Sunday, September 16, 2007

Long term effects

DD mentioned in a recent post how she was always the last one picked for teams through her school years.

Me too.

And as I was reading her post I was thinking about how my status in the social hierarchy during my early teen years has affected me through the rest of my life.

As a kid I was not particularly athletic, nor particularly popular. I had my friends, but we were definitely not the cool crowd - in fact, I often joke that I was a 'band geek'. I did go to music camp. My life was about academics, band, chorus, orchestra, small ensemble, and my friends who were mostly into the same things.

I was quite shy. An introvert. I moved to a new school when I was in third grade, and the teachers called my parents in; I wasn't playing with the other children during recess, but rather reading books.

I always wanted so desperately to fit in, to be cool, to be liked. Not to be laughed at. I was a late bloomer, and often got teased about it. In sixth grade I was standing next to the trash bin and one of the boys used me to bank a crumpled piece of paper off to 'score'. And then made a lovely joke about how I was flat enough to be a backboard. I got teased for my shoes - I had the velcro kind with cartoon characters on them, even in sixth grade. Never wore those again.

I didn't drink or go to parties, wasn't sexually active until late in high school. All of which meant that I was on the outside looking in. Another incident that will always stay with me was Halloween of sophomore year of high school; my little group of friends got together at my house, dressed up and went trick or treating. Of course we happened to go to the house of one of our classmates who was having a party - the laughter when he opened the door and saw us was particularly cruel.

I got used to being an observer. Wanting desperately to participate, but afraid to do so. Used to being left out, overlooked, picked last.

That feeling has stayed with me well into my adult years. I'm a lot less shy, have become athletic, have taken on plenty of leadership positions, and am well-liked in any group situation I'm in, I still have the fears of being left behind and laughed at.

Case in point - when I went to NYC to meet up with the two ladies I had met on the HA board. They have each flown cross-country to visit the other, so clearly know each other much better than I do. As we walked from the park where we had met up for lunch back to the trump towers for the babies' naps, I was totally anticipating them walking side by side, conversing with each other while I walked behind trying despearately to be part of it. To my surprise and pleasure, my fears were totally unfounded. Sometimes the three of us wuold talk, sometimes, me and L, or me and S, or S and L, but I didn't feel like a third wheel as I was totally expecting to.

Then this week I was at an offsite for work (my first nights away from Ant!). We had some unexpected free time on Wednesday afternoon, so a group of the 'cool' kids was going out for a drink. I asked them to wait for me while I ran up to my room, came back down anticipating that they would have left without me - but they were still there. Then we had a nice time, during which I was completely included in the conversation, and even some of the jokes and teasing that inevitably goes on in those situations.

So clearly I am not the social pariah that I once was, and most other people have grown out of the cliques of the high school era. But the innermost little girl in me is still so afraid!

How about you? Do you have any similar demons from middle and high school? If you were one of the popular crowd back then, do you have a different viewpoint on things, both then and now?


Jenn said...

I was lucky in that the high school I went to was kind of small and not very clique-y. There were definitely groups that hung together, but not to the exclusion of others. I had my close friends but got along with pretty much every one. I've never cared a hell of a lot what people thought of me and that's only gotten stronger as I've gotten older.

DD said...

When you mentioned the two HA friends, that reminde me of my trip to Minn to see Jitters and Alexa. They see each other off and on and I've only met Alexa once and Jitters never. I intentionally sat at the table so that Alexa and Jitters could be across from each other, physically placing myself outside. It was easier to do it on my own terms then to find myself outside by either of their actions.

It's funny (not in the ha-ha) way how our adolecent years really do seem to be the core of our adult activities. I want so much for my son to fit in, to be athletic, to be popular because it sucks the other way, no matter how nicely you try to make "individuality" look good.

Thalia said...

UK schools don't seem to be quite as bad on this front. I was definitely unathletic but I wasn't unpopular - I always had friends - but I wasn't secure in my friendships. things got a lot better when I went to university so i think I've been more confident in my friendships since.

T said...

My high school was HUGE and there were tons of popular cliques. I think I might have wanted to 'fit in'in junior high because I moved to a new city and wanted friends - I remember that clearly, but then I realized the popular kids were assholes, so wasn't interested. I hung out with the punks and anarchists - I enjoyed the nonconformist.

Funny though because I started a job about 6 years ago with a bunch of youngish people who used to go for "wings and beer" and I never went - I wasn't interested. Then I joined the softball team and became the popular person - not only on the team, but at the office and it was nice, but only half of them were assholes (and you knew that the assholes were the popular ones at school - based on looks alone).

But yeah - it definitely sticks with you. I'm going to have to think more about this - thanks Nico.

Bon said...

i was one of those people whom you'd probably have gotten along with - i had friends, but wasn't popular, per se. i was completely uncomfortable around guys, unless i thought of them as "only friends," and wasn't sexually active - or perceived as attractive - in high school at all. i was one of those who bloomed in university, where the geeks began to rise to the top a little more.

the leftover high school feelings of insecurity left me, for the most part, until i moved back to my hometown at 33. and started running into people who'd snubbed me in grade 8 at the grocery store. man, that was weird. i would see them and freeze, and feel this sense of complete inadequacy, and then give my head a shake...and either say hi or just walk on by. but it was a really strange flashback feeling for someone who'd seen herself as a sociable, well-liked extravert for many years.