When We Stop Pretending

August 14, 2014


My first memory is my sister. She was born in the cold of January. I don’t remember her face or how she cried or the softness of her baby skin. I only remember a shift in space, the family changing. A doll come to life.

We grew up in the same room, with the same toys, without any other siblings or neighbors to be extras in our world of Barbies and imaginary boats with frisbee wheels. We had our fights; battles over the front seat or the bathroom or Who Said What. But mostly it was very equal, very amicable, very You Get This and I Get That and I’ll let you know if I hear the garage door so you can turn off Blossom.

But in school we pretended. We pretended to be the kind of sisters who fought because it was more interesting. Even when we were in college together, we nodded along to the sitcom stereotype.

“I bet you girls fought allll the time!” a drunk soccer player would exclaim. Oh yes, we conceded dramatically. She was a real nightmare.

It’s funny who we pretend to be.

I will never forget walking through a street fair in Pittsburgh a few years ago with my friend Carrie and spotting a clown. Immediately I recoiled, shrieking like a scared toddler. “Oh my gosh a clown,” I gasped dramatically. “They really freak me out.”

Carrie didn’t miss a beat. “You should really find something more original to be afraid of.”

It was the first time I realized pretending to be interesting is actually really uninteresting.

There is a shift that happens in our 20s and 30s when we start the lifelong process of being true to ourselves. When we stop pretending to be someone other than who we are.

It’s laughable the things I’ve pretended to fear, to love, to do. It took me years to admit I hate camping. One day I was sitting around with friends discussing our various camping experiences; tents, bears, rivers, overlooks, fires that wouldn’t start….and it just came out. I feel claustrophobic in tents! I get blisters just looking at my hiking shoes! Mosquitoes are my nemesis! I don’t even like Northface!

Of course figuring out you hate camping is only possible if you actually try camping. There is no merit in declaring our pleasures and aversions in absolute terms. There is merit, however, in letting our nerd and jock and I-actually-like-staying-home-on-Friday-night flags fly if only for the relief. The relief of settling into ourselves, of being original, of sitting at home pinning egg salad recipes in the dark while everyone else is out making small talk in a loud pub.

Age has its grievances. Growing into ourselves is not one of them.

May we stop pretending. May we camp and not camp and love our sisters in the most genuine, interesting way.

May we face ourselves.


14 thoughts on “When We Stop Pretending

  1. Esther

    I hate camping too! This is a fact I’ve always been ashamed of, but in my experience, it generally involves a thunderstorm (read: me staying awake all night wondering if a tornado will blow the tent away), and a pointy rock under my left shoulder. I still feel a little guilty about it, but it is a relief that I don’t feel like I have to pretend to love it anymore.

  2. Tara

    I loved this : ) at 28, with three young kids, I find myself asking “why” a lot. And weighing the true value of certain actions or mindsets. When time starts to seem real and finite, it guess you feel like there isn’t enough of it anymore to spend being fake, or doing things because they’re what people do.

  3. Ellie

    I have always pretended to be scared of blood…for no reason (no reason!). Then I realized I was pretending and now I am pursuing a second degree in nursing. Give me blood, poop, and vomit- I love it all! No pretending anymore. It is just crazy and ridiculous that we feel a need to act a certain way sometimes. I am glad to hear that other people have these realizations too. :)

  4. Kimberly

    I pretended to be dumb. One of my friends was probably very smart, but really just a little clueless. But for real, she was just being herself. I remember when I decided to stop acting like her, and talk like I knew what I was talking about :)

  5. Rachel S

    This post really spoke to me. I’m an introvert and a homebody. I’m not very adventurous. I’ve always put so much pressure on myself to appear more outgoing, more sociable, more exciting. It feels unacceptable to admit that I’d rather be home snuggled on the couch reading blogs than at some big bash with a bunch of people I barely know. I’m 30 and in some ways, I feel like I still don’t know how to own who I really am… how to say, “This is who I truly am and I’m okay with it.”

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  7. Nicki Hawes (@TandJeansNicki)

    So well put. I’ve really come to terms with myself in my 30s, and it’s so refreshing. I just don’t care about impressing people the way I used to. Loved reading your perspective on this (and that’s awesome that you are so close to your sister!).

  8. Emma

    In college I briefly “looooved” camping until I stopped dating the outdoorsy person and went back to actually hating it again. The things I endured…

    Also, bowling is the worst.

  9. Ashley

    I found your blog through Pregnant Chicken and now am binge reading all your posts. The bit about pinning egg salad recipes while everyone else is out – totally had me laughing out loud. Well actually just giggling as quietly as possible because my one year old who never naps is actually napping (damn it he just coughed) but anyway. Great post.


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