I learned to laugh at myself a very long time ago. I was in an all-girls boarding school and the only thing I was known for was a sharp brain. I was the brightest kid, a good actress in school plays, an excellent speaker at elocution competitions and debates. I wasn’t pretty and when a boy from a neighbouring school did like me, everyone laughed and said there must have been a mistake. I laughed too. I agreed. There was a prettier, popular girl in my class who liked this guy and he knew it. No one could understand how he could like me instead. I couldn’t either.
I was never popular when I was growing up. I was a geeky nerd who could be counted on to help others prepare for their exams because I was always already prepared. We had these little cliques in our class. Three, to be exact. I wasn’t a part of any of them. So there was a small side-clique of the unpopular ones. The truth is I wasn’t really a part of that either. You can’t make everyone happy but I always wanted to get along with everyone. Even now, if there is someone I am not on good terms with, it bothers me. I simply have to get along with everyone, or else something is wrong with the world.
You end up being flexible and respecting other people’s opinions. You have your own and they’re strong, but you don’t undermine another’s or trivialise them. You state your convictions, beliefs and ideologies, but make room for those of other people too. You learn how invaluable different perspectives are.
All my friends thought my mother was beautiful. She really is. They always wondered how it was possible that such a beautiful woman could have a daughter like me. “Your mother’s so gorgeous and look at you!” they’d say. “How come?” they’d ask. “I don’t know,” I’d reply. I never wondered. My mother was beautiful, I was not. It was a fact of life. They made fun of me and I laughed with them.
When everyone laughs at you, you learn to laugh at yourself. I don’t know if that becomes your defense mechanism, but it doesn’t help you learn to retaliate. It doesn’t teach you how to laugh at someone else or how to make fun of them. It doesn’t help you fight back or argue well. It does make you reach a point where you feel backed into a corner. Then when you do say something they call you “uptight” and claim you can’t take a goddamned joke. So, again, you take a deep breath, crack a smile and let out a chuckle.