Some people are social butterflies. I am a snail. Or maybe a tortoise. I’m not slimy, but I’m not convinced that slow and steady wins the race, either.
My misguided philosophy as a teen was shit or be shat on. Don’t steal that; I want to put it on a t-shirt. The attitude served me well in grade nine when we were all sizing each other up. Looking back, I see why adults tried to enlighten me about the colour grey.
Grey is beautiful. It makes my eyes pop. And there’s that whole vast-world-between-black-and-white thing, too. We all live there, though we don’t always know it or like it. Murder can be self-defence, stolen food can be fed to hungry children and adultery can stem from a loveless marriage.
Grey can be dark. It’s why gay couples are still denied the same rights as other couples in many parts of the world; it is racism passed down from generation to generation; and women in burkas.
Those abstract ideas and those moral decisions, easily debated over coffee, were the closest I got to grey in my teens. I never had to shoot a gun in self-defence or fear that going bare-faced would evoke the inevitable lust of a man.
I had the energy to think about that stuff because I thought daily life was black and white. She was a bitch to me, so I’ll be a bitch to her. He lied to me, I have to dump him. I skipped too many afternoon classes and I was kicked out of biology.
Then, on the cusp of adulthood, I got sick. A grey-green twister ripped through my life, pulled me into the air and kept me suspended for years. On my best days, I didn’t have the energy to maintain a social life and on my worst days, I didn’t have the capacity to understand intentions. It was hard to make new friends.
I’ve always been a tortoise, though, so I can’t blame my illness for that, just for the stagnant years in my twenties. I was a bookworm, not a hop scotch princess. And when I was seventeen, my girlfriend told a woman that Biggie’s song ‘Me and My Bitch’ was about a dog. I whispered to her, “really?” She rolled her eyes and answered, “ No, not really, Jenn.”
I had a long way to go before I got sick, and I’m way behind now that I’m better.
The twister left me at a loss. My teen strategies are pathetic and ineffective. When I’m insulted, I know snide comments might announce my frustration and possibly make me feel better, but won’t resolve anything. The urge to insult back is the karma crusader in me. Since I vowed to fold the cape, I have to come up with a different strategy.
Grey currently represents a mystery illness that takes away my brain and body functions one after the other. I am terrified to go back into that dark funnel. But I’m not sure that black and white exist.