Back when I used to sell sex toys for a living…
Wait, let me back up a little bit. I grew up in small town Louisiana. I was a cheerleader and in the band; my mom was a teacher at my high school, and the school was small enough that I knew everyone. I guess I was “popular” but I never felt like it. I never really felt like I fit in with any group. And as I’ve gotten older, that hasn’t really changed much.
This fall, my oldest son started middle school and his middle school counselors talk a lot about this being the age of “finding their tribe.” This has become a really interesting concept to me, because while I know it’s a big deal for adolescents and pre-adolescents, this is something that people of all ages struggle with, including myself.
There’s a lot of stuff out there about how healthy it is to find your tribe. Having a community to call your own, knowing you have loved ones around you who have your back, is invaluable. There’s even research that shows it can increase your lifespan. But there’s a tricky side to it too—that need to be loved, to fit in with a certain community, can lead to a multitude of unhealthy behaviors. Whether it’s about young people having sex so they feel they’ll fit in with their peers, or an addict that starts using again because she needs to feel loved by a partner that is using, or cheating on your diet because all of your friends are indulging in that magnificent cheesecake. We all do things to fit in sometimes; they’re hard to avoid because of the strong need to be part of a tribe.
For some people, that tribe comes in the form of family. But what happens when that is not the case? For some of us, fitting in with family is just not going to happen. In my family, I am truly the maverick. Liberal, feminist, tattooed, divorced, sexually-liberated city girl from a small town, very conservative, very traditional family.
Now, I get that being the rebel of a family is not an experience unique to me. But this is the time of year when it all really hits home. The holidays are a time of joy and love, stress and anxiety. I cannot spend BOTH Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family watching Fox News 24/7. So years ago, my ex-husband and I held Thanksgiving in Austin, and his parents decided to join us. We continued this tradition even after we split up, because we wanted to continue being a family for our kids. And this has mostly worked. But not this year. For reasons that I don’t want to go into, I will not be going to his place this year, and I’m left wondering about my tribe. Who is my tribe, exactly? Do I even have one?
I’ve always felt like I lived on a separate island of some kind. Too traditional for this group, not traditional enough for this other group. But people around me always appear to have a community to call their own. Why couldn’t I make that happen for me?
So, back to when I used to sell sex toys for a living. I think this is the time that I started to realize that not really fitting in wasn’t such a bad thing. While it was a bit out there to be selling suburban moms sex toys at house parties, I was a lot more conservative looking than the folks who worked in sex shops. And I guess it made a perfect fit for both, because those suburban women bought a lot of vibrators and dildos from me.
Maybe all those people around me who appear to fit right in with a certain community or group are really just thinking the same thing that I am. Maybe I am just comparing my insides with other people’s outsides. While I only see the shiny exterior of others, I’m way too familiar with my own insecurities, fears, and doubts. Maybe “finding our tribe” means finding a group of people with whom we can truly be ourselves, instead of about fitting into some preexisting mold. I don’t belong to a group that has a label, but I have an amazing group of folks who love and support me. Someone who took me in for the night when my husband told me he was leaving. Someone who laid with me on her office floor when I was freaking out and regretting unhealthy decisions. Someone who brought me to shoot zombies at Dave & Buster’s when I needed to blow off some steam. Someone who answers the call for a karaoke night pretty much anytime I’m in the need. And so much more! I really do have a tribe!
I may not be hanging with my tribe for Thanksgiving this year, but I know that I have them and for that, I am grateful. I think I’ll spend this as just another Thursday in November, sleeping off a hangover, lounging in yoga pants all day and creating a peaceful place for myself in my home. And I’m ok with that. Because I’m starting to truly accept myself for all of my non-fitting-in qualities.