I have never been one of those girls with neat handwriting.
No, mine has always been emphatic but irregular. People told a lot of jokes when I was small about how it meant I was destined to be a doctor, since my scrawl was so illegible.
Penmanship was the first dicey grade I ever got. It was a point of contention in elementary school. My mom would look at my report cards, otherwise a positive experience, and frown when she got to the evaluation of my handwriting.
Always an N- in the evaluative vernacular. Not an E, the highest mark (exceeds grade level). Not an O (I always assumed this meant outstanding or something).
Not even a measly N, which stands for “needs improvement.” But an N-. Just a sliver above U, “unsatisfactory” (performing below grade level).
Looking back at my handwriting — and looking at it now — I was probably deserving of that U grade. And I suspect my teacher didn’t have the heart to give one to me, seeing how well I performed in other areas.
Handwriting became less of a pressing concern right around middle school, when we all took keyboarding classes (and that I did excel at, becoming a very proficient touch typist). But I never quite got past that feeling of being different somehow.
And it would come up again when other girls were writing love notes and there their flowery handwriting would be. Gorgeous. Sumptuous. Seductive.
And my own script was a lot more spiky, inscrutable. Masculine even.
My hair was the same way. It never behaved. And I couldn’t seem to master the “cool girl vibe.” My fashion choices never quite gelled. My early makeup experiments were a disaster. And while other girls could just sit there silently and bat their eyelashes and have suitors descend in droves, I was prone to being loud and silly, saying the wrong thing.
I was this messy, awkward, wild person. And all the older women in my life cluck-clucked at me. It was widely acknowledged that I’d probably be alone for life. That no one would want me romantically. I was to be that “career woman” creature. Well, if I could get my shit together.
For I was also disorganized. And my room, desk, and bookbag were messy.
I was a strange little goblin, and the adults were pessimistic about me from early on.
I Made It Work Somehow, But the Insecurity Persists
It wasn’t always pretty. And I’ve had a wild, colorful life with many ups and downs. But improbably I’ve grown into quite a happy adult. I’ve had a number of fulfilling relationships — and am currently surrounded by incredible people.
I’m a successful businesswoman, somehow. My shit is unorthodox but arguably together. I’m semi-organized (although some aspects look a bit strange to other people).
My handwriting is still terrible. And I feel oddly insecure about it at the weirdest times.
I told my partner the other day that I worry that they’ll leave me for a woman with good handwriting. One of those put-together types, who are the feminine ideal, radiating mystique, beauty, and perfection.
My partner laughed at this. Shrugged. And then they said, “Nah, if anything, your handwriting makes you more mysterious.” Because few people know what it says. (Usually I can, although there has been a rare occasion when even I’m stumped by a whorl.)
And later, they’re showing me a scrap of paper that I used to take notes during a phone call with the veterinarian, and they’re analyzing it like it’s hieroglyphics or something, and I feel a shiver go up my spine. “Look at this mystery,” they say. I feel so loved. So accepted.
I’ll admit that a part of me really wishes I was one of the chosen ones. One of the Girls Who Just Knew How to Be Cool. But failing that, it would seem I’ve done okay for myself. I’ve made it work. And I’ve found the right people to make it work alongside me.
And if that isn’t something to celebrate, I don’t know what is.