I live in a world of somewhat heightened reality where certain things are taken for granted and I occasionally lose track of my audience. Other times, I do not care to protect them from the vertigo that can occur.

But I don’t want to have to protect people from the details of my life, my education, my circumstances, or my job. Some of the people to whom I am “closest” to have no idea who I really am. They see how I react to things, some of the things I like, but they don’t really know me, even after all this time.

Other people, with whom I do connect at a deeper level, get me in a way my closest friends could never understand.

It’s hard for people to understand why I am still hanging out with BFD after all this time, but he rarely looks at me like I am crazy. He worries about me, but he does not question the wisdom of my life choices or life path. He wants me to make better decisions, not different choices, in other words, pick A rather than B, not pick a different test. That’s the thing, make the best choices in our world, not pick a new world in which to live.

My friends want me to live in their world, make their choices, and be happy. And I am not. Their life is not what I want. I was on track to be them. E and I were in the same class at the same firm. W joined us there right as I left for a different life to which I was better suited. They are happy living that life. I am not. I never was. Pretending that I am willing to settle for that is soul-deadening to me. I would rather be alone and poor than live as they do. But they would rather live as they do than spend one moment in my world.

Still, as a gesture, I act as they do as much as possible. I talk about sports. I listen to whatever. I present to them a narrow range of “new” music. But I don’t test their boundaries. I don’t push them, for the most part. They cannot handle it. K is more like me than she likes to let on, so we do stuff with which we’re comfortable and the rest of them are not: art openings, fashion shows, etc. They are not all philistines — they serve on arts boards, etc., but it’s not a passion. They do it for business reasons, which is fine.

With K, I can geek out about history and politics and art and culture in a way that we don’t with the other 5. My cousin T and my mother and my brother and a few others are the people to whom I turn when I can just be me.

So, in public, I dial it back. I suppress parts of my personality that I let flourish with BP, BFD, LP, and N. That’s why they’re in my life. I can be myself with them, although less with BFD than the other three, depending on where his head is.

Throughout my life, I have had two types of people in my life, those who want me to rein in my personality and those who allow it to flourish. I am sick of the people who made me drop my nickname because they did not like it (too preppy?), who told me to avoid mentioning the actual sport in which I competed in my youth because it signifies wealth (although in my world it signifies access to water), and who roll their eyes when I mention paintings I love. Fuck all y’all.

For them, I went on a date with “normal.” I hate normal. I behaved as I actually am, and he asked me out again anyway because the real me that makes you all uncomfortable is freaking awesome, if a little hard to take at times. I am refusing to compromise because you don’t understand me or it makes you uncomfortable. Play pictionary (or wii) in the suburbs talking about nothing. That’s not my life and I refuse to allow you to put me in that box.

I have been slowly emerging from the weight of other people’s expectations. I have reclaimed my old nickname, using it on twitter (my real account), on guest lists, and in emails with certain friends. My family always called me that name. Now I am calling myself by my own damned name.

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My best friend W just called to ask if whether I’d called him today . . . his crazy faux-hemian gold-digging and now pregnant girlfriend had gone through his phone and wanted to know why [cutesy nickname he calls me] had been calling him all morning. I had not. She was trying to catch him in a lie or whatever bullshit drama she’s trying to manufacture. I announced to him that on my date I went full diva and he asked me out again anyway, and by the way, start using my real name, asshole. Surprisingly, he was cool with it: “what ever gets you back … the fastest is cool with me.”

So, I am reclaiming myself and my name and embracing my real identity. Yes, that means I will be even more imperious and vain and unguarded about my actual passions. Love me or hate me, I have to be the real me and acknowledge the world I live in, even if you find it offputting or uncomfortable.

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