I think I learned that I was different when I was maybe 16 or 17, and by then it was too late to turn back. One of my most defining moments was at one of my best friends’ birthday party, and I was SUPER PSYCHED to give her this bag that our other friends and I had secretly bought and customized with glitter glue, buttons and key chains. It was this lime green Wild Channel sling bag and those were super hot at the time and I think I had several of them myself, so yeah, ultra excited lmao. In classic Anna fashion I got the time and date wrong, but just in time managed to find out that the party was tonight, not tomorrow night, and in a completely uncharacteristic act of niceness my stepdad drove me to her house and I got there as everyone was presenting their gifts. I sat down on the floor next to the couch my BFF was sitting on and waited my turn.
Her boyfriend went first, and he had gotten her this gorgeous diamond necklace and earring set, which I suppose is the standard boyfriend gift. I think he was a bit older too, so I was like yeah, okay, it’s not like he’s hard on cash or anything. And then her other friends started giving her their gifts, and they were like watches and perfumes and designer clutches and after she opened like the fifth Guess handbag I was like “...Holy shit she’s getting all these amazing gifts and here I am with a canvas bag spattered in paint and glitter“. Here she was sitting on her gilded throne surrounded by Swarovski crystals and designer perfumes and I was about to give her a gift that looked like it was inspired by Shrek right in front of fuCKING EVERYONE.
I think that was when I realized I wasn’t quite like everyone else and it was also the
moment I started trying really hard to be like everyone else. It’s been a good many years since that day, and I do remember a handful of similar moments. Like the time I attended my own birthday party in a neon blue zebra striped tank top and a glittery pink tutu, only to discover everyone else was dressed normal so I got embarrassed and changed into something else, or the time I was set up on a blind friend date when I first went abroad for my studies and the girl I was supposed to meet had porcelain skin and silky brown hair and there I was waiting for her on the corner in combat boots and some kind of corset I had bought at Sungai Wang with bushy orange hair.
In recent years I’ve been better at erasing those differences between me and other people, at least the physical ones. I’ve removed all my piercings and stopped dyeing my hair and I learned that there are other things I can do with makeup that do not involve smudging thick black sludge all over my eyelids. The newest installment in the Normalize Anna program is acrylic nails, which I quite like. I figured once I learned how to look the same, maybe the rest would follow.
I was so wrong lmao. My boyfriend keeps telling me he likes me because I’m different, he says he can’t put his finger on it but I’m nothing like other girls. Maybe it’s just a thing people like to say to each other, or maybe it’s because I do things like throw birthday parties for lizards, or get nightmares unless I watch murder documentaries before bed, or cry when I drop my pizza sub on the ground, or complain for days on end because Ant Man seems to change density every time he changes size, or got a tattoo that says KMA so that I can yell “KISS MY ASS” when anyone asks what it means.
But I think I’m finally ready to accept that I’m a Shrek backpack among a sea of Gucci clutches, or whatever it is people like to use as status symbols nowadays. I think it’s time for me to start being okay with being a Kiss My Ass tattoo in a world of bird silhouettes and meaningful lyrics. I think maybe one day soon it might be possible for it to be acceptable to be who I am, not to anyone else but to myself. Because the thing is, in all these stories nobody said anything about me being weird. Nobody antagonized me for having stringy striped hair or wearing glittery tulle tutus or looking and being awkward in general. It was always me, having a good time until I realized nobody else was exactly like me and for some reason that made me feel insecure. I want to be okay with that and I want to remind myself that just because I don’t belong wherever I happen to be at the time, it doesn’t mean that I don’t belong anywhere.