Saturday night I watched some startling movies. An old friend was over, and shortly after midnight we decided it would be fun to watch the VHS tapes I have of our high school talent show. After a long time of watching Dave bring down the VCR we never use and figure out how to combine old technology with new technology- we were finally back in 1993 again.
It was worth it. We laughed pretty hard. Mostly at me and a guy I used to regularly sing with in those days. We specifically enjoyed the time he lost his voice and walked off stage. Comedy gold.
But who was that girl? I sang alright, but I looked like I didn’t want to be there. And not just when my partner had an onstage breakdown. Even in my solo performance, I looked like a girl who had just caught her boyfriend making out with her best friend back stage. I looked legitimately devastated. Ugh. Why wasn’t I more ecstatic over how incredibly skinny I was?
After watching performances from 1993 and 1994, I reminded Dave that we met just a few short months afterwards- and that he actually fell in love with that silly girl. I was comforted by the idea that it was just youth, and everyone else on those tapes were equally (if not more) ridiculous. Three of my classmates’ fathers dressed as The Three Little Pigs and did a short song and dance performance. That was (almost) as painful to watch.
Then we popped in a tape of Dave’s teenage band playing a show in 1993. And clearly, as we already know, Dave was way cooler than me. I would totally date that kid. And there sure were a lot more people showing up to see him, specifically, than attended our high school talent show. Youth or not, Dave has always been a rock star.
Seriously. How did those two teenagers ever get together?
My friend left just before 2 am, as the local parking enforcement was circling her car hoping for the chance to ticket her for parking on the wrong side of the street. We all returned to our lives in 2012, and above us we could hear Teghan awake again, jumping on her bed and laughing hysterically at herself. Not such a bad thing, since it meant she would probably be sleeping in late. We were going to need that.
I went in her room to get her settled down. She wanted to hold my hands while jumping on the bed, so we did that for a while. She is so darn cute, it’s hard to be serious with her; and when she gets worked up like this, we just have to wait it out.
I got her to stop jumping, but she continued to giggle. Oh, well. I said goodnight and closed the door. After about ten minutes of shouting random letters into the dark silence of her room, she did finally fall asleep again.
As we were getting ready for bed, Dave tells me that he can’t believe how socially awkward he was in high school. Okay….but I don’t see it. He seemed pretty outgoing and social to me. Of course, that’s how I felt when I met him, too, but I now know otherwise. Dave can fake his way better than most. And it’s weird, because he isn’t trying to fake it.
The idea that someone seems intimidating gives them the illusion of confidence. And for those who know better than to find Dave intimidating, he still seems to lack any recognizable self-consciousness. It’s there, it just looks different on him. Being tall is surprisingly helpful, too.
But I wouldn’t know about that.
No one finds me intimidating or unapproachable. Most people assume I am nicer than I really am. They believe I am fragile when I am not- and sometimes, that does work in my favor. I give off some kind of innocence vibe that mostly just helps me out at work.
(It also means I could get away with a lot in life, if I wanted to.)
I guess I also make assumptions about Teghan. Is it really all that different? No, it’s worse. She can’t talk, and she is unable to understand or respond to social gestures, so most of the time I have absolutely no way of knowing if she understands what I am telling her. Her ability to follow instructions proves that she understands quite a bit of direct language- but I am not sure about concepts. I just keep telling her things, and then wonder if it meant anything to her.
That lack of confirmation is what makes me assume things. I often treat her as if she doesn’t understand, and sometimes I think she gets away with things when she does know better. Even worse, sometimes I forget to explain something to her because I am so used to the non-reaction I get. I assume it won’t matter. I assume it even when I know better.
Well, I am learning. Slowly. And, as usual, it makes me overthink the topic.
There is something about who we were in those old home movies that has never really changed. Something we can’t change about ourselves. That image we project to the world- it stays with us in spite of our best efforts, or reality. I have reconnected with many old school friends through Facebook, and no matter how different they seem, they also remain completely recognizable to me.
Do I have anything in common with the girl I was? Kind of, but I am much better at being myself now. I was always in there, but at that time I just hadn’t quite found my place. Looking at that girl on stage, you would never believe she belonged with the guitar player from the other tape.
But she did. She even suspected something like it was true…. she just hadn’t found that world yet.
Assumptions are seldom right. The image that someone projects holds little truth about them. Our social skills mean nothing about who we are. But it is also true that I am never going to be great at ignoring my assumptions about others, because it is such a subconscious act. Sometimes we make assumptions based on the fact that a person simply reminds of us someone we once knew, and we don’t even know it. Only the closest people in our lives will eventually get seen without that bias.
I know the real Dave, and he knows the real me. But will we ever know the real Teghan?
We know she is sweet. We know what she likes to do. We know all her little quirks. But there is so much more going on in there, and we don’t have the slightest clue how her brain is working things out. It is a huge unknown that is not always taken into consideration. I mean, what is she thinking? What does she think is happening right now? I don’t have the answers, and it’s a struggle not to fill in the blanks.
And what about the image she is projecting to the world? It’s hardly fair. People will always underestimate her. They will always see her in a certain way. They will put her in a box without windows, and imagine that as long as the box stays quiet, no one is paying attention. They will be wrong, of course. She is an obvious example of how looks can be deceiving, and yet even I get deceived by it.
Again….I am working on that. And who knows? Maybe it will rub off on some of my other relationships, too. Maybe.