I think I knew who I was in high school. I was "sweet Susie." Anyway, that's what everyone who wrote in the back of my yearbooks said. They always referred to me as being "sweet" and they had known me for almost eleven years, so they should have had an idea of who or what I was. Isn't that true? I don't think most of them knew I was shy back then. I covered it up by the friends I kept, and as long as I was with my friends, I was okay, but if I was left to walk down the main wing of Provo High School by myself, I lost my confidence. Safety in numbers, so I surrounded myself with my wonderful group of friends that kept me from the humiliation of just being myself.
When I married Danny, he was my security blanket, so to speak. I was Danny's wife, and when we went out, he took control of the conversations which was fine with me. I was happy to relinquish the job to him, not thinking that perhaps I might not be coming off as being shy but as being something else all together.
Then along came my seven children, and anyone who knows them can understand that their personalities pretty much out shined their Mom's. But again, I was content to be Susan, Shannon, Daren, Sheree, Mark, Rainee and Haley's mom and let them shine. Still, I didn't think people would think I was anything other than shy, but I was to find out differently.
I had been having my nails done by a gal in Payson for quite some time. Her parents lived not too far from where Danny and I lived. One day she told her mother she needed to hurry home because she had a client coming for a manicure.
"Who's coming?" her mother asked.
"Susie Whiting?" she replied.
"Oh. She's a real bitch isn't she?"
"No!" Lainee replied. "She's very nice."
Lainee laughed when she told me her mother thought I was a bitch. When I asked her what I had done to make her mother think that, Lainee said I had done nothing she could think of; that her mother just didn't know me.
At the same time, my daughter's friend was working at a convenience store in Payson. I pulled in for gas one day when her friend was working and the manager of the store said "Oh here comes the rich bitch." (Referring to me.)
"Who Susie?" Haley's friend asked? "She's not a bitch! (For the record, neither was I rich.)
"Do you know her?" The manager asked Haley's friend?
"Yeah! She's like a second mother to me."
Haley's friend told Haley and Haley told me and I was again faced with the fact that for some reason, people were thinking I was being bitchy, when I really didn't mean to be. The truth was my shyness was shouting out one thing when I felt an entirely different thing. That has been about twenty years ago and I haven't changed and there are probably people out in the world who think I'm a bitch when I am still just shy. My shyness has kept me from wanting to participate in a lot of things.
So I was driving over to my daughter's a few weeks ago. The drive took a while and it gave me enough time to chastise myself. I'm seventy years old. Perhaps being shy shouldn't be an excuse any longer to not get out and get going. I could go to the senior citizen center and learn line dancing. I could take some writing classes. I could take some art classes. I love the law, I could go to BYU and take some of the law classes they offer senior citizens. By the time I reached Susan's I had gone over a myriad of ideas I could involve myself in and by the time I drove into her yard, I had reached another conclusion. I didn't want to do any of them. I'm content to do none of them. But then I felt guilty for feeling that way.
I went in and laid down on Rainee's bed and waited for her to come, the whole time thrashing myself for letting me get the best of myself. Rainee came in and crawled up beside me. "What's the matter, Mom." she asked. And I told her.
"Are you fu*!ing kidding me!" She said. "I can't believe you! Okay, so the fact is you are socially inept. That's a given. So you are not comfortable going out and being around a bunch of strangers at this point in your life. Fine! You've always been that way. For almost fifty years, you took care of dad. You were there for him day and night and you were there for Daren day and night. And you've been there for some of the others of us who have needed you pretty much constantly. You did dad's books for him for forty-five years. You took us to singing lessons, dancing lessons, karate lessons, swimming lessons, ski lessons. Then, you were the pitch hitter for twenty-five grand kids. You were there when we needed you to run them to school, or pick them up when they were sick. You went to every school play or performance they were in along with all the pageants some of us put our girls in. You went to their soccer games, baseball games...you name it you were there. And now you're telling me you feel guilty because you want to rest? You've got to be fu*!ing kidding me."
I told her to stop saying the F word and we went out to see what we were having for dinner. I felt her put her arm around me and I knew I was okay. I might not be all I could have been, but I've been all I should have been...wife, mom, and grandmother. I will just keep trying to prove people wrong. I will try not to be the bitch they might think I am.