When Are We Old Enough to Stop Pretending?

I woke up this morning wondering when are we old enough to stop pretending that we either like a certain thing, or are a certain way, or that we don’t abhor doing very unpleasant things, like, oh, I don’t know, wearing high heels.

One of my long-time friends gave me this awesome little plaque last night when I went over to her house for a play date and pizza.  As I was taking it out of the bubble wrap that it was stored in, she apologized for not wrapping it better, but told me that when she saw it she thought of me.  

And I immediately fell in love with this gift, not because of what it is, but because of how it made me feel.  

All I kept thinking was, “Oh my god, she gets me…she totally gets me.  I HATE WEARING HIGH HEELS.”

Now, it should really come as no surprise to me that this friend understands me…she sat behind me in homeroom in high school, and despite falling out of touch during a college years, we have rekindled our friendship and bonded over a whole bunch of stuff that helps really give you a clear picture of who a person is – including their incredible disdain for uncomfortable footwear, and conversely their strong affinity for flip-flops.

I just love my flip-flops, despite how many pieces I have seen on morning TV telling me that wearing them for prolonged periods of time will ruin every body part I have.  The more comfortable my footwear, the more I clearly I can think.  Seriously.  One day in heels and my knees hurt, my back hurts, and I am just left wondering why I’d even ventured out in them in the first place.

I kicked my heels into the back of the closet after begrudgingly wearing them to a meeting a few months ago, where I had to consciously stop myself from thinking, “When can I take these heels off…when can I take this damn shoes off?” while people are having very important conversations.  My disdain for them was validated when we were running to another meeting and I slipped down the cement steps, nearly falling flat on my ass.  

I caught myself, and I thought, “That is it.  You will never be one of those perfectly put together women that can run from meeting to meeting in high heels with a crisply ironed shirt and expertly straightened hair.  That will never be you, so just stop pretending.  It’s a waste of energy.  You can ditch the heels now.”

I’ve avoided going near a pair of heels since that day – despite a mild suggestion that I wear them out to do dinner one night.  I was telling a friend of mine that since working from home, I hadn’t touched any of my nice clothes because I simply had no reason to.  He responded kindly by telling me that he was going to take me out to dinner, where I could “get all dressed up…and put on a dress and heels.”

I paused and spit out, “Um…I can’t do that…”

Poor guy…he looked a little confused, and I clarified, “Heels, I can’t do heels…I just can’t.  They hurt my feet…”

And to my delight, despite my confession, he didn’t revoke the dinner invitation and laughed telling me that flip-flops would be fine. (Comical side note: I wore a dress and cute, gold, Old Navy flip-flops out to dinner.  As we were running down the stairs to catch the subway, those flip-flops broke.  So we ran back home, where I put on…another pair of Old Navy flip-flops)

I recall approaching my 30th birthday thinking, “Am I now old enough to stop doing things I don’t want to do?  My friend (in my head) Oprah speaks so highly of leaving her 20s behind her…is it because she was finally able to stop being someone she wasn’t?”  As insignificant as the choice of footwear may appear to be in the big picture of life, that little plaque really did make me start to think about what else I have been pretending about.  I mean, at 33 and change…it’s just time to stop pretending.

So in addition to hating heels with a deep burning passion, I can also no longer continue to pretend that:

1. I am tough.  

This one I actually know I have done a good job in deceiving about 80% of the people around me, because so many of them are shocked when I say something hurt me, or upset me or (gasp)…that I cried.  An old college friend told me that the people that know me best, know that I am really sensitive and get my feelings hurt easily – but the way I present myself to the outside world doesn’t give everyone a chance to see this.  

I can’t count the amount of times I have said to a friend, “I’m fine…I’m fine…I’m fine,” while I could literally feel myself coming undone.  I used to think being tough protected me from getting hurt, but I’ve come to learn that the tough-girl exterior actually does a great disservice because it has caused a lot of people to assume that I was okay, when I was actually falling apart on the inside  – and in need of a hug and a shoulder to lean on, more than anything else in the world.  

2. I don’t mind going to weddings without a plus one.

Listen, I know that wedding etiquette says that unless a couple has been dating a year, then you do not need to invite your guest with a date.  And that etiquette makes perfect sense, it really does, and I totally get it (Do you hear me friend that is getting married really soon?).  And having to find a date for a wedding would be an entirely different and totally unnecessary  kind of stress on most occasions.  

And I also recognize  that on nearly every occasion that I have gone to a wedding without a date, I have ended up meeting someone and having a great time.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t, or am not allowed to, dread going to a wedding alone. I hate it. 

There.  I said it.  I feel a little better.  

All of this wedding non-date anxiety is compounded by the fact that I have never, ever been invited to a wedding with a date – because I haven’t had a long-term boyfriend in my adult life.  Awesome.  I know.  It sort of feels like going to the prom, over and over and over again with your girl friends – except now most of your girlfriends are bringing dates (their husbands).   

3. I prefer being single.

I don’t.  I mean I prefer being single to being in a relationship with the wrong person…because that is not any fun for anyone. But I would be totally lying if I said that I prefer being single to having a hypothetically amazing relationship.  

I want one.  

I want someone to be there when life knocks the wind out of me, when I ponder what I am going to do with the rest of my life…someone to laugh at the really, really stupid things that I say…and to accept me for who I am – good, bad, and silly – and I want to do the same for him.  

Yep…that one little plaque made me feel all that…which is why I continue to be incredibly grateful for the friends who have known all of the things above for years and years…and let me think I was fooling the masses.  Now we can all stop pretending.