In high school, I wanted to be just like Ann. I loved the way she looked, charmed, and innocuously lured all the boys to her yard. Ann however, wanted to be like Lynn. There was something about Lynn’s charisma that intrigued her. Lynn on the other hand was impressed with Jennifer. But Jennifer had a hero as well. She wanted to be like me. Turns out, all I had to do was be myself. Yet a girl had to wonder. If human cells are replaced every seven years, I never knew who the heck I was going to be.
Growing up, I spent a lot of flourishing identity time idolizing famous women. Agatha Christie. Farrah Fawcett. Betty White. Betty is splendidly humorous. Farrah had a hot bod and great hair. And Agatha could write. But the teen years yielded unidentifiable results. I was forever trying to find myself, sometimes behind the locked bathroom door facing my reflection. “Mirror mirror on the wall” was my standard questioning while my siblings stood outside practically wetting their pants. But dad said that port-a-potties would just depreciate the property value. Thankfully the time spent evaluating my entity wasn’t caught on some hidden camera. People wonder when I began talking to myself. I was about three when I started all those facial aerobics. I should have been either a physiognomy contortionist, or a cartoonist.
I wasn’t an exclusive arbiter of mirror watching. My girlfriends did the same thing. One day a playmate decided she wanted to be me and I agreed to be her. So we took on the devilish act of disappearance, with both our parents being completely incognizant of our switching places. I pulled it off by blending nicely into her brood of eight. She on the other hand, came running back to her house yelling at me for not doing my homework or cleaning my room, and demanded that we change places again immediately. So much for a shared friendship. If she had been a devout replacement, she would have picked up my clothes and solved those hard trigonometry problems for me.
Hanging out at her home was no different than being at my house with my own renegade brothers. One minute her male siblings were terrorizing me with worms and the next, calling me chicken for not daring to jump off their roof. I didn’t know if I was fish or fowl. It was a clear case of mistaken identity confusion and I found myself sticking my tongue out and yelling to those rascals, “I know you are, but who am I?” I knew who they were. I narrowed the list down to a pack of halfwit hotshots. I had this nutty theory that in the course of this adventure, their mother would slap them upside the head. But she was used to having rapscallions. She also never bothered to look at faces at her dinner table. Assuming I was her daughter, she asked when I dyed my hair blonde and started biting my fingernails.
If you had asked the boys in school what they found beautiful about me, the dedicated voyeurs would have said my breasts. Even so, mine didn’t look as good as Deborah’s. Not everything in life is framed by beautifully rounded hydrangeas, so I had to light up lives with an eclectic bevy of other characteristics. Long nails didn’t define me unless I was prepared to date Edward Scissorhands. I tried plumping my hair to look like Farrah’s. But without the styling help of hair professional Jose Eber, my mane always appeared as if there was no gravity.
It was bad enough I couldn’t find myself behind the massive amount of metal in my mouth. But I found that I could generate attention through some awfully luscious lip gloss with two simple ingredients. Vaseline, and peach pulp. Inner beauty is great, but I figured a little mouth seductiveness just might bring all the boys to my yard instead of Ann’s. Yet I learned from experience that long hair and a pound of lip gloss was a struggling combination in a wind, or when fans were blowing. So was my mother and any boy who came near me. She was always the abrupt reminder that sex was to remain precious, and never performed on her premises. But like any girl, I was curious. My parents did catch me getting ready to go out in outfits that didn’t befit my innocence. They told me the less I encouraged provoking male libidos, the better. They wanted me to be a nun, and must have thought we were the Von Trapp family when I overheard them saying, “How do we solve a problem like Maria.” I knew darn well they were referring to me. I suppose I could have gone on to make an expensive hourly wage as a floozy. But I was the least of their worries once the rest of my siblings entered the world and fraught them with difficulties. I think I turned out okay considering I’m prayerful, and drink alkaline water daily to stay as pure as possible.
No one ever knew exactly who I was on a resume either. I was an overachiever with a boat load of inaccuracies that made me look stupendous. I may not have looked great in person, but I looked ridiculously good on paper. Most of the time my name was Patty, but on occasion Pinocchio, with a slight variation to the nose. I kept being congratulated for having been head of the class and homecoming queen, four times. After toiling tremendously with an identity crisis, now I know exactly who I am. I’m the queen of Home Goods spending, a real hell on heels, but more of a cursive and often cursing post traumatic parochial attendee with the gift of jab and a blood flow of vintage grapes. I’m also intelligent enough to figure out that one and one is two, in a crisis any wine will do, and if I could just find the right hairdo, I would feel thoroughly complete… and what a wonderful world it would be.