My whole life I’ve been prided for being “interesting,” a word that stirs in my brain, wriggling its way into my every thought and intention. It sounds like a dirty word whenever I hear it now but for the longest time, it was my medal to brandish. I was interesting. I am interesting. I’ll take you to interesting places, introduce you to interesting people. I’m the one to call if you want to talk about God or fashion in the Middle Ages, I’ll eagerly pull you into a pub at 2 PM “just cause!”, and I can ramble on about the things I love until my eyes well up with tears and maybe yours do too. You can call me at any hour and I’ll pick up—if I know you, even a little, I’ll make the time. I’m what you need, when you need it, however you want it. I’m all the quirky and amiable things I’ve come to resent and I always put others’ needs before my own. On Tuesdays, I dance around my room to the Bee Gees in my underwear. On Wednesdays, I am self-sabotaging, messy, and exhausted. But I’ll be damned if I’m ever uninteresting.
The funny thing about interesting (and the reason it’s up there with “fuck” and “cunt” in its severity) is how dispensable it makes you. Because at some point, you’re bound to slip up. Nobody tells you this but being interesting is a full-time gig; your sentimental charm expires whenever you drop the ball and forget to be an absolute riot or just cool enough for the other person to forget that you’re hurting too. Let’s say we were operating on a points-based system: you’d win points every time you impressed someone with your obscure and entirely useless knowledge about art history or that one underground folk musician from the 1960s that you swear laid the groundwork for contemporary indie pop, yadda yadda yadda. And you’d lose points any time you exposed your good old human fragility. So basically, you’re just as screwed as I am. Or was. I’m not really sure yet.
Now, my own desperation to be interesting could stem from overarching feelings of inadequacy or maybe the fear of being unimportant in the great cosmic scheme of things or god forbid (even though we know this is the hard hitter) that sliver of satisfaction that comes with the deeply misogynistic phrase “you’re not like other girls.” I’ve come to realize that interesting implies an abundance of something as a quick remedy for a scarcity somewhere else. I’m ten times funnier than I’ll ever be pretty and I’m a hundred times more intelligent than I’ll ever be happy. I’m not sad, I’m well-rounded.
You can go ahead and call me a pessimist (suck it, Rousseau) but humans are invariably selfish. We take whatever we need in the moment with next to no regard for those that we emotionally ransack, and we all do it, just some of us more than others. I’ve been on the receiving end of this for years and it feels like no matter how hard I try, I can’t break out of the cycle. I lend parts of myself to those that I love and somehow I never get them back. It’s a cycle of give, give, give, take, feel guilty about taking, compensate by giving even more, cry, repeat. It may be a frustratingly cliché sentiment, but I feel like one of those “Take one!” signs posted on a lamppost with eight uneven strips of paper to rip off. Only now, I’m all out of strips to offer.
For so long, I was somehow entirely enveloped in but curiously detached from the people I used to know. I fell in and out of relationships with a frightening passivity, and here’s the strangest bit: I really don’t miss any of the people I’ve lost. I may miss memories, but what I’m really missing is that version of myself, not them. (Invariably selfish, remember?) I used to feel guilty about this but now I realize these people never really mattered to me to begin with. It’s surprising how little interesting people are actually interested in. In part, it’s my fault too. I’ve repeatedly made the mistake of searching for something permanent in people that were just hoping for a temporary fix. Maybe they did intend for their time with me to be something permanent but then realized that “interesting” is a meaningless word.
Being an interesting woman is like wielding a weapon, except the wounds always seem to be self-inflicted. To know that you’re interesting is to understand that nothing ever really belongs to you. You spend a lifetime stripping yourself of the things you love so that you can share that love with others—then one day, you’ll stand face to face with the best parts of yourself while being left to lodge the ugliest. Now, I never quite caught the Little Women craze in the way I felt as though I ought to have, but there’s one striking Gerwig-infused line from the recent adaptation that instantly clung to me: “You will be bored of him in two years, but we will be interesting forever.” And I suppose that’s what I’m so afraid of.
By Saffron Maeve