I once dated a guy who came from the black upper class. Initially, I didn't like him, but he pursued me through food, which I couldn't resist because food is the shit. He was the kind of gentleman that I'd only heard old women talk about: holding doors, insisting that he buy my ice cream even when I offered otherwise... Months later, I discovered that everything he told me about himself was true: he was a superficial asshole who valued others' perceptions, and therefore needed a girlfriend who looked good on paper and in photographs to fulfill his upper class black image.
I was naive. Not because I thought I could be the arm candy of a self-appointed black aristocrat and be happy. I was naive because I thought he was joking. I didn't believe that his type of person existed in the real world. I thought those people were the subjects of made up stories; D-list movies starring Whoopie Goldberg and Danny Glover. It was surreal to me that I would have actually found myself in the world of someone who truly viewed impression management as a way of life...at least a way of public life...because behind closed doors, he was insecure and boring.
And then he became jealous. In my attempts to show him that he had nothing to worry about: I wore costumes on stage all the time... I took pictures all the time... my performance steeze was top notch...he became jealous of me! I demonstrated to him that it was nothing for me to put on a dress, talk intelligently in heels and garner the adoration of everyone at the Christmas party. That all the things other girls worked really hard to convince people they were... you know, smart and interesting...well, that was child's play to me. I even had a formula for working a room: compliment the men and flirt with the women. Everyone was disarmed and looking forward to seeing me again. Playing dress up was fun! However, in my clever performance, I overshot his expectations. Being charming was background noise, but I still was better at it than he was. So he did everything he could to deflate my colorful balloons. And I believed him because I thought he knew something I didn't know. I was in search for the meaning of life and I thought he had answers. He was mean to me and I allowed it because I had no identity. My sense of self-worth was wrapped up in the mean things he said about me.
I came to my senses 5 months in when he broke a date with me for the 3rd time. It was as good a time as any to break loose from that mess, so I did. Turned out it was easier to break away from him than it was to break away from the damage to my sense of self.
And I learned things: never judge a person based on what I believe is possible. People are all kinds. When they tell me who they are, I believe them. I'd say that experiencing and accepting that lesson was one of the best decisions I made in life.
The other lesson, which was slower in coming, was that nobody knows anything that I don't know, especially not about me. In this life, I'd rather have irrationally high confidence than low self-esteem and it's all up to me which I choose.