The Prompt: Tell us about a time when you felt out of place.
A few quick anecdotes.
When I started graduate school at Pitt in the School of Social Work, the other students in the Community Organizing track included about a half-dozen fresh from college folks in their early 20s. There was another half-dozen or so “non-traditional” students in their 40s and 50s, many of whom were married with children. I was 28, so right smack in the middle. Two other male students were around my age. That’s it. For the most part, it wasn’t a big deal but I remember on our first day – we were getting a tour and I had been walking with a few of the younger students sort of just there, not really contributing to the conversation. As we walked up the steps, I drifted back to the older group whom I remember discussing child rearing. I literally bounced back and forth for about 30 minutes. Bother conversations were slightly interesting, but I had nothing to contribute. And yet each time I bounced, the group would notice I was no longer there and ask me where I had gone. The next two years were like this – everyone was nice and many of them were super interesting, but very busy. So I never felt a bond.
A few years later, I was “out” because I had fallen for someone. That never worked out, so I was in search of friends. One evening a friend and I went to a “lesbianish” bar in the East End. I felt very awkward because while I liked beer, I always froze when it came time to go to the literal bar and get served. I also probably looked like a chubby little deer in the headlights. My friend was even more shy than me so we basically stood there drinking a beer and praying for some miraculous intervention in the form of a new friend. It didnt’ t happen. Of course, it didn’t happen. And I realized I was only going to meet people if I literally went places to meet people, not gawk at them. So I made a New Year’s Resolution in 2003 to try one new lesbian oriented activity each month.
And that leads to my final anecdote. In February, my activity was to attend an Eastern European dance evening that apparently was happy to welcome lesbians. It was about 10 minutes from my home. I showed up, paid my fee and tried to initiate conversations with the few people I knew. That didn’t go well. When the dancing started, my whole table rose up to join in, leaving me with one woman I knew very casually. I was just about to ask her to dance when she got up and left the table without a word. I was mortified so I went home and cried on my couch while watching Lifetime movies for the rest of the evening.
But I did attend something in March. And April. And May. And in June, I attended a Women’s Discussion group where I met Ledcat.
I like being around talkative, outgoing people because I am so shy and anxious. Stop laughing. Put me in a bar and I feel like a complete numskull. I have a big thing about having a defined space – a place, if you refer back to the prompt. I am perfectly happy to go to a bar and have a table and a seat and then I’m good. But to have to wander around and avoid running into people and so forth, that’s my idea of hell.