Monday, May 30, 2016

The real danger lies in absenteeism

The first time I wasn't invited to a slumber party I was crushed. I thought it was the end of days and the idea of showing my face in class again was too much to bear. I was a woman scorned. Shamed. Pariah.

My mother picked me up after school and I wept in the front seat. I poured my heart out to her that all of my friends were going to Mary Ellen's house for a sleepover. Except me. 

"And.. (sniff)... they were all.. (whimper).. talking about it... (choke).. at recess.. (full meltdown)."

Mary Ellen had a pool, so I was certain that meant swimming, pizza and tons of girlie gossip. About me. Because I wouldn't be there. Because that's what happens when you're not there. Forget stuffing bras in the freezer, ouji boards, or sticking someone's hand in warm water when they fall asleep. The real danger lies in absenteeism.

My mind raced with all the secrets I had shared with the girls who would be there. Hadn't we giggled at Suzy's bad hair cut? Were there not whispers over the phone about Patty accidentally flashing her underwear in P.E.? Moments of social awkwardness that could ruin a girl! And all discussed behind someone's back.

And now it was my turn in the hot seat. I just knew it.

What would it be? Where would they paint the target? My frizzy hair? The gap in my teeth? Maybe I smelled and no one was telling me. Or maybe I was just an insufferable loser and they were all done with me.

That settled it. I would have to transfer. I hoped I would be able to make new friends wherever I ended up. My parents would be annoyed at the upheaval but they would understand the need to escape my stigma.

I'm sure there was a legitimate reason why I wasn't on the guest list. After all, I had been there before. But none came to my tear-drowned brain.

In the end, the world kept turning. All my friends who attended the premier sleepover soirĂ©e of the season were still my gal pals on Monday.

I only wish I could remember how I coped with a tragedy of such epic proportions.

In hindsight, I think the waterworks came from a place of fear. Fear of being the odd man out, fear of being left behind, fear of being forgotten.

Those struggles were real at nine. They're real at almost 39 when you find yourself on the outside looking in.

My friend Krista dispensed the best advice today when I texted that the search for my place in Memphis and in life was taking longer than I thought: 

"You don't have to find a place. Create your own place. Invite people into your place."

I assume she dropped the mic immediately after hitting send.