sometimes your biggest smile tried to hide the greatest sadness. And your tiniest smile actually showed me more than words ever could. Each and every one of your smiles is different. And I love reading them, and guessing what they really mean. Especially the smiles that are meant just for me.

 

Your eyes never lie. YOU never lie, that’s what you said.

Who could ever believe that? 

Do you remember, just before our first kiss? I said: “I don’t trust you”. You looked at me, and your eyes became dark. You pulled your arm away from around my shoulder. “You don’t trust me?” you said. I laughed. “Why should I trust you? I don’t know you…” You hesitated. Then you smiled. You put your arm around my shoulder again. And you said: “You’re right. You don’t know me.”

 

I knew that very moment, between those dark eyes staring at me, and your lips that gently brushed against mine, that I was in trouble. That I was starting an adventure that would show me what true happiness really means, the kind of happiness that takes your breath away, but also what it’s like to feel real pain. The kind of pain that I would never recover from. Ever.

I had a choice. My head was saying, calmly but very seriously: “Don’t do this, Farah. This boy is trouble. He will mess with your head. He will break your heart. He will break YOU.”

But my heart was screaming: “This is him. The one I was waiting for. The one that will make me feel alive. The half that fits exactly with my half.”

I always listen to my heart.

You always listen to your head.

 

So I let your lips brush against mine. And I let your teeth bite my lips. And I let your tongue play with my tongue. And by then it was too late. Because your lips fit with my lips, exactly. Like they had finally arrived to where they were always meant to be. Like they came home from a long exhausting journey. ( Enno, kind of like Brad Pitt in ‘Legends of the Fall” J)

 

And so the adventure began.

I discovered your laughter, which wrapped itself around me like a blanket and made me feel warm and safe.

I discovered your namash, which were like little stars that lit up the darkness in my heart.

I discovered your toes, that would always be restless and were always moving, just like mine.

I dicovered your hands, that were just like you, soft and sweet from the outside, but so fucking strong from the inside, that it scared me sometimes. ( I still have bruises to prove it. One on my arm.  And one on my heart.)

 

I discovered your silence.

I discovered your stories.

I dscovered your loyalty.

I discovered your pain.

I discovered your strength.

I discovered your hate.

 

And the more I discovered, the more you became a part of me. I tried to stop you from entering my thoughts, my soul, my heart, my dreams, my everything.

I said: “No! Go away!” Not with words, but with actions. I tried to push you away, by being mean, by doing things and saying things that I knew you would hate. 

I wanted you to hate me and leave. I tried to fight you.

But the more I fought you, the weaker I became.

I got tired of fighting. So I just surrendered to you. To the power you held over me.

 

Maybe this is where I went wrong. Maybe you wanted me to keep fighting. Maybe you wanted me to be like the eagle, the one that stole your bird from you. The one that made you angry, but at the same time made you feel alive. The eagle that made you chase you way up into the mountains, the one that made you work hard, breathe hard, run hard, the one that made you forget the time, that made you forget where you were, even if only for just a moment.

But then you caught her. And you killed her.

 

You would’ve killed me anyway. Even  if I had made you work harder, even if I had fought you longer, even if I hadn’t surrendered so soon. You would’ve killed me anyway.

 

But back to your heart.

You have no heart, you say.

Impossible, I say.

Because everything I mentioned before made me curious about you, made me wonder, discover, hungry for more, from wanting to needing, from asking to demanding, from laughing to crying and back to laughing, from whispering to screaming, from silence to silence to silence to hearing you breathe slowly…to hearing your heart beat so loudly in the middle of the night that I was afraid it would escape.

But it would always be there. Every night. Beating. Abnormally. Just like you.

 

Yes, you are abnormal.

Abnormally kind.

Abnormally good.

Abnormally smart.

Abnormally loyal.

Abnormally sweet.

Abnormally funny.

Abnormally crazy.

Abnormally protective.

Abnormally stubborn.

Abnormally strong.

Abnormally beautiful.

Abnormally everything and more.

 

And you have an abnormal heart. Because it is unlike any other heart I’ve ever seen.

 

“How did you see it?”, you might ask.

“Because I have been its prisoner for quite a while now”, I will answer.

 

So, you have a heart. An abnormal heart. A heart that is my home.

Don’t take my home away from me.

 

I understand that sometimes you will want to close the door to your heart. Or turn the lights off for a couple of days. Maybe you don’t want talk to your heart, or listen to it.

Maybe you want to pretend it doesn’t exist. Maybe you are sure it doesn’t exist.

That’s ok.

But can I stay there for a little while longer? Just so I can sleep at night?

 

I promise I won’t say a word. Shhhh.

 

Happy Meal

I serendipitously stumbled upon “thought questions”, a website dedicated to questions that, if thoughtfully answered, might give us an actual insight into ourselves and each other. I know a lot of people look down on filling in questionnaires and honestly answering questions that might expose some previously hidden truths about them, scared that their answers will cause tiny cracks in their oh-so-carefully constructed persona, eventually causing it to completely and utterly crumble, leaving them exposed and vulnerable.

The horror! Having people find out what really moves you and makes you relatable or even worse, unique.

I’ve honestly never had an issue with exposing my true nature. I’m the kind of person that finds it nearly impossible to hide their true feelings. As a child, most people adored me for it. However, I was an extremely happy-go-lucky careless spontaneous kid. Once I hit puberty I became a mere shadow of that lovable, quirky hurricane. And that sudden change was met with a lot of negativity. People simply couldn’t understand how I could’ve pulled a 180 just like that. Without any warning.

Like I had a choice. Like I loved being a ghost of my former self.

Luckily, with time, I tracked down little bits and pieces of the me I used to be. And, of course, I embraced them wholeheartedly, with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face.

But the shadow still lurks inside of me. And although it scares me, I’ve come to realize that sunshine is inevitably joined by shadows. And so I am trying to learn to embrace both.

But back to thoughtful questions and the way they challenge everything we think we know about ourselves and others.

I picked one that triggered the most meaningful memories, the scariest scenarios and the most agonizing acts that I could conjure up in my scattered mind.

I’d like to share it, if that’s okay.

What makes you different?

I would really, really love to ask everyone I know and everyone I don’t know this question.
In a world where we are constantly trying to live up to certain expectations, feverishly seeking out guidance, looking up to celebrities, looking down on those who don’t fit our (imagined) idea of how one should be happy and/or (are they mutually exclusive?) successful, trying to follow in the footsteps of those that raised us or in fact  running in the exact opposite direction…trying to fit in, or desperately trying to stand out. What makes us different?

It’s seems like such a simple, elementary question. Yet, I find myself struggling to answer it.

In high school I quickly realized that I stood out. In a bad way (at least that’s how I perceived it at the time. It was high school after all, and whoever dares to state that, even at the time, they would’ve rather died than to fit in baffles me. If you actually believe this was indeed the case then you are one of my heroes.) Not only was I one of the few ‘foreigners’ at my school, with both my parents being of Mediterranean descent, and between the sea of slender, tall blonde girls, I started out as curvaceous until I got into the destructive habit of ‘eating my feelings’ (sadly my feelings failed to manifest itself in a healthy salad, but rather gloriously culminated in the exact opposite of what I felt like: sweet, uplifting and delightfully bewitching) and by my senior year I was horrifyingly grotesque (not American-style grotesque, but, in retrospect, simply overweight. Add to that the big head of dark curls and inevitable permanent bitch-face (courtesy of my Lebanese father) and of course the both by nature AND nurture inherited habit of continuously shouting and wildly gesticulating, even if I just asked someone for a pen during class, well…I was quickly known as ‘the weirdo’. Add to that the typically Dutch trait of being brutally honest, to the point of being downright rude and I slowly but steadily retreated into my dreamworld of a shell. Emotionally, that is. As far as the outside world was concerned I decided that if I wasn’t welcome in their world, I would create my own and shove it in their faces. I came up with the most ridiculous outfits that managed to emphasize exactly those things that made me stand out in the first place. So I couldn’t be a naturally pretty blonde? Fine, I made sure to let my curls be as outrageous and wild as possible and experiment with every glittery and colorful make-up product I could find. The trendy, sporty-chic outfits did not agree with my curves and made me look even bigger and awkward (I swear, I would roam the halls of my school and feel like Godzilla, and no, not a female version, despite my protruding breasts and Brazilian-like bum.) so I decided to be as Gaga-esque as one could possibly be without even knowing about her existence (back then, Gaga was still in elementary school, I think.) This of course only reaffirmed what people had already mutually decided on: I was a freak.

And the sad thing is…I felt like a freak. And the more I felt like one, the more I acted like one. I managed to go over the top with everything that made me different and downplayed everything I had in common with everyone else. Which, of course, was hardly an insignificant amount. I was also scared about the future and trying to find myself, and aching for someone to tell me I was pretty. Just once.

The only reason I didn’t have a complete breakdown was that I had really, really cool friends, who loved me for me, the me that I happily shared with them as soon as I realized that they weren’t planning on making fun of me and embarrass me in front of the whole school.

Anti-climax, you might say. What are you whining about, you might add. You had FRIENDS. They LOVED you. SHUT UP and let someone who had real problems in high school get on stage and share their sob story with us.

Well. Yes. I do often look back and think: hey girl (sadly not followed by a feminist theory quote, printed on a Ryan Gosling picture), it wasn’t that bad.

But no-one ever told me I was pretty. And I am not afraid to admit that that was all I wanted to hear. That I was pretty and cute and the perfect candidate to be someone’s girlfriend. And to this day, I am still waiting for someone to fulfill that basic need. Go ahead, laugh. But to me this is a fundamental human need. To experience the feeling that someone thinks you’re their perfect little cupcake. With the kind of frosting that they’re afraid to lick off because isn’t that the best part? And after they’ve devoured the cupcake, they can’t wait to run out and get the same exact one. Day in, day out.

I’m no-one’s cupcake. I’m a McDonald’s Happy Meal. I am a whole box packed with delicious-looking treats and a toy to play with, but doomed not to ever live up to high expectations I’ve falsely advertised. The burger tastes like chewy plastic, the fries are stale and the toy is too simple and cliché to play with for more than 5 seconds. So after they shove the tray with half-eaten not-so-goods in the trash and the toy is carelessly thrown aside, they’re already thinking about the next Happy Meal. Maybe at Burger King, they probably have better toys.

The sad thing is that I started out as a home-made lasagna, but my inner shadow has fooled me into thinking I’m a Happy Meal. And if people see a Happy Meal, they expect a Happy Meal and so that’s what they’ll get.