My daughter came home from school last week, sobbing, because one of the kids in her preschool called her a nerd. While I stroked her hair and wiped her tears, I flashed back 25 years to when I was fifteen. The head cheerleader, who was my secret friend, turned away from me at the lunch table. Standing there, holding my green plastic tray with my soggy hamburger, limp fries, and orange juice, I saw the apology in her cheerleader eyes when she said, ďThis is not the nerd table.Ē
She may have been cruel, but she wasnít dumb. I am a nerd. Straight A, pre-med, attended church twice a week, didnít drink until I turned 21, didnít cuss, and saved my virginity for marriage. I knew what it would take to fit in. I was pretty enough, could be funny enough, and I did date the schoolís cutest boy. But to sit at the lunch table with the cool kids, Iíd have to pretend to be someone I wasnít. The truth was that I cared about getting good grades because I wanted to be a great doctor one day. I didnít drink at parties because I thought it would be irresponsible. I chose not to sleep with my boyfriend because I didnít feel ready to have that kind of emotional connection, not to mention that I was scared to death of getting pregnant.
Does that make me a nerd, or just an authentic human being?
Next: The temptation to wear masks
I remember the angst of those days. Itís so tempting to cave into social pressures to be something that youíre not, to wear masks to get invited to the right lunch table. I still feel that pressure at times. As a doctor, blogger, author, artist, and mother, itís tempting to wear many masks. If I slip on my white coat and climb up onto an ivory tower and talk down to people, Iíll be the kind of doctor the big wigs at Stanford expect me to be. If I write my book as if Iím the guru who has it all figured out, the best publishers might fight over my book at auction. If I wear black and act dark and mysterious, the high-end art dealers in New York might pay attention to my paintings. If I blog the perfect top 10 list with all the right Google keywords and just the right snappy title, I might get more web hits and Twitter followers and Facebook friends. If I wear the right sweater set and dress my daughter in the cutest Oilily clothes and bake the perfect cupcake, Iíll fit in with the other Mill Valley Mommys.
But Iíve decided not to live that way. When I wrote my book, Whatís Up Down There? Questions Youíd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend, which comes out in September, I refused to get into the doctor box. Instead, I wrote it the way I practice, as if Iím sitting with a patient over drinks, talking about the reality of how our bodies work Ė as opposed to the way the tabloids portray us. When I blog, I write my truth, rather than conforming to somebody elseís standard of what I should be doing or how I might get some company to sponsor my site. When I paint, I make happy, gestural art thatís authentic to who I am. And the Mommys will just have to forgive me for showing up in sweats and bearing cupcakes from Whole Foods.
Be ALL YOU, ALL THE TIME
When I started my blog Owning Pink, I decided I would write from my heart and tell the whole truth. I would integrate all of the facets of myself, yank off the masks I was wearing, and be ALL ME, ALL THE TIME. I would own all the facets of what makes me whole – my creativity, my spirituality, my relationships, my health, my sexuality, my career, my planet – and ME. And I would encourage others to do the same.
So I am still a nerd. Iím a girl scout. I still have my goody-two-shoes tendencies. And I donít care what you think about that. Instead of trying to impress you by being something Iím not, I invite you to join me. Strip off your masks, show me your authentic self, let your freak flag fly, and I will love you exactly the way you are.
Are you up for it? Can you own your inner nerd, your deep-seated freak, your darkest shadow, your sexy goddess, and your quirky idiosyncrasies? Can you own your addiction to Ho Hos and your preference for being on top and your compunction for scrapbooking and your thick thighs and the way you say ďyaíll?Ē Can you accept that youíre perfect just the way you are and that the authentic you is all you really have? Can you own YOU?
If you can, I promise you can come sit at my lunch table.