Looking at the photo on the right, you might think, “Girl, you’re crazy.” But I’m not. I can’t tell you how many internet friends have met me in person, only to seem puzzled (and occasionally horrified), eventually asking the million dollar question(s): “How old are the pictures you post? Are they even you?” When I was in college, a friend of a friend wandered into the writing lab, where I worked, and he asked me if he could speak to Larissa. He didn’t even bother to disguise his shock when I told him I was Larissa. Later, I overheard him tell my friend, “Well, that was disappointing. You were right. She looks nothing like her photos.”
Except, I do. If you were to look at me close-up, or from above, I might seem attractive, provided my hair hair is professionally styled and I refrain from smiling. I am what we used to call a S.I.F.: a secret internet fattie. Unfortunately, unlike most fat girls, I don’t have pretty teeth, my skin is a mess, and my hair and nails are terrible. I know I’m ugly. I have no idea why I’m so photogenic. I sometimes joke it is my fairy tale curse: my “true form” is visible through a camera lens, instead of through a mirror. But that just makes me seem vain.
I have become increasingly awkward as a result. I’ve always been shy around people I don’t know, but when I was in high school, I’d had the same friends for years, and I was pretty and thin. I felt comfortable and confident. I began to gain weight my junior year, and it surprised me how cruel people became. One girl–whose Mean Girl name and personality I will never forget–approached me and said, “Do you remember me from French class? …Yes? Are you pregnant?” She cackled in my face, then she returned to her gaggle of giggling Mean Girl friends. I cried in the bathroom for hours. Still, I didn’t see myself as ugly. I suspected I was ugly, but what I saw in the mirror didn’t seem ugly–not for five years, anyway.
I once believed people were quick to bully me about my appearance because they felt as though I had lied to them, but then strangers began to treat me like garbage. This behavior has become so commonplace, I no longer believe losing weight will solve the problem. I think it will help–overweight woman tend to stand out more–but I don’t think I will shed the pounds and become a swan maiden. I’m just gross.
Not me, but that’d be cool.
So, people terrify me. I have no idea what to say to anyone. I went from being shy, to being completely awkward in a social setting. What’s worse: I sometimes feel the need to apologize for my awkwardness or to explain my behavior (e.g. “I’m sorry if I seem awkward; I’m just really, really shy, and I need lots of alone time.”). I once thought I’d gradually become an introvert, because I do need time to “recharge”; however, people don’t make me feel drained. Worrying about whether or not I will alienate other people makes me feel drained.
I spend way too much time worrying about how I will be perceived. There is a huge difference between shyness and awkwardness. It seems awkwardness is a hipster thing to claim, but I have yet to meet even one hipster who fits that description. I worry people will dismiss me as mentally ill, mean, on drugs, or simple. I want to tell people that I’m worth getting to know, but I’m so very skittish, I put everyone off. I wish I could fix my personality.
On the plus side: I really am like a fairy tale character. On the other hand: this is real life. I’m not even sure why I wrote this entry. If anyone else knows what it is like to feel as though everyone will hate you because of the way you look and because you’re so shy, you seem to have a shit personality, you’re not alone. I feel your pain.
In the early days of the internet, in Ye Ole Livejournaltown (c. 2000-2005), I went by “Araminta.” My first journal has since been deleted and purged (and taken over by a gothic model), but I have fond memories of my time as Araminta/”Minty.” No one knew my real name. I made so many friends. Over the past year, I lost nearly all of them.
In Ye Olde Livejournaltown, I posted silly .wav files as Miss Minteh, a psychic medium in the style of Miss Cleo. Instead of a feigned Jamaican accent, I spoke in the gruff, whisky-guzzling voice of a crazy old bag lady pretending to be a voodoo queen. I still remember the recording that made everyone laugh the most. It went almost exactly like: “Spirits! Miss Minteh is here for you! …Now where are those spirits? (Drunken slurring, bottles clanking.) What’s that? Yes. Yes, I hear you! Yes, Miss Minteh is listening, mmmm-hmmm. And now I will commune with… with… Tupac!” The recordings were over-the-top ridiculous, yet each one seemed to delight my friends. I lost the recordings during a laptop crash in 2006, and I began to go by my real name. Everyone seemed to prefer Araminta to Larissa. Around this time, Livejournaltown became a ghost town.
I miss the rosy days of internet yore–I do.
Miss Minteh was created in response to what most South Floridians had known for years: Miss Cleo was a fraud. That is not to say I didn’t/I don’t believe in psychics. I come from a line of women I refer to as the old wives: West Virginia women who embody the Victorian vision of someone associated with the occult (country magic, folk remedies, intuition, a belief in the supernatural and the Christian god). My mother and my great-grandmother both speak/spoke to the dead in their dreams, and my mother is a particularly gifted psychic. I, too, strongly feel I have communicated with ghosts in my dreams, and many of my “dream visions” have come true (sadly, most of these dreams have concerned natural disasters). My mother says my “gift” is stronger than hers. We’ve butted heads a bit, because I don’t believe in the Christian god. When I was a teenager, I flirted with Wicca (my mother became terrified I was a Satanist), but I’m not sure I believe in any deities. I believe in elemental energy (the life force radiating from all living things), and I believe in science. The main problem I have with Christianity–apart from its hateful, judgmental practitioners–is that it is clearly the creation of man. The bible is literature. I would sooner believe in the Greek gods, because while it doesn’t make sense for an all-powerful deity to come from nothing, it makes sense for a pantheon of gods to be descended from the primeval god-sludge of the titans–sort of like the big bang, the universe, human evolution, etc. In any case, I don’t presume to know what’s out there. I only know I am drawn to nature.
I Was a Teenage Faery: Dabbling in Wicca at Sixteen
I don’t speak much about my belief in ghosts and visions, because I don’t want anyone to view me as a kook–the way I view Christians as kooks. In my belief system, anything that goes against science (creationism, say) cannot be real. At the same time, I realize ghosts, visions, and energies have been dismissed as hokum by science. I am aware I sound just like a Christian when I say it’s possible there are mysteries we do not understand–mysteries that may eventually be explained by science. My rational self is at odds with my spiritual self.
But this is backstory.
In early October, as I considered the selection of strawberries at the grocery store, a woman approached me. I could feel her staring at me. I thought I was in the way, so I smiled at her and moved my cart. She complimented my eyes. When I thanked her for the compliment, she said, “Were you aware someone cursed you?” I was taken aback at first, but you know, I did know. For some time, I have felt the bad energy directed at me. The woman asked me whether I had ever had my cards read, and I said that I had. She said she normally charges for readings, but that negative energy so permeated my aura, she wanted to help me. We sat down at a table in the cafe next to the produce section. She pulled out an ordinary deck of playing cards and told me to shuffle the deck. She then told me to select three cards: I chose the Eight of Hearts, the Queen of Spades, and the Three of Hearts. She said I was the Queen of Spades, and the person who cursed me was the Three of Hearts. She said that, while this person may not have intentionally cursed me, this person (a woman who feels betrayed) has worked to turn others against me. She then said curses are a “low energy vibration” that can be deflected. I asked her about the rule of three, and she smiled and said, “You won’t cause her harm. Just be positive, and the curse will be broken. She wants you to be miserable, and is telling people the fact you are unhappy is ‘proof’ you wronged her.” She then tapped the Eight of Hearts and said, “It probably feels like everyone in your life is against you. There is a lot of negative energy directed at you, and not just from this woman and the friends you once shared. Just be positive, and things will change. I can tell you are in a lot of pain.” I asked her whether the playing cards corresponded to certain Tarot cards, and she said she was unfamiliar with the Tarot–that her mother taught her to read playing cards, and the method worked well for her. She then said, “I think your mother taught you certain things as well.” She said I have a gift and should explore the spiritual path I abandoned. It was all very eerie. She wished me well and went on her way.
For a while now, I have felt the pull toward green witchcraft. I look around my house, and I see how I organize my crystals and statues in clusters, like little altars. While I do not believe in deities, there are certain aspects of Wicca I never gave up: Tarot reading, scrying, lucid dreaming, herbalism, gardening, meditation. That’s all it really is: a balancing of the self; attunement with nature and one’s living space. I think of this attunement as being similar to the law of attraction. I know I am negative. I know I am impacted by what has happened to me in my life and the way people treat me. I believe this balancing will help, in the same way a healthy garden feels different from a dying garden. I’ve neglected my garden (and my house–man, do I ever need to clean out my closets), and I really do think tending to it is the first step toward tending myself and breaking this horrible cycle of negativity.
I won’t smear the people who dislike me. I’ve done that enough. They wronged me, and in most cases, I did nothing wrong (beyond standing up for myself in my admittedly abrasive way), but that is the past. It is time to move forward. I wish them well. They do not like me, and they are no longer a part of my life, but there is no reason to hold on to this anger.
So, when xoJane ran a piece about a Tarot card reader, I requested a general reading. I suspected the three cards I drew during my playing card reading were the Eight of Swords, the Queen of Cups, and the Three of Swords, and I wanted to see what a Tarot card reader had to tell me. I wasn’t disappointed:
For you, this card indicates the best course for you right now is to
focus internally. Heal the wounds within you and that will lead to the
spiritual understanding you seek. This will mean exploring unknown
territory. Try some new methods of self-examination, especially
modalities that help to change negative self-talk. You will have to face
your fears to move forward, but you will be most successful if you see
this as a time of adventure and growth rather than something painful and
difficult. You must focus inward now, but later this will lead to better
decision-making and a clearer mind.
EVERYTHING IS EERIE!
Say what you will about Tarot readers: Ananda is the real deal! Everything she wrote mirrors what the playing card reader told me (with one exception: Ananda told me people would want to hear my story and offer support, whereas the playing card reader told me people would only want to be around me if I maintained a positive attitude and didn’t discuss negative things–which I find to be true). While it is no secret I am troubled (I really put it out there), my renewed interest in green witchcraft has been a secret until now. I feel cautiously optimistic about the future.
1) I want to travel. When I was growing up, I traveled every year, and I miss it.
2) I want to write for a living.
3) I want to be appreciated. I want people to see that I am intelligent. I want my opinion to matter. I want someone to think I’m pretty.
4) I want a group of close friends.
5) I want to participate in a book club (where my opinion is welcome and appreciated).
6) I want to exercise. To eat well.
7) I want to keep a clean house, full of cool stuff. I want to maintain my garden, even if I feel depressed.
8) I want to vlog/blog about geeky things (once again, to an audience that appreciates me).
9) I want to be famous, but if enough people like me, I can live without traditional fame.
10) I don’t want to be seen as negative, stupid, disgusting, lazy, fat, ugly, unpleasant, a terrible writer, etc.
This list is telling. I just want people to like me. Unfortunately, few people do. Perhaps it is my fault. I am a fan of inviting discussion with a Devil’s Advocate argument, and I was recently dismissed as “lazy, fat, disgusting, and stupid” in one such discussion. I was told “people like [me] ruin the good things in life for everyone else.” All because I had read a piece about why organic farmers should like genetically-modified seeds. I found the piece interesting, as it was written by a respected scientist, who presented his argument in an intelligent way. I posted the article on my Facebook page, not because I agree genetically-modified seeds are a good thing, but instead because I want to hear well-informed opinions about why they are a bad thing. Let me tell you, there are a lot of uninformed people out there, whose only argument against genetically-modified seeds is this: people like me are fat. I have read convincing reports that tell me GMOs are a bad thing, yet not even one person has cited this data when asked why they are against GMOs. I am left with the impression they have no real idea why GMOs are bad. Sometimes, even seemingly informed people are ignorant, you see. The article in question did make one point I agree with: we are running out of water. GMO seeds, which do not require much water, are not a good solution in the event we experience widespread water shortages (and we will), but we should focus on ways to conserve water and to ensure we will always have a supply of food. Resorting to personal attacks and pettiness in a debate isn’t going to save the planet and the human race.
The same goes for the healthcare debate. I was dismissed as “showing very little intelligence” by a 9/11 conspiracy theorist, simply because I said that, if we do not fight mandatory car insurance, why do we fight mandatory health insurance? Car insurance protects our vehicles and ourselves. Health insurance protects another kind of vehicle: the human body. His argument: he “chooses” to drive a car, yet health insurance is a product he does not choose–one that is “forced” on him. We do not choose life, yet we are here. Why not protect our lives? I agree the insurance system is flawed. I would prefer a tax-based universal healthcare system, like the one in place in many other countries, but I believe the Affordable Care Act is a step in the right direction. Why am I dismissed as unintelligent? Because I see that mandatory insurance is well-intentioned?
Perhaps I am just as intolerant as the people who don’t “get me”/understand my debate style. Perhaps I shouldn’t debate with anyone at all. However, in my heart of hearts, I worry I truly am nothing more than a dumb fat ass. I have been dismissed as such my entire life. Every month, at least three people tell me I am negative–that I bring this pain upon myself. Most people who interact with me on Facebook nowadays do so in order to tell me I’m an emotional, irrational woman and a disgusting fat ass. My own brother described fat women who dress in sexy clothing as “cottage cheese stuffed in a balloon,” and he couldn’t understand why I would defend such women. When I bring up the fact I was bullied in school, there are people who tell me it never happened. I remember: I was “lard ass,” “Lapissa,” “retard.”
I don’t want to be negative, but how do I change? (And is it really all my fault?)
So, here is what I do:
1) I don’t write for a living. I know people who freelance and who are successful working writers. I want to pitch articles to publications I read, but if I am rejected there as well, I will have to consider the possibility I’m a talentless hack.
2) I don’t have many friends. I avoid social situations, because again, I have alienated so many people online, I don’t want to experience the immediacy of it in real life. (For this reason, residencies at Pacific University give me more anxiety than they should.)
3) I feel sorry for myself instead of adhering to an exercise regime and eating well. I sleep a lot. Some of it is the result of depression, but in the words of everyone who ever told me to snap out of it, I probably don’t try hard enough. (It should be noted that telling someone with depression to “snap out of it” is really quite heartless… though hurt feelings are still no excuse for not adhering to an exercise regime and not eating well.)
4) I’m afraid to offer my opinions on GoodReads. Case in point: I love Vaginal Fantasy. Its GoodReads forum seems like a cool place, populated with intelligent, articulate folks who read fantasy, sci-fi, and paranormal romance, but I’d rather imagine what it would be like to interact with people than to actually go for it. (Because again, if my Facebook discussions are any indication, people are either going to think I’m unpleasant, or they’re going to tell me I’m an idiot. Woe. Just call me Eeyore.)
5) I don’t clean my house, and I neglect my beautiful garden. Everything is hidden away in closets or drawers, and my garden, which I once lovingly tended, became more wild and neglected the more depressed I felt. Again, I want to blame my depression, but as many people have said, the problem is me. I can’t even fully articulate how sad I feel when I look at how much I’ve let my garden go, yet I don’t do anything about it. (There might be some kind of metaphoric message here.)
6) People say I have a persecution complex, and perhaps I do. I certainly do feel like nobody likes me… but that is because most people don’t. Again, I don’t know what to do about that.
7) I seldom blog, and the one time I had a vlog, somebody made fun of my voice and said some unkind things. Granted, it wasn’t a vlog about geeky things, but since my opinion doesn’t seem to matter to anyone, why bother?
8) PERSECUTION COMPLEX.
9) I do work on Rose Red Review, so I’m not a total waste of space.
10) I daydream of a better life. Constantly.
I want to change, but in truth, I can’t imagine a world wherein I am appreciated and I have a lot of friends. Most people don’t like me, and I don’t know how to make myself likable. I feel broken.
Larissa Nash grew up in the Everglades and spent many summers in Ohio and Hawaii. She holds a B.A. from Loyola University New Orleans and currently lives in Texas with her cats, one of which is part Florida bobcat. Her hobbies include rain-dancing and soothsaying. She is an M.F.A. candidate at Pacific University of Oregon.
Larissa has participated in several of Francesca Lia Block's online workshops, and her work has appeared in online and print publications and is forthcoming in December. Flutter Poetry Journal recently nominated her poem, "The Lady in Red," for the 2013 Best of the Net. Larissa founded Rose Red Review, a fairy tale journal.