Wednesday, May 18, 2005

"Unclean, unclean!"

Otherwise titled "Isn't it time you talked to your doctor about Social Leprocy?"

So I was back in Iowa for a whirlwind trip from last Friday to this Monday, and while there I had myself my very own Degrassi-like flash back.

The company Brent works for flies all of the national division back to Des Moines every spring for training and a banquet. This year, as it's Weitz 150 anniversary, they decided to go all out and invited some other nearby divisions to the festivities, so it was an abnormally large crowd.

Here's the scene:

Now imagine if you will, walking into prom (because seriously, that's what it looked like, a high school prom, only the youngest people there were in their early 20's.), knowing only a handful of the 500(-ish) people there, and not particularly caring for that particular handful of people because you* have nothing in common with them outside of work.

You are not particularly fond of crowds and have several theories for this:
1. Even with the best and brightest, the mob mentality is not escapable. Therefore, as crowd size increases, the collective IQ levels plummet. It's an inverse proportion thing.
2. Though you got really good at hiding it over the years, you're naturally a rather shy person. (Shhh...don't tell. I think I've managed to con quite a few people on this one.) But that shyness has been coming out more because:
A. You married a person even shier than you are
B. You are currently living in a situation that you feel at times requires either a passport, or a translator, or sometimes both.
C. You suck at small talk, especially with the particular group present at this shindig because you don't care about celebrity break-ups, don't watch reality TV, don't drink for the sole purpose of getting drunk and don't know enough about construction to participate in shop-talk. Now if you found a kindred soul who liked running, listened to NPR, loved the outdoors or would at least smile, nod and pretend to look interested about any of these topics, that would be a different story.
But, in any case you* don't generally go for this sort of thing.

The company wanted everyone to look schnazzy, so they required the men to wear jackets, which therefore encouraged the majority of the wives to go shopping for something sparkly. Luckily, as there are a few female employees who didn't feel like going for glitter, you don't stand out too much, yet you still feel underdressed. However, your tomboy tendencies have put you in this situation many a time before, so you can deal.

You* wander around the crowd at cocktail hour, looking for a few familiar faces, eventually find them, and wear out all possibilities of conversation topics within five minutes. As the conversation dies, the little group starts wandering off in different directions, trying to avoid awkward pauses that lead to even the even more awkward activity of just staring at each other.

Then it comes time to find a table for dinner. You walk up to a table that contains one of the few people that you know and like. But his wife informs you* in a very snippy tone, "That seat is taken." Alright, you* didn't know, and he's been with the company for a long time and seems to know everyone, so it's not surprising that the seat in question is reserved for someone that both he and his wife have known longer, but that doesn't mean his wife has to be a bitch about it. But whatever.

You* have another friend who's also been in the company longer, and meet up with her and a crowd heading for a different table. But then you* notice the number of heads doesn't match up with the numbers of chairs -- there's too many people for a table. You* just keep walking.

This is hardly The Scarlet Letter or The Witch from Blackbird Pond. You haven't been shunned and forced to wear a big red letter on your chest or branded and run out of town, but you still kind of feel like you should be walking around shouting "Unclean!" like the (apparent) social leper you are.

In the mass of people, you* can't find anyone else, and by this point, just don't even care. You* head to the back corner, and survey the chaos from a distance trying to decide if you* want to join a table of strangers or just want to sit by yourself*. Everyone is getting settled and the salads are coming out, and you realize you are physically exhausted from several consecutive nights of screwed up sleep catching up to you and therefore have a major headache coming on. If you sit down, you realize that you're likely to be falling asleep in your salad. Plus, when you're this tired, you have a tendency to talk in your sleep, which would just prove the whole social leper theory.

You* just don't care anymore. You make a beeline for the door, kick off the evil dress shoes that you can't walk in, even though they are flats, and head back to the hotel through the skywalk. Back in your* room, you stumble around getting ready for bed and are fast asleep by 7:30 on a Saturday night and are out for a good twelve hours.

You muse (but are notably not amused) that this was a lot like an episode of Degrassi Junior High (thank you Mr. Hatch, wherever you may be) -- it was just a bunch of cliques. It's the well-defined circle of old friends that doesn't make room for two more. There are the in-groups, the sub-groups and even the out-groups. There are all sorts of categories, but you* don't seem to fit into any of them.

You feel like the new kid at school again. You've been there before. And once, you were even told, point-blank, by a particularly nasty breed of mean girls, "We don't want you hanging out with our group." (not anyone in Osky, just in case you were wondering.) At times, it really sucked. But it eventually got better, and in the end, you had a really great group of friends.

When you were new to Oskaloosa, didn't sit alone at the lunch table. You sat by whoever you were in line next to, and made an effort to get to know new people, even if the boy across from you did kick you under the table (and you kicked back, even though Cory Van Der Wal wasn't exactly a shrimp even as a sixth grader). And if you weren't so damn tired, you probably would have picked a random table and claimed two empty chairs and at least given the whole being social thing a shot. But that night it just wasn't worth the effort.

I hope this isn't coming across all whiny and Drama Queen-ish (I tend to get cranky when overly tired, can you tell?). I guess the point I really wanted to get across is as simple as this:

I was, and still are, lucky to have you all as friends, so a big thanks to all of you.

So there. A very long story to get to a very simple point.

edit: Next time I post, it won't be so heavy. I promise. Especially since I just realized I not only sound completely melodramatic, but also like a complete dork. Buy me a pocket protector and book me on Ricki Lake.

*You; meaning you, as in yourself, and your spouse. (Which is just two people. And now I'm beginning to confuse myself. Do I need to do a diagram? Or how about a Power Point?)


Blogger Rebecca said...

all together now....."awwwwwwwww!" now we can all break into that girl scout song about making new friends but keeping the old (one is silver and the other, gold....although that doesn't really seem very nice to the new, and apprently inferior, friends)

don't worry, dana, i think we've all been there. why do people keep requiring their employees to go to parties like that when everyone (except the ones who've been there for 40 years) just feels awkward? or maybe dana and i are just social recluses. :)

4:28 PM  

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