During our “break-up” talk, my now ex-boyfriend did everything he could to hurt me. One comment, however, had entirely the opposite effect.
“You’re kind of…offbeat,” he said, in a tone clearly not meant to be complimentary.
“Yes, I am,” I replied with a smile. Truer words were never said.
A junior high crush worded it differently, and at the time, it did hurt. “She’s different,” he told my friend when she asked the crucial question, “do you like her?” I felt like an outsider then.
As part of my offbeat side, I’ve always been drawn to the campy. While my wardrobe is actually fairly conservative, in fact, at this point, one might say, boring, I easily could have become known for a flamboyant style. Back in high school my life-long love of classic films began, particularly the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers films of the 30s. Their second to last movie with RKO Pictures, Carefree (1938), featured Ginger in a couple of outfits I desperately wanted to emulate.
Carefree is not the best Astaire/Rogers film, either in plot or dance numbers, but this sweater caught my attention. It’s actually a bit, well, tacky, compared to what Ginger normally wore, but is true to the character, who has the hearts & minds of a variety of men and can’t make up her mind whom she cares for most.
If you can’t tell from the picture, it’s a picture of a heart with numerous arrows aimed straight for it. It also has what is, on me, a flattering neckline, and slightly puffed sleeves, a look I favored for a time in my teens (hey, it was stylish then, I swear.)
I probably wouldn’t wear it today, but the sweater still makes me smile. It reminds me of a time in my life that, like the title of the movie, was carefree. Yes, I had my concerns and burdens. It was not an easy time in my life. But when it comes to adult responsibilities, I had few.
Life was ahead of me. Choices were exciting, opportunities were boundless. There are still choices and opportunities for me, but my life no longer stretches in front of me. My health limits me at times.
Still, I look for that desire in my life to create something new and exciting, modified for the times yet not compromised. Perhaps it’s time to watch Carefree again.
“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world, but then I thought, there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me, too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this, know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”
― Frida Kahlo
How many of us have sat silently at night, convinced we stand alone in the world in our oddness, and uncertain as to how to change? Fearing constant rejection throughout our lives?
For years I lived my life that way, believing not only was I too far outside the norm to be accepted, but that I would never truly be loved, that I would be isolated from others all of my life.
I no longer feel that way, even though I know I stand alone in many ways. Well, perhaps not truly alone, there are others like me, but I’m not sure I know them. I’ve found a way to be myself in the world, and perhaps that makes me oblivious to the thoughts of others.
Well, truthfully, I have my moments, and in those times I wonder if I’m blind to my oddities the rest of the time. If that’s the case, there’s little I can do to change now. I am who I am and I don’t know any way to be any different.
I’m not ruled by those thoughts anymore. Perhaps I was overly sensitive to them before, and made things worse by behaving in a way that matched how I believed others saw me.
In my life, Snoopy, Lucy, Charlie Brown, and the rest of the gang never, ever went away.
I’ve literally been a fan my entire life. My mom tells me my favorite toy when I was six months old was a Lucy doll. That vain and loud-mouthed girl rarely failed to make me laugh, and still gets me through the blues today.
Throughout my growing up years, I frequently spent my precious few dollars on the latest Peanuts book. Early on I giggled at Lucy, sitting on Schroeder’s front steps, saying, “It’s amazing how stupid you can be when you’re in love.”
Today, I have a t-shirt with that very picture. More than once I’ve worn it while shopping at Walmart and some poor young checkout girl sighs and says, “that’s so true.” Some things will never change.
Hence the beauty of Charles Schulz’ wonderful characters. They are universal and timeless. So many of the comic strips aren’t laugh-out-loud funny, and yet, they are, because they hit at the heart of who we are, our dreams and vulnerabilities, our best and worst selves, all wrapped up in the innocence of a group of kids from a past era.
A friend of mine can’t bear to watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” because of the rejection, but I love it for Linus’ simple reading from the Gospel of Luke and the children joining together in the end to celebrate Charlie Brown’s poor little tree.
Somehow Charlie Brown never was a truly sad character to me. He had Linus, Sally and Peppermint Patty, among others, and Snoopy needed him, not just for the food, but for the love.
I was wearing one of my favorite Peanuts’ t-shirts while shopping not long ago, and the store manager told me he’d been a fan all of his life, too. In fact, when he was a child, he watched the Charlie Brown Valentine’s Day special and felt so sorry for Charlie Brown, he sent him a valentine. In return, Charles Schulz sent him an original hand-drawn picture of Snoopy.
Wow. He still has it, and I told to keep it, it’s worth something. You couldn’t pay me enough for something like that, I’d treasure it all my days.
I treasure everything Peanuts I own, as small as my collection has become. I cherish that band of earnest characters plowing their way through the world and making it all work.
I’m glad I live in a world where the Peanuts gang just keeps hanging out.
And for those of you wondering about the new movie, here’s a review by a trusted fellow blogger & Peanuts fan:
It’s at times entertaining to watch a pre-schooler try to lie their way out of a sticky situation. So endearing, in fact, parents may pretend to believe everything the little tall-tale-teller is saying, just to hear them say it. They’re so earnest and sincere.
Not my second grade teacher, though. Mrs. Smith didn’t take falsehoods from anybody, in particular her son, Tim. One day she told our class Tim had only lied to her once, back when he was three years old. She caught him, and he was so ashamed he never did it again.
Not one kid in our class bought that story. She stuck to her guns. Tim was as honest as the day was long.
A few weeks later this poor guy, now 19, showed up at our class to drop off car keys for his mom. He innocently walked into a room full of skeptical, disapproving seven-year-olds, having no idea of the tale we’d heard. In short order, his face was as red as his scruffy, shoulder-length hair. He didn’t look like a saint to us and we had no problem saying as much.
Maybe we weren’t being fair and he actually was that good. I can’t imagine any child NEVER lying to their parents, but I’m not sure what it said about us kids that we were so jaded about telling — and hearing — the truth.
I was visiting a friend last summer and as I approached the front door, a child about the age of her youngest daughter came running up to me. With hair cropped short, jeans and a team-logo sweatshirt, I assumed it was a little boy, probably a neighborhood friend. It wasn’t. It was her wild child five-year-old girl, who told me she’d cut off her shoulder-length hair the week before. All by herself.
I laughingly asked Pam about it, and she signaled me to come inside.
“That girl’s hair was cut short and straight across the back,” she said in a low, firm voice. “And there wasn’t one single scraggly piece I had to trim. No way she did it herself.”
Right at that moment one of Pam’s older daughters walked by. “We told you what happened!” this one said defensively.
“I know what you said,” she replied mildly, then turned to me and continued in the same low, yet clearly distinguishable to those eavesdropping, voice. “They’re not telling me the truth and it’s obvious what happened, but since no one was hurt, I just punished all of them for leaving the scissors out.” Older daughter walked away.
Pam looked at me and sighed. “I have no idea what happened and I can’t get them to budge on their story.”
No illusions on her part. I don’t think her girls are particularly dishonest or deceptive, in fact, I think they’re fairly transparent. Well, two are teenagers now, so let me revise that: for the most part I think they are, at the heart, trustworthy girls. One of whom probably cuts hair.
When I was young, I was always afraid what would happen to me if I was caught being wrong. That was how I saw it, by the way, being wrong, not doing something wrong. I became a pretty decent liar. I was clever, with a good imagination and even better memory. Fortunately, I got tired of it, physically, emotionally tired, and I stopped well before adulthood.
My parents were not abusive, so I can’t say what it was that caused that fear, probably a more subtle message they weren’t aware of and didn’t intend to send to their highly sensitive child. What could they have done differently? I don’t know.
I’ve said it before: parents, you have an impossible job, but you do it. Hang in there. Believe in your children. Believe in their overall character, not their occasional deeds. Know that lying is something any child is going to do, if not this day, the next, for his or her own reason. Deal with it, of course, but save up a few stories to laugh at when they have kids of their own.