We All Commit Silent Acts of Identity Theft by Samantha Friedman

I've been a thief most of my life. You have too. Not in the traditional sense of swiping money or clothes, but snagging intangible things like the popular girl in high school’s handwriting. I was drawn to the way she wrote lowercase 'a’s,' how she curved her's's,' and how she dotted her 'i’s. There was a slant to her writing, even in its messiness, that I felt like I just had to have. It wouldn’t be easy to steal her loops and lines, but I convinced myself that it was essential to embark on anyway.

So, soon I became a producer of said counterfeit calligraphy, a literary chameleon of sorts. My notes were in a constant state of complete and utter chaos with no reason, semblance, or cohesion before I eyed hers. My pages all looked like they belonged to a different person, while hers clearly and distinguishably belonged to her, even if her name wasn’t on the page. I couldn’t understand why my writing looked so different. I’m not sure why it mattered to me, but at the time, it felt like poaching her strokes would unlock the artistry that eluded me.

So, I'd go home after school and practice writing my name in her borrowed handwriting. I’d use my chunky black expo markers on a giant whiteboard, erasing and rewriting until my words somewhat resembled hers, but not really. In class, I’d study her gel pen as it effortlessly glided between the lines on her notebook paper in perfect alignment. However, when I tried to emulate it, my words dipped above the line, clashing with words above it, creating a sea of scribbles.

Before I saw her notes, I hadn’t put any thought into my handwriting at all. It was out of necessity. I wrote things down because I needed to remember them. It was a means to an end. That “end” was passing a test. It was after seeing her notes that I saw the possibility of what my own could look like. Every highlighter color she used had a different reason for being, and she kept a key on the top of each page detailing the story of their origins, while my upper margins were marked with the Superman letter 'S,' flower doodles, and 3D square drawings. All her pages were manicured, while mine were half missing, ripped out, and dog-eared to hold pieces of chewed gum.

While she used underlines, asterisks, and italicized headings to denote important sections, I used the smearing ink from thickly drawn lopsided circles to signal to me what I needed to pay attention to that night. While she used bullet points to list things, I used lengthy sentences with too many commas. While she used arrows to connect ideas, I lost the order of my own train of thought several times on just a single page.

I had an assortment of notebooks with varying designs and colors—some thin compositions, others thick, ruled, and sectioned. To label each for my different classes, I used a black Sharpie on white, thick duct tape. Her binders had a professional feel that mine lacked, with label-printed titles with tab dividers neatly placed inside.

Like a gleaming jewel box, her pencil case shimmered with translucence and iridescence, its compartments carefully organized to hold her belongings: #1 pencils, gel, ballpoint, and glitter pens, neon and pastel highlighters, pencil grips, and erasers shaped like desserts.

My pencils lay on the bottom of my messy backpack and were stubs from oversharpening. Her class materials seemed to narrate a tale of a successful Staples stop—one void of the usual fights my mother and I experienced in aisle 8, deliberating over which folder to purchase.

My fixation with her handwriting continued, and I went on with middle school, trying on others' personality quirks like clothes in a fitting room. I bought tiny gold hoops worn by a friend who seemed more effortlessly put together than I. Growing out my hair, it was long enough to become an accessory like the girl who won the superlative for best hair. Covering up my freckles with bottles of fake smelly spray tan. Saying “sounds good” to plans that, in reality, actually sounded bad.

After some time, trying to emulate her quiet coolness, I finally decided to speak up. On an average Tuesday, I inquired about her collection of school items, and she let me know it was because her mom did all her school shopping and her mom had OCD. I didn’t know what it meant at the time, but I knew I wanted to have that too.

“it took years to learn that mirroring the whims of others wouldn’t fill the voids of my selfhood. “

I couldn’t copy and paste the traits of others as if they were my own. I wanted so desperately to find that “something about me” that I looked everywhere but inside myself to find it. Mimicking others' uniqueness didn’t help me find my own. It made me feel like an imposter, taking a shortcut to self-discovery. It’s through the process of wearing others' characteristics like a second skin that I’ve realized what makes me special can never be found in things I had to outsource. They had to originate from within me.

It’s only ten years later that I recognize that life's true beauty lies in the imperfect strokes of my own pen as I navigate the pages of my own narrative, one truthfully written line at a time.


Meet Samantha

I'm a NYC-based copywriter

Recent articles in BylinePilot Magazine , & Gross Mag 

website portfolio is samantha-friedman.com 

Connect with Samantha on IG @sammyfrieds

1 comment

  • I love this 💕 I was taken aback by the title but really pleased by the write up… Absolutely incredible


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