They Don’t Really Want ME There

by Ginger on October 15, 2012

in Becoming Myself, Blogging & Social Media

So, lemme tell you all a story.

When I was…uh, I don’t know exactly. The later years of elementary school, that age range (like 4th or 5th grade we’ll say). Anyway, when I was that age, my school had a “dance.” Which was, in retrospect, totally laughable, the idea of having a dance for elementary school kids. But such was the case, and lo, we were all atwitter about it.

Now, I wasn’t a POPULAR kid, but I don’t think I was a total and complete outcast either. I had friends to play jump rope with during lunch, and to do Miss Mary Mack clapping games with during recess. Not many, but enough to keep me occupied.

So when a little boy in my grade asked me if I would go to the dance WITH him (even though that wasn’t really a thing that was happening with too many of us), I was ecstatic and not one little bit skeptical. I thought it was fun, and sweet, and was nervous but excited.

Turns out, I should have been a little more wary, because two days later, that same little boy stood with his friends & pointed & laughed and said “Oh, I was JOKING. WHY would I go with you???” And then they laughed, and laughed, and laughed.

Oh.

Ha.

Ha.

WAHHHHH.

Guys, I’m freaking 33 years old, and I can still picture that day on the playground like it was yesterday. I can see that little boy (though I can’t remember his name, not surprising since I can’t remember ANYONE’S name) & his friends and the GLEE with which they laughed at me. I can still remember the cold/hot feeling that washed over me, dripping from my head down to my feet, as I felt shame & embarrassment & felt like throwing up from the hurt of it. I will never forget the feeling of being considered a JOKE to someone else.

The worst part, though, is that that ONE event has had lasting ramifications in my life. When I am invited to events or to join people on something, I generally have to fight my feelings that I’m not really wanted–that I’m only being asked out of obligation. It isn’t unusual for me to, to this day, think people are inviting me to things as a joke. I have been known to turn around on my way to an event because, “eh, they don’t really want me there.”

This, by the way, sucks.

But here’s the thing. I refuse to live my entire life this way, because when I think of all the amazing experiences I’ve had when I’ve pushed past those fears, I know that I am not willing to miss out on things on the OFF chance that grown people are going to act like a 4th grade boy from my past.

Some of my favorite things that blogging, twitter, the internet & the social groups I’ve found through all that jazz have given me are opportunities to be a joiner, even when it makes me uncomfortable. I’ve gotten to meet amazing people, do amazing things, have fantastically amazing experiences because I’ve pushed past the fear that “they don’t REALLY want ME there.”

The truth is, maybe they don’t always. Maybe the invitation went out widely & they weren’t expecting/hoping for me to come. Maybe I’m going to be the outsider.

But MAYBE, even if all that is true, maybe I’ll still find something amazing when I go/do/meet/play. Maybe I’ll find a kindred spirit who ALSO feels like the outcast. Maybe I’ll charm people who didn’t expect to be charmed by me. And maybe, even if none of that happens, maybe I’ll still have a good time.

It’s really hard for me to be a joiner. It’s really hard for me to accept invitations, to believe that people want ME to be a part of their circles/fun times/inside jokes.

But every time I’ve done it? Every time I’ve pushed past that hesitation and fear, I’ve gotten something amazing.

Even if it’s just one more little chink out of the wall of mistrust that a little boy helped me build so many years ago.

Michelle October 15, 2012 at 12:30 pm

I CONSTANTLY feel this way. I am constantly convincing myself that I’m only a part of something out of obligation, or that the people there don’t really want me there, but put up with me for some other reason. I’ve always felt this way, as well, and it’s most definitely a result of some experiences in 4th-6th grade.

I always feel awesome when I do push myself a little out of my comfort zone (Blathering, anyone?), but I regularly hear that voice saying “you don’t really fit here.” “They just only tolerate you.” “You’re the weird friend of the more popular person and you just aren’t that interesting.”

Anyway. I’m 29 years old. You’d think I’d be over this by now. But this shit sticks with me like it’s on with gorilla glue.

Stephanie M October 15, 2012 at 12:35 pm

I’m glad you’re pushing past, because I probably wouldn’t have met you otherwise. I was so happy you met me for lunch that day, I can’t wait to hang out in NOLA and Arizona, and I’m glad to have an internet friend who IS close enough I can hang out if we need a ladies day.

Erin October 15, 2012 at 1:24 pm

I totally get this feeling. 100% get it.

For the record, I always want you there!

TechyDad October 15, 2012 at 1:44 pm

I can totally sympathize. I was bullied so much in high school that I thought that anyone who was laughing *MUST* be laughing at me. To this day, I feel completely uncomfortable and out of place at a social event if there isn’t someone there I know. I push past this feeling, but it stays there. I’m 37 now. You’d think High School Me would have faded away after I went to college, graduated, got a job, turned it into a successful career, got married, and had 2 kids. It hasn’t, though.

I’ve learned to deal with it in my day-to-day life, but when things go non-day-to-day (for example, blog conferences), I feel like any second I’m going to say something stupid and the entire room will turn and laugh at me.

Jesabes October 15, 2012 at 2:16 pm

I hate that this feeling gets worse once I get there (initially, at least). Everyone at the Blathering is SO nice and inclusive, but still, when I’m not talking to anyone I always get the feeling no one WANTS to talk to me. It does help to realize almost everyone is feeling just as insecure.

Doing My Best October 15, 2012 at 2:40 pm

That is so terrible! I’m so sorry that happened to you =(.

I give you my word of honor that I did not invite you to join the CDP Exchange out of any sense of obligation =)! You seem like a Lovely Person, and I thought you would make an excellent addition to this exchange =)!

Charleen October 15, 2012 at 2:44 pm

That’s really great. I’m glad you’re able to get past something that happened so long ago (or at least try to) and, more often than not, have a good time.

Unfortunately most of my experiences tend to go the other way. I pretty much always feel like I don’t belong, unless I’m with my close group of friends… in which, admittedly, I started out as the outsider, so I’m not saying it NEVER works out for me. It’s just the risk/benefit ratio leads me to take fewer and fewer of those risks.

Luckily, since that close group of friends is three hours away, I’ve become slightly more comfortable with my husband’s work friends here. But I still get that feeling that, even if they don’t necessarily wish I wouldn’t come, they still wouldn’t care if I stayed home.

clara October 15, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Hugs, Ginger.

Oh I feel this. With my own kids, I am always telling them: you never know what will hurt someone. You never know what that person will remember about you. Don’t be the asshole. Don’t Be The Asshole. *Except I don’t say asshole. Because they are still small.

Carrie October 15, 2012 at 4:43 pm

It’s amazing how much we really are made up of our past experiences. I have several experiences from my past that I know helped shape how I feel and think in the present (both positive and negative). Great post also because bullying is such an important topic these days.

Thanks for sharing.

Jamie October 15, 2012 at 6:23 pm

This totally brought up a memory I had almost forgotten about. In Middle school, 6th grade, a guy asked me out, and we dated for a period of 2 weeks. He faked the entire thing so his group of friends and him could just record him breaking up with me over the phone and then play it to each other the next day… yea, damn cruel.

I was so grateful for high school… the middle school years were really hard on me.

Keely October 15, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Okay. So. The EXACT SAME THING happened to me in 7th grade- except, oddly, the kid asked to borrow a quarter. At lunch recess that day, he and his friends stood around and chucked quarters at me, laughing hysterically.

It was the strangest thing ever. Yes, I cried, but I was also REALLY confused.

I feel ya.

Jess @ Wrangling Chaos October 16, 2012 at 3:41 am

Middle school was it for me. Ruined me for years.

Until the last couple of years, where I realized I don’t actually care. I mean, I care about those closest to me, but other random people? Yeah. Not really. It’s sort of liberating.

Christa the BabbyMama October 16, 2012 at 6:02 am

I feel that sense of chipping away at the wall whenever I do something that scares me – which sometimes these days feels like a lot, even when it’s just extending myself professionally. I love it, even though it’s scary. So way to go!!

TechyDad October 16, 2012 at 6:05 am

@Jess,

Interesting you should mention that. I’ve noticed that too. I don’t care what random people think of me. If I’m out and about, I’m not worrying what other people I don’t really know are thinking about my kids’ behavior. They might be judging me as a parent, but I don’t even notice.

My wife, on the other hand, never went through the bullying I went through and she does care. She seems constantly worried that someone is judging her or the kids. It puzzles me why she would care, especially when it comes to people that she a) doesn’t know or b) doesn’t like. Does anyone else see that with their spouses who weren’t bullied in school?

Ashley Austrew October 16, 2012 at 8:13 am

I love this. I think blogging has been a serious exercise in pushing past my own boundaries, and I’m grateful for it. I wonder if that kid (now man) ever thinks back on that event. I hope he realizes what a jackass he was. And yes, I just called a 4th grader a jackass. lol

Maggie October 16, 2012 at 9:36 am

Oh Ginger my heart hurts for 4th or 5th grade you! I am so sorry that happened to you. I hope somewhere that boy is all grown up and wishing there was a way to apologize. I am SO glad you’ll be in New Orleans!

oilandgarlic October 16, 2012 at 10:53 am

It’s unnerving to me how past childhood/jr high/high school events can stay with us through adulthood. I am truly worried how it will affect my kids when they are old enough for school because they could be scarred for life! Even if you’re not bullied, there’s usually some embarrassing/asshole situation that stays with you. I have a few that comes to mind but luckily I have a strange ability to forget or repress bad memories!

oilandgarlic October 16, 2012 at 10:56 am

Oh, just chiming in to Jess/Techy Dad’s comment, I also don’t care as much as most people I know about what other’s think. I wonder if that has to do with feeling like an outcast during junior high/high school years! It’s very liberating though and I’m glad that I don’t care.

I do wonder why people hold onto those past memories so much though. One thing that helped me get over it is that later in life I made friends with all kinds of people from former popular kids to unpopular/outcast kids. That past just doesn’t seem to matter.

Trina October 16, 2012 at 12:24 pm

My heart also hurts for the inner 4th/5th grader in you. That was incredibly cruel, and my bet is this cruel boy went on to get his karma later in life. Just remember how truely wonderful you are and get out there. Yeah it’s uncomfortable at outings with new people, but I get past it thinking they might be uncomfortable too, so why not just go for it?

Classic NYer October 17, 2012 at 6:45 pm

Kids can be so evil…

What’s worse is that he probably DID want to go with you, but then turned it into a joke so he could feel macho around his little friends.

Hope October 22, 2012 at 7:43 pm

Ugh. I am so bad at that little boy on your behalf!

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