Not nearly as tough as Lisbeth Salander, but tough nonetheless. Being in a vulnerable position economically, class-wise, racially, and sexually as a young person either withers one or makes one develop a hard exterior. It’s easy to maintain that hard exterior because not caring what other people think becomes a habit, and striking out at those who hurt you in the past or who threaten you no longer seem to hold consequences. I created a hard exterior that was difficult even for my family to deal with — I was prepared to turn people off, and I’ve no doubt that I turned off a lot of people.
However, underneath the loud-mouthed, spiked-haired, angry person, I had plenty of love and caring to give. Luckily for me, after a few misguided flings with people who were more interested in pleasing themselves than getting to know me, I encountered true love.
He says that he noticed me because of the way I looked, but grew to like me because of the way I was. I didn’t even really know who I was then, but merely defined myself by what I wasn’t. But the way he treated me made me feel like I could let down my guard.
That’s the beginning of peeling off the exoskeleton, which, not surprisingly, took years to shed. Now I hardly ever get angry, and I rarely go out of my way to get back at someone who has done me wrong. Is that bad? Have I lost my old passion? Certainly I live in a very different environment than when I was young. I don’t really feel the loss because it took a lot of energy to brood and stay angry. Energy that I prefer to devote to maintaining a deep connection with my daughter, with my husband, with my sisters and their kids, with my mother, with my friends. I haven’t forgotten my experiences, and I’ve still got the same mind, the same strengths, and the same will.
Maybe I miss looking really cool with my spiked hair, scowl, and being stand-offish. At times, I’m still a little antisocial, and I know that I startle friends sometimes with the barbs that slip out of my mouth. However, I’ve managed to peel away most of that persona that I had to make to protect myself from people and environments that were hazardous.
Now I behave and think the way I want to, rather than inflexibly, within the limits of my image of a strong, self-contained, don’t f***-with-me girl. If I had to live with her, I know that I would eventually get sick of her.