The In-Crowd

Excerpt from my upcoming book Above the Clouds

~~~

It was fall, 1978 and I was, once again, walking into an unfamiliar school in the middle of the year. I was bombarded with all the same fears I had dealt with so many times before. Will they like me? Will I find a friend? Will the teacher be nice? Will they tease me? Will I be lonely?

After getting my classroom number from the secretary in the front office, I turned toward the indicated hall. The sun coming through the glass doors at the end of the hall blinded me as it reflected off the recently polished floor. The hall was quiet, yet I could hear the murmur of voices from behind closed doors. I could have sworn my echoing footsteps were actually the sound of my heart pounding unsteadily in my chest.

I stopped before the appropriate door and glanced down at the paper to assure myself that I had arrived at the correct place. Trying to calm myself, and stalling for time, I deliberately and carefully folded up the note, “Mr. Peterson room 6,” I stood silently staring at the door. There were no sounds coming from within. I wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or not.

Biting my lip, I made a thorough inspection to verify that every button and zipper were properly clasped. Then I placed my hand upon the cold doorknob and said a little prayer.

“Heavenly Father, if you are listening, please help me be brave.”

The door’s creaking hinges challenged the sound of a gunshot in a silent meadow and, of course, everyone focused on me. Each student had a book before them, explaining the silence and the teacher was hidden behind a stack of papers upon his desk.

“Come in,” said the man as he stood and stretched to his full height, towering over six feet tall. I studied him, trying to deduce if I had found a friend or foe. His thick, wavy brown hair stood haphazardly upon his head as if he had failed to use a brush that morning and his auburn beard and mustache were long and unkempt. I smiled at his belly, thinking of Santa.

Then he said, “I’m Mr. Peterson. You must be Angie. We’ve been waiting for you and saved you a seat right over there.”

He grinned the friendliest smile I had ever seen and I knew I had an ally.

Never having been the class clown or overly outgoing, I had never been part of the “in crowd.” I was quiet, inward and liked to read. That didn’t go over well with kids my age, so I usually stuck to myself and stayed in the background. I was quick to learn who was ‘in’ and who was ‘out’. Which girls copied and which girls were to be copied. I also quickly learned that Mr. Peterson and my guardian angels had set me at the “in crowd” table and they took me under their wings. For the first time in my life, I was the girl that other girls wanted to be with, be like and do for. Yet, I was still able to be friends with everyone. Every day was like a dream come true. I had found my bosom friends. I would run home bursting with tales of “The Gang.” It was the happiest time of my life.

~~~

This morning as I drove to work repeating my new mantra I commit to being open to self-awareness, ease and flow in all areas of my life… I had the thought pop up that I have been spending my entire life trying to fit in with the In-Crowd. Other than the year I spoke about above, I have always been on the outskirts of that crowd. I am not exceedingly ugly, crippled, stupid or boring. I am, however, usually quiet and waiting for others to draw me out, shy upon meeting and have a propensity for introspection and inward-focused activities like reading and writing.

There are reasons for why I am this way and there are reasons for why I have never really fit in anywhere. There are also reasons for why I have chosen, since I was fourteen, to partner with just one person to the exclusion of all others. These reasons are rooted deep in my childhood and are patterns that I am looking to unearth and redo.

I choose to be healthier in my relationships, all relationships – money, health, sexual, spiritual and in the area of my genius. This choice creates an uncomfortability at times as I wiggle my way out of the old and into the new. And, as I do so, I am becoming painfully aware that I still don’t fit in anywhere. I am part of a community that is primarily gay/lesbian, while being heterosexual. In this community of artisans, musicians, deep-thinkers and comedians, I am inward, yet longing to be noticed for who I am. I am in a state that is predominantly Mormon while I am decidedly not. I am quiet in a realm where noise is required to get noticed. I am noisy in places that require quiet. I am excluded where I want to be included and included in things that I would rather not be a part of. I am a singer who cannot really carry a tune and lacks the balls to get in the spotlight and even attempt to belt one out. I am a writer afraid to publish and a teacher without a class. I am a wealthy person without money. I am the “Other Woman” in several non-sexual partnerships. Sadly, I am a misfit in practically every area of my life.

The interesting thing is that even when I am participating in activities that would appear to outsiders as being “In Crowd” activities (i.e., high school drill team, high school dance teams, college dance troupes, professional belly dancing troupes) I was still not included in that crowd. In fact, in high school, I specifically remember being the only girl without a roommate for summer drill camp. The team captain sighed loudly and said in a tone I judged to be the epitome of martyrdom, “I will be Angie’s roommate.”

And while all this could be viewed as me being unique, that is only a softer way of saying you are weird and don’t belong here.

Please note, I am sharing this to out myself. The voice I hear in my head as I write this is calm and introspective, lacking the nasal-tone whining of one who is groveling for attention. These things are my noticings and I am wondering how I turn around this pattern of continually putting myself outside the circle. I am wondering how to become the person who gets invited, who people want to be with, maybe even long to be with. I am wondering how I find the natural knowing of when to stay, when to go, when to switch, when to stand still. I am wondering how to become open to self-awareness, ease and flow in every area of my life…

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2 responses

  1. I think there’s a part of each of us that wants to belong and feel like we’re “in” and with it.When I read your writing, though, it seems to me that you’re beyond that adolescent/20-something stage and into that place where you’re realizing what you want and you’re becoming comfortable in your own skin. (I could be wrong…)Getting to where you’re going is a great feeling. You find you’re okay with who you are and you don’t care as much about what others think of you. At the same time, people start to notice/sense you’re comfortable with yourself and they find themselves gravitating toward you because being around you makes them, on an unconscious level, feel good about themselves.I’m probably projecting and making up sh*t as I go along, but there’s my two cents!

    February 7, 2008 at 6:45 pm

  2. Aw… thank you, Jay. I agree that I am in that transition space between who I was and who I will be. I agree I am there AND I am completely uncomfortable with that space. One day I am certain I will look back and say, “That wasn’t so bad.” Some day soon, I pray.

    February 7, 2008 at 7:04 pm

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