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June 2016



June 13, 2016
“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
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.