I’ve been drinking too much coffee again. I drink enough to make the inside of my mouth turn sour and my hands shake and yet I can’t seem to make myself stop.
I’m also drinking a lot of green tea because I have convinced myself that it is the most virtuous of hot drinks and if I drink enough it will cancel out all of the coffee in my system. This is, of course, completely incorrect; but it doesn’t stop me from having yet another cup and leaving a trail of limp teabags and coffee grounds in my wake like an overly-caffeinated Tasmanian Devil.
I’ve been picking up books and putting them down again, stalling after a couple of chapters and leaving stacks of abandoned novels on the floor. I feel guilty about it and tell myself I’ll come back to them sometime.
Lately I’ve been thinking that I should read E Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks again. I read it a couple of years ago and at the time I left a throwaway reaction on Goodreads; ever the emotional reader I said I didn’t feel a connection to Frankie blah blah blah or something like that. But I keep returning to it in my mind and thinking about it and wondering about that first reading and if I would read it differently now.
The thing is, I don’t think I was ready to confront some of the thoughts that book would have had me consider. Despite the fact that yes, I’m a grown woman, I didn’t want to have certain ideas challenged or to delve very deeply into why I thought the things I thought. Because on some level I knew that once I did, I wouldn’t be able to go back. I wouldn’t be able to not know again. I didn’t want to think about why I felt uncomfortable and I didn’t want to look too closely at my own teenage entanglements and the ways I had felt diminished and dismissed and yet not questioned it. I didn’t have a way to make sense of those feelings at the time; the world that grew me up had taught me that the most important thing was to be accommodating and complaisant and above all things to be desired. The worst that could happen was that I would be left behind, remain unclaimed, solitary.
It’s hard to think about that now.
Sometimes, because I am a human made almost entirely out of self-doubt and insecurity, I wonder if my teeth have become too sharp and my exterior too brittle. If in response to all my teenage yearning and efforts to endear myself however I could, I have catapulted in the opposite direction into flintiness and aggressively lone-wolfish tendencies. I have a vice-like grip on my independence and a fear of it being wrested out of my hands, a deeply entrenched suspicion of anything too fanciful and romantic.
I wonder what I would have made of Frankie at fifteen, sixteen, seventeen. Back then I didn’t have a language to articulate how it felt to be excluded, placated, belittled. I’m not sure I even knew how to want something different than what I was taught to accept. Frankie wanted to be a force and I just wanted to be wanted, not realising that was not the only thing I could desire.
I try not to be too hard on that girl I was, to heap blame onto her shoulders for things she did not yet understand. I try not to be ashamed of her either, because she fought her way here. And maybe it’s never too late to be a force. Not too late to pick up a book again and find something different in the pages, understand something new with every iteration of myself: growing, changing, learning.