Until I was 15, I thought that Feminism was something that ended in the 60s. I'm quite serious. I was flabbergasted in 2002 when 17 year old Sarah Michaels told me she was a Feminist. It made no sense to me. But, as I've always been curious, I immediately looked into it and started questioning, looking at the world around me with different eyes; and of course, I found my role models from a distance: Ani DiFranco, Marge Piercy, Adrienne Rich. It was exciting to me that people could hold views unlike the ones I'd usually seen around my suburban neighborhood, and experience worldly lives completely different from the isolated Midwest ideal I was in. I started questioning my faith, my judgment, and my style. With faith, I stopped displaying my Christianity like a badge that separated me from all the teenagers who just didn't get how much I loved God. I realized that that wasn't really fair, and still, I replaced church with my new-found sense of political emancipation and enlightenment. My judgment of my peers turned from "how moral are you?" to "how liberal are you?" When I turned 18, I dreadlocked my hair. Paisley skirts abounded. I fervently preached the gospel of Feminism and Neo-Hippy 101to fellow college freshmen.
Like anyone who gets wrapped up in ideology as a distraction from their own broken sense of self, I put on a parade where all the pretty floats covered up nasty, moldy mechanical skeletons. Just as in church I had evangelized and judged and never lived or believed anything Christ-like in my heart, I took Feminism and liberal politics and wore them as a mask to please, judge and impress others. It never even occurred to me that the way I behaved personally within my relationships to those I loved, my friends, family and myself might be in conflict with those ideals I touted so fully. I convinced myself that I liked masculine things I actually didn't and denied liking any feminine things I actually liked because I did not want my peers to think I was girly. I was femmephobic and obsessed with everyone knowing that I was unique in every single way. No, every single way, goddammit. I wanted to be a superhero. Both adored and anonymous, intriguing, odd, and surprising at every turn. I needed to be great at everything, while being altruistic and accepting of everyone. When I did something even slightly wrong, the guilt consumed me. I still time-travel back to most of the small shameful things I have done and wonder how anyone I know could look at me and not think I'm a monster (hint: because they might have healthier senses of others). I am easily embarrassed by my naiveté and clumsiness. It's because the committee in my head sees them as revelations of my humanity, the part of humanity that is not kind or loving but messy and unknowing. And the committee in my head did not want that.