I will never be described as cool or mysterious. Once a friend described me as the “least down to Earth person” they knew, as compliment, none the less but still. I never outgrew my baby voice, high-pitched and sort of breathy (and not in a sexy Marilyn Monroe sort of way, think actual child). I was a giant when I was eleven years old, but promptly stopped growing thereafter. I grew up in rural Ohio, and I look like it. I’m clumsy, and my lol-ing often startles strangers and has been to known to make babies cry. In short, the words people most frequently use to describe me are ones reserved for puppies, kittens, and really a whole host of baby animal life: cute or adorable, and sometimes cavity inducing comfort foods like cupcakes and Snickers bars, i.e. sweet as pie (although obviously these folks have never seen me run a bitch out of a party).
Not to say that I’m not grateful for it, there are worse things out there. Like plainness, for example, life’s most unfortunate and cruel trait. And sometimes I even get described as beautiful, but mainly by those who prescribe to the “everyone is beautiful” ideology that I remain firmly skeptical of. (Mainly because I, like most people I know, am obsessed with being unique/perfect/flawless/must-be-prettier-than-insert-object-of-jealousy-here).
When I was a freshman at OU I played someone who was under the age of 10 a whopping 6 times. I went to my acting professors to describe my plight. It went something like this:
Acting Professor Number 1: Well, Sarah, you’re voice is too high, you’re real short, and you’re neither character actor nor ingénue. Frankly, you’re too quirky for most of the roles put on here at the School of Theataaaah.
Oh neat, so I’m like the poor man’s Zooey Deschanel, you know, the last thing the world needs.
Acting Professor Number 2: I played Anne Frank when I was 29.
So I lopped off all my hair and went on a debaucherous rampage. But I digress.
When I started to play ukulele shows in Athens (I know, I’m like a walking breathing hyperbole right now), people wanted only to hear “The Meatloaf Song,” a sincere, but sticky sweet, slightly humorous song about my boyfriend. When I would be like “But guys! I wrote this song too!” I would mostly get replies like “But, it’s not cute, or funny.” I would answer with “Well, no it’s about how my ex-boyfriend left me for a bassoonist who wears too much make-up….so yeah probably not very funny.”
It’s frustrating and annoying to be pigeon-holed, no matter what, which is what I’m trying to get at. It always leads to this downward spiral of wanting to change myself, try a new aesthetic. When I look at fashion blogs, they always end up depressing me and I end up having slightly delusional/schizoid conversations with myself, that end up looking like this:
“Well, I could dye my hair RED! RED MIGHT BE NEAT! MAYBE IT WOULD MAKE ME LIKE SEXY AND COOL AND MYSTERIOUS”
Rational me: Red doesn’t stay and you always hate it.
“Ooooh! OR I could chop off all my hair! OR GET AN ASYMETRICAL CUT! YOU HAVE TO TAKE PEOPLE WITH ASYMETRICAL CUTS SERIOUSLY!”
Rational me: No, you’ll be miserable, it will grow out funky and people will still say that you’re cute and everyone probably still won’t give a damn that you’re writing a thesis on queer femininity in post-feminist films.
“OR I COULD GO SHOPPING!”
Rational me: You have no money though.
Cue existential, yet ever so narcissistic, meltdown. The truth is people, especially the people close to you, hold the personal narratives they create of and for you very near and dear to their hearts. They are not easily broken and extraordinarily slow to change. Sometimes you just got take what you can get. And then, get the fuck out of the town you’ve been stuck in for seven years and pray to God people construct more interesting conceptualizations of who and what exactly you are.
(Sarah Stevens is the shit. Thanks for your words, girl. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of you!)
Photo by Alli Maloney