On My Love for Bistec de Palomilla…and the Things Dating Taught me about the Female Imposter Complex
August 23, 2012 § 6 Comments
I only had to go to La Caridad once to crave it like mad for weeks afterward – bistec de palomilla on my mind night and day like a bad, bad crush.
An LA friend of mine took me there two months ago. She lived in NYC for ten years before she moved to the west coast to start a family with her angeleno boyfriend. He hadn’t wanted to leave the smog and the sun for the chilly east coast. Eight years and two children later, she was back to see her city, and giving me the tour from her days at Columbia. La Caridad was a not so great college boyfriend’s place of choice.
“I wished I’d found it on my own,” she said in passing. “I hate that.”
I resonated with what she was feeling – that twist in your stomach when something you love feels like it doesn’t belong to you.
The stomach twist stopped mattering 15 minutes later. Up to our eyebrows in pan fried steak and garlic, I’m not sure which of us was blessing her ex boyfriend harder – but that food was so.damn.good.
That was the weekend I stopped seeing the talent exec I’d been going out with for two months. Talent exec is half Korean, but he grew up in Japan. And, I’ll probably want to kiss his soft, olive colored skin till my dying day for all the Asian food he introduced me to in my first months in this city. I was on a tight budget and, lo! the land of sashimi and saki shots overflowing into my life with roe on the side. The man spoiled me rotten and gave me quick, hard kisses afterward on the streets of a city I was just beginning to dive into. We didn’t talk for weeks, after we parted ways, but I broke the silence to text him the night I couldn’t remember the name of my favorite Malaysian dish.
I recognized my own imposter complex – that stomach twist – the first time I walked into a liquor store he’d taken me to on Washington Street where he’d introduced me to Innis & Gunn. I was craving one hard, and felt devastated when I ended up standing staring at an empty rack of the beer talent exec had introduced me to.
“I have a guy who buys me out of those every week,” the clerk said apologetically.
“What a bastard,” I mumbled.
“Excuse me ma’am?”
“Nothing dude, I know your guy – Asian dude? Square glasses? Sneakers and white v-necks every day of the week?”
“Yeah! That’s my dude!”
I asked him to recommend me a similar beer, and walked out cursing the monopolies affluent men were introducing into my formerly free and open market of good brews. Damn my budget.
Free market or no, I haven’t gone back to Washington Street since. Mostly because I couldn’t help but feel that I was cheating somehow, as if the liquor store on Washington Street was talent exec’s, and I was an imposter trying to take back my right to cask brewed goodness that had belonged to him in the first place.
Jesus, I’m crazy.
I’m crazy, but I thank God for my dating life every day of the week because it teaches me so damn much about business. And talent exec’s brew monopoly was just what I needed to meet my business imposter complex face to face this week.
I don’t need to tell you that, regardless of who found the restaurant or the brew first, fried steak and booze belong to the masses. That little girl yelling on your shoulder – the one screaming in your ear that you don’t belong in the room? She’s just a dopamine down gone wrong.
That little girl starts in your dating life, but she’ll follow you into business and academia before you blink twice. And she’s not so easy to dismiss, in those worlds. I have a friend that went to Columbia, worked in finance for several years in New York, moved into social work in East Africa because she was bored with finance, and still wakes up sweating, fifteen years later, afraid someone finally figured out that she didn’t deserve to graduate from an Ivy League school.
I spent my childhood terrified I would never make it into college. I just knew that my home school background wouldn’t count, after all, and imagined myself at thirty, finally graduating from high school after starting back in kindergarten at 18 – the result of 12 years of education gone wrong.
I guess we all have it. My entrepreneurial coach says so. She tells me the smartest, most educated woman in the world has an imposter complex in pigtails, screaming from her shoulder that she doesn’t belong where she’s standing – she got there the wrong way, someone who didn’t know the rules let her in the door, you know?
I worry every day of my life that my entire enterprise is a joke because I still work part time as a nanny to pay my bills and live in New York. It’s a Thursday, today, and I’m freshly sunburnt from spending the day at the Jersey shore jumping over crashing wave after crashing wave with a five year old who was screaming and laughing so hard his sides hurt.
I told his mom I feel inferior in the business world on a regular basis. “I’m always fighting to catch up,” I said. “I feel like I’m always learning on a curve. I missed writing. That’s something I feel good at. I missed feeling good at things.”
She looked at her son, digging a trench beside me, and almost as sandy from it as I was.
“You’re a really good nanny,” she said. “You should feel good at that too.”
My first thought was, “that doesn’t count.”
My second thought was, “my writing doesn’t count either.”
Nannying doesn’t count because I only do it in order to bootstrap. My column doesn’t count because you can’t be an unpaid columnist and still be a columnist. Also, can you be a legitimate businesswoman if you’re sending emails to East Africa in between warming milk in the microwave and trying to get the cheese it hand prints off your pants?
I can discount my entire life before I know it. There I am, back at age 8, worried I’m never getting into college, and they’re going to find me and take me and all the other dumb girls to jail, you know – the one where they put all the girls who pretended to be smart and run their own businesses and write their own columns?
That little girl on my shoulder has got to go.
I let go of her opinion yesterday, jumping over wave after wave after white crested wave with a five year old. Every time I jumped, I told that little girl on my shoulder that she was wrong. I told her it was a Wednesday, and I was at the beach because my hours at the beach, this week, are about to pay my iPhone business for a social enterprise I run out of East Africa. I told her it was a Wednesday, and I gotten up at six in order to get a solid hour of writing in before we left for the beach because I’m a columnist writing about issues I care about in the world’s greatest city.
“I’m for real. I’m for real. I’m for real,” I said with each crashing wave, with each jump, with each sandy kick up of the little boy’s legs beside me, all tangled and falling in the water and laughing beside me.
This afternoon I sat down at my desk to start working on responding to emails from import specialists that came in this morning. It wasn’t long before the girl on my shoulder was screaming that I’m an imposter, and if these people only knew all the things I didn’t know, they wouldn’t be speaking to me.
She’s a pusher, you know. She doesn’t shut up easily.
I let her talk, today, and I kept working anyways. Because, regardless of how she feels, I run a business and there are things to be done – especially since nobody more qualified has stepped in to take it from me yet.
Several hours of work later, I’m thinking it might be time for Innis & Gunn. Because, I’m not sure if you know this, but I’m Scottish. And, Innis & Gunn?
It’s a Scottish beer.
It’s a beer my people brew that beautiful, olive skinned Asian boys enjoy sharing when Scottish girls like me move to New York and have yet to discover it. But, there it is, no matter how we stumble on it – the fruit of our homeland, brewed in great, big Scottish caskets and brought to New Jersey for Scottish girls like me to enjoy after stressful days of bootstrapping in New York City.
Oh and, in case you’re worried?
They let me in to college just fine.