Social studies

So right after I started going to a new school in fourth grade, a kid I was talking to at recess said, in a very matter-of-fact tone, “You’ve probably figured out that nobody likes <girl>.”

I hadn’t, actually.

She seemed like a nice girl, and everyone seemed to be nice to her. There weren’t any obvious signs indicating her social standing – at least, that I could see. But then, I’ve always been pretty much socially oblivious; I generally don’t know people are even dating until they announce their engagement, and I’m always surprised to find that person X is friends with person Y (and that these groups of people actually get together and do stuff). If there’s a person that nobody likes, I usually have no clue. If there’s a person that everybody likes, I usually have no clue. During party postmortems or after church, when friends start talking about who was talking to/flirting with/standing entirely too close to/snubbing whom, I’m generally surprised to find out that any of these things were transpiring at all, much less right in front of me. Life in a singles ward is about as private as a fishbowl, but I’m still completely unaware of most of what’s going on socially. This astonishing cluelessness feels unusual to the point of downright odd.

It does have its benefits – I don’t get stuck listening to gossip (something I really, really, passionately hate), for example. And it provided a way to navigate those awkward wallflower years from ages 10 – 32 and counting; at some point in my excruciatingly shy teens or early 20s (a time when I referred to myself as a social maggot [I was no butterfly!]), I decided that trying to fit in was useless and I started pre-defensively just going off and doing my own thing, regardless of what everyone else was doing. But one reason I don’t notice what’s going on is that I still do this – and it’s still just as much a defense mechanism as ever. When I have to do what everyone else is doing, I start fretting over what I think/fear people think of me so much that I can’t really pay attention to anyone else.

But. Maybe if I overcame this self-absorption I’d not only start noticing social phenomena but also stop worrying so much about my own notoriety.


4 thoughts on “Social studies

  1. Well, with your height, you certainly fit in with my family much better than I do (though you’d still have to suffer through being a runt if we did trade families – my little baby sister is taller than you). 🙂

    When I moved to Boston five and a half years ago, I had a roommate who would come home from church and immediately start a commentary on who was wearing/doing what – and heaven help you if you wore the same thing two weeks in a row, if you were even slightly overweight, or if you talked to a guy she was interested in. (I became paranoid that everyone was like that, which made for some difficult times during that first year.) So gossip and nemeses do still exist – though to be fair, I don’t think most people here are like that. I’ve been truly blessed to find friends who don’t talk about anyone unless they have something nice to say, and I’ve done my best to hang around with these people instead of the more critical ones.

  2. And I would’ve never pegged you as shy or awkward back in high school. (of course, our social circle was just at the stake activities since we lived an hour or so apart). I always thought you were totally cool and that I was pretty cool since I hung out with ya at the activities. I was a bit shy and awkward in my school setting (well, not really shy, just a bit awkard), but not at church activities. I always felt like I was in my element with friends in the church–stake dances, youth conferences, girls camp, etc. I always felt like I was cool and “popular” at church things–in part cause we were friends and I don’t remember ever dealing with gossip or the other silliness you mentioned with my friends in the stake then. What are your memories of stake activities in junior high and high school?

  3. Natalie, it’s funny that you say that, because I always felt like the shy weirdo. Stake stuff was better than school because of people like you and Lisa, but even that was hard sometimes – I felt like all the other girls were so much more pretty and popular, and no boys except Randy ever asked me to dance. Then after I dyed my hair right before my senior year of high school, I felt like everyone thought I was this problem child – which I guess I was, but it wasn’t *all* my fault! (One of the YW leaders in my ward really did treat me pretty badly, I had two nemeses in my ward who were both more popular [especially with guys] than I was, I was DEFINITELY not in the “in crowd” at school, my parents and I weren’t getting along at all, and my struggles weren’t exactly secret among the members of the Pine Bluff or Little Rock 1 wards…) All those things made me feel like everyone thought I was terrible. So my memories of my teenage years unfortunately aren’t so great.

    That said, though, you were always a very good friend, and I did look forward to stake activities. At those, at least, I felt like I had friends. It was kind of funny – I felt like most groups were ward-based, but we were kind of a pick-up group with one or two members from various wards in the stake (and Conway – I remember you having a great conversation with a totally cute boy whose name was something like Jaren [he had a brother named Ryan]). I guess we “fringe” people find each other more easily than I realized. 🙂

  4. Well, I definitely never thought of you as the “shy weirdo.” I thought you were pretty darn cool and felt like I was pretty cool to be friends with ya! I knew you had struggles in high school and wish I could’ve been there for ya, but being an hour away and not really knowing any details. . .by the way, I think I remember you dying your hair and liking that you were willing to go against the grain. That was one of the things I liked most about ya. And, yeah, Jaren was the first guy I was really interested in who was interested back. We wrote for a long time and got together at stake activities (back when they had the bi-stake things–before I was 16 and could’ve actually gone on a date. By the time I was 16 we weren’t in touch anymore. The bi-stake activities fizzled. I remember those being the most fun!

    And, as for Randy being the only guy who asked you to dance, I had a huge crush on him for while!! So, I was always quite happy when he asked me to dance. 🙂

    This is fun, making me a bit nastalgic. . .

    Hey is there anyone on this blog to have comments on a particular post emailed to me that way I don’t have to go back and check the post to see if you responded to something I said (like I did with this one)? On you said mark a email replies box when you post a comment. . .

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