I am so tired today. Straight pooped.
I’m also wearing a necklace my husband gave me: a silver French wax seal of a griffin that came with a card that explained that the griffin symbolizes authenticity.
When he first gave it to me, 7 years ago, I thought, “What’s so special about authenticity?” I thought it was a profoundly unsexy virtue to wear around my neck, like wearing a sandwich board with a picture of my own butt.
You want me to brag on my realness, babe?
You mean like, “Hello doctor, yes, I stole a handful of single-wrapped alcohol towelettes from your bathroom because I’m too cheap to buy my own for my first aid kit. Sorry, two handfuls. Sorry, actually, I emptied the whole basket into my handbag. Yes, this big one. Which I picked because I knew there would be free towelettes here.”
Or, “Hi I’m Katie! So nice to meet you. Are you looking at my chin zit? I mean, how could you not be.”
Or, like, how the first thing I said to my son’s preschool teacher this morning was, “My breath smells like roadkill. Sorry. I had 5 cups of black coffee and 2 onion bagels for breakfast because I eat my feelings, and you should have seen the WaPo morning news blast.”
Realness? Authenticity? These are not traits that folks want out of their women.
I mean, they say they do, but they don’t really. They want niche quirk “authenticity,” like, OMG I’m a 5’19” tall goddess and I LOVE D&D and cosplay. They want fresh and novel “woman combos”, like the human version of dipping your fries in a Frosty: “blonde + tutu + rock band drummer,” or “redhead + curls + freckles + changing the oil on her pickup,” or “mom + adorable bob haircut + full tat sleeve + killer banana bread recipe + runs a startup featured in Fast Company + raises chickens + runs a sub 6-minute mile + drinks IPAs + hobby welder.”
Cool realness demands so much fucking work. And did I mention that I’m TIRED?
They want marketably charming “realness” that never crosses the line between surprising and unappealing.
They want us to have “real” bodies that max out at a perfectly proportional hourglass size 8, and they want us to have “authentic” bare-face selfies that reveal - GASP - a sprinkling of golden freckles across our noses. You want REALNESS? Check this out: I have a mole on my cheek that sprouts thick, jet-black hairs. If I let it go, it looks like an adult spider is working its way out of my face, one leg at a time. You want that realness, babe?
They want us to live stream our Pinterest fails, so we’re human and imperfect, but they want to see us fail hilariously with perfect blowouts.
They don’t want to see me square-mouth cry on the kitchen floor because damn it, all I wanted to do was make Pikachu cupcakes for my son. It’s all he asked for. But these look like urban legend YouTube monsters, the kind that the school district sends emails about.
Fuck, I spent all fucking day on these horror cakes.
Fuck, I spent $200 on all the shit for these.
Fuck, I should have just bought them from Safeway.
Fuck, my judgment is dog shit.
Fuck, I’m such a failure. My sister could have done it. My neighbor could have. My mom could have.
No wonder everybody hates me.
God, I’m so worried about the Earth.
That’s an AUTHENTIC PINTEREST FAIL for this lady. That’s THE REALNESS, folks.
Shit gets DARK around birthday season.
Authenticity, like honesty and a salad for lunch, is something that people say they want. But dude, come on. You don’t. Like, you really don’t.
You want to meet Katie™, the irreverent kick-in-the-pants who wears cute earrings and accidentally swears at church, not the authentic Katie who lies to the dentist about flossing, sometimes flips off her children behind the bathroom door when they ask for one last hug for the 97th time. You want the Katie™ who often can’t sleep in an “adorable matching-pajamas and Warby Parkers, seized by genius so I’m writing a work of art at my antique desk bathed in a pool of golden light while French cafe music plays” kind of way.
But hi, I’m Katie, and I can’t sleep in an “I’ve been wearing these same sweatpants for 127 hours and I can’t stop playing Spider Solitaire while I lie slack-jawed on top of the clean unfolded laundry I dumped on my bed 2 days ago and stroke my cheek mole hairs” kind of way.
That’s not a person I used to show anyone, really. Even my closest friends got a fully customizable version of Katie™. I didn’t even think about doing it. I just reflexively built and rebuilt myself to suit the people around me, to be surprising in novel ways, to be just funny enough, just offensive enough, just smart-mouthed enough to seem real, but to never cross the line into unappealing territory.
7 years ago, when Ryan gave me this necklace, I was still unaware of how much work I put in to constantly become someone new in order to please others, reflexively, unconsciously. 7 years ago, I didn’t know that I was angry with him because he’d fallen for it. “You think I’m being authentic? God damn it. Not you, too. I wanted you to be different.”
I didn’t know how scared I was that he loved a person I invented, not the person I simply was. The only thing that scared me more was the idea of simply being. Was it worse to know that he loved a false Katie, or worse to discover that he wouldn’t love the real one? I used to think it would be worse to be authentically unloved, but nowadays I can’t imagine putting in so much fucking work to try to help someone fall in love with a mirage, just so I can say to myself, “At least they don’t not love you.”
As they say, if you don’t love me at my Katie, then you don’t deserve me at my Katie™.
Today, I’m tired. I’m straight pooped because it takes so much work to unlearn that reflexive instinct. I’m exhausted because I have to talk myself out of devastation if someone doesn’t like the real, actual real, Katie. It takes daily work to coach myself up, to pull Katie in for a self-huddle and say, “Ratchet down, boss. You’re fine as you are. No special sauce required.”
Katie™ is a useful tool. I bust her out at professional networking events, school pickup, or at parties where I don’t know very many people. She’s always a hit. But Katie™ clocks out at home. I’m learning to set her down when I’m with friends, although that’s hard because part of me wonders if they’ll stick around when I show them my handbag full of stolen alcohol towelettes.
I imagine my smart, funny, good friends cocking their heads at me and saying "Katie. Why. They’re like $5 for 200 on Amazon.”
You want to know why? I feel resentful of a health care system that charges redonkulous markups on over-the-counter supplies and medications and those alcohol towelettes are my way of evening the scales on the $4,000 Ibuprofen and $95 single-serving packet of Vaseline I got while in the hospital after giving birth.
That’s Katie™ talking. Katie™ has a vaguely moral reason for stealing towelettes that’s consistent with her social justice awareness. She’s justified herself with comically exaggerated dollar amounts. She’s righteous in a petty way, which is a French fry in a Frosty. Classic novel woman combo of faux-realness. Well played, Katie™. Very sneaky of you.
Truth is (Katie here), I just fucking love single-serve shit. I think packets are cuter than baby otters. It’s not funny. It’s not novel. It’s not constructed for a punchline or to reinforce your image of the person who writes KatyKatiKate. It’s just true. That’s the realness.
7 years later, I’m proud of my husband for being wise enough to believe that he’d love my authenticity before he really got to experience my roadkill breath, my kleptomaniac towelette collection, my chin zits, mole hairs, unfolded laundry and all.
I’m also tired because, realness, I stayed up until midnight watching Good Omens. Such a good show. Really enjoying it.
xoxo from the dynamic duo of Katie™ & Katie
(Katie™ has a funny joke about hitting the tip jar at Paypal and Patreon, but Katie just wants you to know that every way that you engage with her content, whether it’s with financial support, a share, a subscribe, or a comment/email, it fills her writer’s heart with joy and makes her feel like she’s not the only one who has an exhausting but useful twin with a Trademark symbol after her name.)