I want a voice that is confident and kind. I want a voice that only speaks when it’s necessary. A voice that doesn’t feel the need to constantly be heard. I want a voice that can, when necessary, speak with conviction. I want a voice that is melodious. Encouraging when needed. Soothing when helpful. A voice that people want to hear.
This is what I’ve got: a terrible, awful, grating, pleading, bossy, whiny voice. I have traded in my silent childhood for a loud as fuck adulthood and it embarrasses me every day. Opinions about everything. God, so many opinions. It is so wearing to have an opinion about everything. If I don’t have one, I’ll create one with a moment’s notice. When I grow up, I will reserve judgment. I’ll be known for exactly that. “Well, I’m not sure what to tell you, but Ann said…and she NEVER has an opinion, so I’d listen to her.” Once every four years or so, I’ll offer an opinion. Other than that, I’ll just listen.
Also, I say mean things sometimes. Acerbic things. Guess when I say them. You’ll never guess. This is so unique. When I feel like shit about myself, I say shit things to other people. I say things that are unequivocally not okay to say. I don’t mean to, but I have to feed the self hate somehow.
To avoid total self-degradation, which is so pitiful, isn’t it?: I can say good things. If you feel badly about yourself, I can tell you a million reasons why you’re wonderful. And I will mean them. This is both a bad and good thing: when you’re struggling, I can help you talk through things and maybe help you come up with some solutions. Okay, I will give you solutions. You know, the ones that I think are the right ones. I will yell at myself over and over while we talk, though, and tell myself to listen. Listen.
My voice, regardless of circumstances, has the pleading, tinny sound of an annoying child. An eight year old who thinks she knows everything. An eight year old with greasy hair and a sticky mouth who is bony and knobby and never looks clean, even when her skin is still soft from the bathtub. Maybe that’s just it. That’s the girl I am. The girl who is never clean like the other girls. I am not the girl who is pink and soft and rounded at the corners. Buffed with a suede cloth. The girl with soft hair pulled back with a headband. The girl with small gold hoops in her ears. The girl who doesn’t sidle up to the circle of pointy elbows. Don’t ever make fun of the girl who hangs out on the edges of the grown up circle while the other kids are playing kick the can or brushing out their Barbies’ hair. It is so tempting to make fun of her. She is so gross. She is needy and an absolute pest. A pebble in your shoe, a strand of hair in your mouth. But she is begging, absolutely dying for your attention. She would do anything, absolutely anything for you to notice her. Put your hand on her greasy head. Smile at her. Tell her she has such a pretty smile. She is dying, just dying a thousand small deaths in her heart every day, dying for you to notice her. And if you smile at her and put your hand around her neck or place the back of your hand against her cheek and tell her that she is a nice girl or a smart one, you will have given her words to play over and over and over in her head. When she can’t sleep at night because she is alone and afraid, she will play your words. Over and over and over. You will become her hero. Quickly. She will think about you all the time. She will wonder what kind of sofa you have, what soap you use, what your hand looks like with a fork in it. She will go downstairs and get a fork from the drawer and hold it in her hand and look at it, tilting her head and wondering if her hand looks anything like yours does when it holds a fork. She will slip the fork under her pillow, like a piece of wedding cake after the reception, and she will pray that she learns how to hold the fork just like you do while she sleeps. She will wonder if you sleep on your back like her. She will think that maybe you sleep on your side, like all normal people. She wants to be like the normal people. She wants to be like you. She will begin sleeping on her side. It will be uncomfortable and hard to fall asleep, but she will persist. When she sees you, she will be very shy. She will not want to steal your breath or annoy you in the slightest. She will be painfully self-aware. It will hurt to be around her. Her skin will be fly paper, picking up lint and sand and dust. Her skin will be sandpaper. Coarse and ugly. She will stand motionless, arms held out from her sides so the sandpaper doesn’t rub and scratch and annoy you. You will look at her and wonder why she looks so stiff. She looks like she has a painful sunburn. She will worry that you think she is ugly. She will know she is ugly. She won’t speak so that she doesn’t say anything stupid. She knows she is stupid. She will worry that you notice that her hair is greasy. All of the other little girls have fluffy hair. Her hair splits into furrows, white scalp shining, hair follicles dotted like blackheads across her scalp. She may as well take off her pants and sit down on the floor with her legs open. She will look at you and her plain old nondescript blue eyes will hold you tighter than you have ever been held. Her eyes will turn in their sockets. You are the sun. She will rotate around you. You will not know it, but she will be scanning your every move, memorizing you so that she can remember you when you realize that she’s an irritant. When you shake the pebble out of your shoe. She knows you’ll leave, but even after you’ve left, she will hold you tighter than you could know.