Fat Lip and Cages

I started the book Untamed by Glennon Doyle yesterday. I was listening to it while driving to a chiropractor appointment in the next town over, and the early chapters are already hitting home. Literally in like…the second?…chapter she talks about the cages we choose: sexuality, religion, career, place to live. The cages we’re forced into deciding before we even know ourselves.

Which got me thinking…

Then this morning, in a typical angsty morning, I was listening to 2000s alternative/rock, and “Fat Lip” came on. As I was singing along with Deryck and the other Sum 41 boys, I realized it’s the same idea as Glennon’s cages. “I don’t wanna waste my time, become another casualty of society. I’ll never fall in line, become another victim of the conformity.”

Except I did.

And it got me thinking….

I chose my cages. I fell in line. I chose a safe, reliable, steady life that sometimes makes me feel so goddamn restless I cry.

My cages have been college, marriage, motherhood, teaching, being a “good” daughter (whatever that means). Toeing the line. I gave up all sense of individualism years ago, and when I dared try to find it again-pink hair my senior year of high school, blue the summer I was 20, two tattoos, etc.-people try and push me back to my cage.

“Aren’t you going to be a teacher?” “Aren’t you a mom?” “How will anyhow take you seriously if you dye your hair unnatural colors?” “Who’s going to hire an English teacher who swears and has visible tattoos.”

I’m tired of being caged. I’m tired of conforming to keep other people comfortable. I’m tired of defining myself by the cages I chose, and having them weaponized against me when I search for a more authentic life.

But more than that, I’m angry. I’m angry that when I have chosen a cage that didn’t fit in the zoo I’m surrounded by, I feel punished. For example. I live in small town South Dakota. Almost every one I know is a conservative Republican. Or, in the case of my mom, a conservative Independent. While I am registered as an Independent, I am so painfully liberal. I would change my party if I weren’t afraid of backlash. Seriously. So…I chose a cage, right? Because a political party is another cage or conformity of some sort, but I feel the need to hide it because, “How can you be from Murdo and be liberal?!” “How can you be from a Red State and believe what you believe?!” My brother uses liberal and Democrat like swear words…

And I’ve spent the last….well ten for sure, but likely closer to 20, toeing the lines made for me. I have tried so hard in the last ten years to be a “good daughter” and “good daughter-in-law” to bite my tongue, listen to advice, nod along, not make waves.

Long gone is the little girl on the playground who didn’t back down from confrontation. Who hated the fact that kids called her “Temper Girl” but knew she wasn’t going to get fucked with because she wouldn’t allow it.

At first the boxes were societal in terms of teenage years. I wanted to fit in, so I did. I gave up on some of my things, to fit into others. I played sports because that’s what you did. I let my friend group convince me it would make me “easy” to sleep with a boy I was dating and thought I loved if we hadn’t been together for six months. (Slept with him in a one night stand a couple years later…making me much more slutty?). Let others define me: Caylee is the sassy one. Caylee is the dramatic one. Caylee is the one who runs her mouth.

But now at thirty, I’m trying to define myself, instead of letting people do it for me. Because, the thing is. I don’t feel like their labels are accurate anymore. From the family ones that call me the dramatic cousin, or the not levelheaded sibling; to the friend forged ones that got me labeled a bitch.

One, I’m not that person anymore. But, maybe more importantly, two, I’m not sure I ever was.

If I hadn’t let people help me build my cages–because I have to acknowledge I let them, I was too afraid of people not liking me, or being on the outside to stand up for myself–what would have happened? Would I be more self assured? Would I be more confident in myself and my decisions?

I don’t know the answer to that…but I do know that I’m going to be the “goddamn cheetah” I’m supposed to be.

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