On Being Myself : The Real Me Project Faces The Ex-Girlfriend Test

I was done feeling like I had to be someone I’m not or apologize for not driving a giant fancy foreign car or not having a basement full of deluxe toys.  The first year of preschool broke me down, and I was D-O-N-E with the “I’m not enough” show.

Standing at the reception for the new school we’ll start in the fall, I realized it was impossible for me to be anyone besides myself.  I was willing to “meet and greet”, but the only person I was introducing as myself was the real deal me.

Once I decided that, of course the universe started to fuck with me, because the universe and I? We have a very dysfunctional relationship.

“My husband is in neuroscience and I teach doctoral classes in linguistics,” a mother with kind eyes and worn clogs said.  The old me would have sized her up as a mega smarty pants and then played up my intellectual side with a comment about Kant or supply-side economics.  Old me would have definitely worked in the fact that I have both a Master’s degree and a JD.

In other words, old me was a douche insecure.

But new me was at the helm so I said something else.  “My husband is over there talking to his ex-girlfriend we just ran into randomly by the lemonade, so this is totally awkward, but funny awkward, not darkly awkward as it would be if it was one of my ex’s.”

Worn clogs and gigantic IQ mom laughed.  “I could see how that would be awkward,” she sympathized.

Fuck Kant– what did he know about preschool receptions and ex-girlfriends?  I had just laid eyes on a woman with incredible hair and darling children who was my immediate predecessor.  Damn if I wasn’t going to talk it through with anyone who would listen.

Suddenly, I saw my 2-year old dive into a pool of mud.  “Excuse me,” I sputtered and walk-ran across the lawn.  I tried not to notice how Jeff’s conversation was going.  Is there a classy way to interrupt their conversation to let her know that Jeff and I have tons and tons of sex? I wondered.

Douche me wanted to ditch the real me bullshit and go for some hard-core image management.

“It’s nice to meet you,” I said when I finally met her.  We engaged in innocuous banter about neighborhoods and traffic patterns.  I never found an opening for a description of my fictitious strenuous love life or for little vignettes designed to assure myself her that I was sophisticated but down-to-earth, smart but approachable, and secure but not cocky.

We were swept into different conversation streams before I could fail at my resolution to be authentic in all situations (including those involving my husband’s ex).

As the party dissipated, I gathered up my muddy children.  Then, I had a moment of clarity as I took a mental snapshot of my life:  I saw my two kids fighting over a balloon in our mini van that has enough crumbs in it to feed a small sub-Saharan nation.  I saw my husband squinting at the GPS to find the best route home.  I smelled that my son probably just crapped his pants after I got him settled in his seat.  I saw a grass stain on my favorite skirt.

All of this is yours, real me pointed out.  This is what you get for being yourself.

Why the hell would I be anyone else?


61 thoughts on “On Being Myself : The Real Me Project Faces The Ex-Girlfriend Test

  1. What if the authentic me is actually a real douche? And what if I want to answer someone saying “I just got a raise and a corner office” with “I just got a rash, wanna see?” Huh? What then?

    • YOu have a very valid point. I will cop to that fact that I was DYING to tell someone about the uh-maz-ing no-chip manicure I just got but thought it sounded too shallow. Guess what world? Real me is shallow as all hell.

  2. So I lied to my kids tonight about something about which I didn’t need to lie. And as I went to sleep I told Spouse that I was mortified to have told my first lie.
    First? he asked. You lie all the time.
    Gah. I know I do. Why, I asked.
    You’re insecure, he said, and rolled over.
    Damned if hasn’t been paying attention the whole time.

    (Except when I quizzed him about the frequency of my prevarications, the significance of my sins against my children and friends, and the need to change, he could cite not one example. I spent a lot of time trying to remember my last lie. And the best I have is that four years ago I pretended to have read George Saunders to avoid the embarrassment of having not. Read George Saunders.)

    Thanks for the invitation to be muddy and bickering again. Because it’s hard having a job in neuroscience AND applying to both law school and a doctorate program. Today.

  3. Unique, talented, wonderful you! No improvements needed! Well handled all around and in all the hysterical details. Now I’d love to read this from Jeff’s ex-girlfriend’s point of view (when she realized she had spinach in her teeth the entire time??). xoxo

  4. I like that you shared the ex girlfriend story. I bet you and that other mom end up becoming friends!

    And I feel you on this issue, very much. The older I get, the more I’m inclined to be as authentic as I can and screw what other people think. It’s my litmus test for meeting new people. I put myself out there, the real me, right away, and I can tell by people’s reaction whether we’re kindred spirits or not. For instance, I make no secret of the fact that I sometimes look forward to a drink after a long day with the kids. Some moms would go, “Okaay,” politely smile, and beat a retreat. Others would laugh and say, “Oh em gee. ME TOO! In fact, I’m having a G&T as soon as I get home!” I know which one I’d like to be friends with.

    To some degree, we all put a certain version of ourselves out there when we interact with people. Sometimes there isn’t time to portray a complete picture. But I’m with you that if you cut to the chase sooner, it’s better all around.

  5. Yeah, here’s the thing. I happen to work FT while my child is in preschool. The very last thing I want to do at one of his parties or a meet-and-greet with my child(ren) in tow is discuss neuroscience or Kant or linguistics. I’m still an authentic adult – I just don’t think it’s necessary to bring the one-upmanship attitude to a conversation where it’s likely the kids are under foot making bathroom jokes or climbing on me or begging for sweets/toys/etc. At that moment, I would be profoundly more impressed by the mom who has awesome kid distraction / deflection techniques than the mom quoting Nobel lit.

    • You are so right. I had come from a long frustrating day of work and I didn’t want to have to do any such thing. Being tired is great for being myself. Too damn exhausted to be anyone else. The benefits of employment.

      On Tue, May 28, 2013 at 11:43 AM, Outlaw Mama

  6. Sometimes I wish I were less socially awkward. But “image management,” as you put it, sounds exhausting. And probably I’m not so awkward as I feel. Probably most of us are much less awkward, or strange, or whatever, than we feel.

    • I met you, albeit briefly, and didn’t experience you as awkward at all. But who the hell am I to judge? Check me out. Ima freak.

      On Tue, May 28, 2013 at 11:49 AM, Outlaw Mama

  7. The ex-girlfriend test has got to be one of the toughest tests, right? I liked your moment of clarity in the end.

  8. The only Kant I know is Can’t! This is as real as it gets. It takes too much time and energy to try to be someone else. I’ve reached that point in my life (or maybe I’ve always been there) where I think “screw em if they don’t like me I have more than enough friends!

  9. Can you hear me laughing? It’s that loud!I love your candor and your sense of humor. I also enjoyed the Kant reference. It’s moments like this that makes me think that philosophy degree was worth it after all.

  10. “Is there a classy way to interrupt their conversation to let her know that Jeff and I have tons and tons of sex?” There are many ways, as long as crass means the same thing as classy.

  11. This was great writing. The whole thing was done so well. I really want to go on about the topic because it was so funny but I am totally taken with your style and not just that you and Jeff have tons and tons of sex. REALLY well done.

  12. I find it’s too much effort to pretend to be someone else. Of course, it doesn’t stop me from fretting about the impression I’m making it. I guess my “Real Me Project” is still a work in progress.

  13. Nothing like a preschool reception to bring out the best! I think you’ve made a good choice going with the “real” you. I’ll have to remind myself of this post the next time I’m tempted to compete with the Tory Burch crew at my son’s preschool. And I actually do own a pair of TB shoes, myself, but, you know what I mean.

  14. There have been moments in time in which an introduction to an ex lead to some amazing sex when we got home. I never ask where that came from, just smile and accept.

  15. I must have met real you then because the person I met was not a douche. Also, I’m pretty sure real me and fake me are both douches so, yeah… And I hate seeing my husband’s ex. It happens more often than you’d think.

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