In Which We Look Back Through the Internet, Darkly

Exposed

by Georgia Hardstark

Amy McMahon pulling my skirt down, exposing my underwear to my entire 5th grade class, plays like a certain Looney Toons cartoon in my head. You know when the Road Runner, once again, outsmarts Wile E. Coyote and the moment before he plunges off the side of a cliff, or a giant bolder is dropped onto his head, the coyote looks into the camera and holds up a sign reading “uh oh” or “help!”?

That’s what this moment is like for me, the only difference being that right as my skirt is in the middle of being yanked down – right at the moment where I’m being “pantsed” – the sign I’m holding while I pan my “oh shit” look at the camera reads, “This is the moment in my life where I become self-conscious.”

“How can it all be attributed to one incident?” you may ask yourself. It’s true that before this happened, before Amy and I got into a petty fight a day earlier, I wasn’t a particularly confident girl. I was painfully skinny, had huge eyes that didn’t exactly fit my face, and my personality was somewhere between a hippie pothead and an unmedicated ADHD adolescent…but I liked myself. I liked my “quirkiness”, and I loved my imagination that was fueled by adventure and sci-fi paperbacks.

As for my physical self, I think I knew in the back of my mind that I’d grow into my features eventually, and dreamed about a She’s Out Of Control-like transformation that I was sure I’d one-day have (minus Tony Danza).

This changed all that, though. This made me realize I was the butt of a joke, and started what would be years of questioning the authenticity of pretty much everyone in my life.

I know it’s too easy to blame my rebellious teenage years on this incident, but in my mind they’re directly related. The drugs, the punk rock friends and clothes and music, the intimidating posturing around my peers…it’s so obvious to me that, since I couldn’t distance myself physically from the humiliation of that one moment, I instead devised a plan to make myself unlikable and offensive so that I had something to blame my outcast status on, instead of it being based on my actual self, who was horribly self-conscious and overly self-aware.

I joined Facebook last week, after a year of condemning the site and questioning my friends as to “why, exactly, would you want people from high school to find you?”

I’m assuming everyone wants to flaunt what they’ve become, right? The ugly ducklings are now pretty, and show that via dozens of photos of themselves in tacky strapless dresses accessorized with brightly colored drinks clutched in one hand, the other arm thrown up in celebration of something. You can almost hear the “woo hoo!” that was bellowed right before the photo was shot.

Even worse, my high school alumni page looks like a freaking bridal website. Oh look!, there’s the pretty, popular girl braced in an intimate kiss with some boringly handsome guy during their first dance as a (boring) married couple! I was also left pondering if any research has been done into my hypothesis that, the moment one has a kid, something clicks in the new parent’s brain which leads them to assume that people outside their immediate family are at all interested in photos of their kid. I wonder if that will happen to me someday. Although to be fair, I would have an adorable kid.

Anyway, my point is this: it took me years to get over the Depantsing Incident of ’91. The decade that followed was a painful one of a drug habit briefly picked up, then kicked, cripplingly low self-esteem covered up with an intimidating cockiness that I almost convinced myself was reality, riot grrrl shows and punk shows, a brief flirtation with not eating, laughably padded bras to cover up my (now loved) tiny breasts, older boyfriends and a short-lived relationship with my first and only girlfriend, and more than anything, driving my parents nuts with worry and frustration.

But luckily, somewhere in my early to mid 20’s, I figured that shit out. Slick Rick said it best when he rhymed, “I used to walk around and get upset and upsetter, until I figured out ways to make myself look better.” I came to the realization that I’m at least relatively cute, definitely smart, and I had met enough boring people by that point to know that the witty sarcasm and amusing story telling abilities I possessed were not something that came easy to most.

More than anything though, it dawned on my how much time I was wasting by not liking myself when, ya know, just assuming I was an awesome person until I was met with definitive evidence to the contrary was so much easier. Things like jealousy, depression binges, envy, annoyingly nibbling on a salad when what you really want is a burger…those things pretty much go out the window when you actually like yourself.

So why is it that, the moment an old acquaintance from high school added me as a friend, I frantically searched my photos to make sure that they all represented the “hot” version of me (as opposed to the “I overslept and have 20 minutes to get ready for work” version)?. I scrutinized every photo for a wonky eye or that damn, camera-shy upper lip of mine, before thinking to myself “why the fuck do I care about this?”

Why, indeed. I’m happy; I have a solid job, a blog that people read/like, wonderful friends and a new boyfriend who’s quite possibly the sweetest person I’ve ever met, and a life that is so indistinguishable from the one I was living before I graduated high school and moved to LA, that it sometimes feels as though my past was a fictional story…a badly written, overly dramatic, made-for-TV-movie type fictional story.

When I found Amy McMahon’s Facebook profile, why did it please me so that she looked like a wreck; her breasts almost spilling out of her strapless dress, her arm thrust into the air to convey that she was having Good Time and Loved Life, not to mention the guilt I felt when I thought to myself “Ha! I’m cuter!” There’s a mighty thin line between confidence and arrogance, and it seems as if I’m inching my perfectly manicured toe over to the dark side. But really? That bitch YANKED MY SKIRT DOWN IN FRONT OF MY ENTIRE CLASS.

Georgia Hardstark is the contributing editor to This Recording. She blogs it here and tumbles it here.

“Portrait of the Artist as a Fountain” – Simon Bookish (mp3)

“The Flood” – Simon Bookish (mp3)

“Alsatian Dog” – Simon Bookish (mp3)

“Il Trionfo Del Tempo… (Ridley Road)” – Simon Bookish (mp3)

PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING

The hair makes the man in No Country for Old Men.

Venus and Serena remind us of the future.

John C. Reilly’s beautiful singing voice.

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