“What do you do to relax?”
“So you don’t really have any hobbies, per se?”
“Should I be worried about how ambitious you are?”
“Does that leave time for a boyfriend?”
“Do you ever read for pleasure? Like murder mysteries?”
These are all questions I was asked over the course of the last few days, during several interviews for various post-graduate degrees, summer schools and courses.
I don’t read murder mysteries, and much like horror movies, I have never understood how people enjoy them. Maybe that’s because watching your father beat your mother unconscious scares you enough to last you a lifetime.
But more to the point, I feel cheated. For 15 years, I was pushed by my parents, my teachers, the education system as a whole, to do more, achieve more, aim higher. I was told that if I got perfect grades and took part in suitable extracurriculars, like piano and Spanish class, I would make it into a good university, and if I then maintained straight A’s while completing internships and gaining work experience, I would have a bright future. Job applications and interviews would be easy. Anyone would want me in their company or their classroom. I would never have to worry about money.
To a child who often had to miss birthday parties because we couldn’t afford to buy a present, all of that sounded pretty good. So I upheld my part of the deal. I got the grades. I showed up to the piano lessons, and the Latin classes, and the Spanish classes. I got into a good university, and then a better one. I won the awards, I did the internships and the summer school programs.
Of course, because I’m a woman, I was expected to do all of this while conforming to established beauty standards. So I starved myself, and tried to make myself throw up but couldn’t, and ate my feelings and then went back to starving myself. I forced myself to exercise even though I hated it and I learned how to do make-up so I could make my nose look smaller and my lips look fuller and I read fashion magazines so I would know how to dress.
And now, after years and decades of trying, my applications come across as too dry, too academic, not well-rounded enough. Why don’t I have any interesting hobbies? Don’t I enjoy running labyrinth half-marathons or collecting interwar period cutlery? This extends to my personal life, too – I’m “too stressed”, or I “worry too much”, or I’m “too intimidating” for people to want to be with me. I’m “too hard to keep up with”.
I still get accepted to most things I apply to, so it seems my efforts weren’t wasted entirely. But instead of being congratulated for them like I was led to believe I would be, I’m having to justify myself for not finding the time to shoot clay pigeons, and it’s infuriating. So, for future reference, here’s the honest-to-God truth, on the Internet, for everyone to see, never to be forgotten: in my few precious moments of spare time, I like to lie in bed, eat pizza, watch Gossip Girl or some equally shallow and insubstantial TV show, and daydream about marrying Chuck Bass. I do this about once a week for a couple of hours before going back to being a hopeless overachiever. So sue me.