I have a respectable vocabulary. Recently a good friend IM’d to ask about my use of the verb “enroach”. She’d noticed I used it similarly to her understanding of the word “encroach”. And her opinion of my vocabulary is seemingly such that she’d assumed – this is the adorable part – I had knowledge of some more specific use of the term, not that I’d just been pronouncing the word incorrectly (the issue was complicated by the fact that a Google search of my “word” indicates others make the same mistake). Oh well. Even though I swear to God I’ve never heard “encroach” before, I’m one to admit that it’s me, not the whole world, that’s crazy, and I plan to practice the correct term and use it forthwith. (P.S. I still like “enroach” better.)
Anyway, it’s rare in conversation that I don’t know, or can’t infer correctly, the meaning of any word thrown at me. But the first time I heard the expression “pariah” in casual conversation a few years ago at school I had no fricken idea what to do with it. It was also kind of a stand-alone statement that I couldn’t use context to sort out. It was said by an “older” university student (probably mid-thirties) who was feeling bitter and cast-out from our smallish cadre of engineering dorks (most of us in our very early 20s) working on group projects. I had to look it up later and I was surprised to find out what it meant. I didn’t think of her as an outcast, but her reference made me reconsider her character more carefully, and I realized she acted the part. And, apparently, decided it was the group that made this decision for her.
Completely sidestepping as to why a married, mid-thirties woman with a perfectly lovely family and decent grade-point-average would want to run with a few frat boys and math nerds who still did laundry at their parents’ homes, I do find the subject of “outcast” to be a rather interesting one. Recently I observed two separate incidents of women who, I have reason to believe, consider themselves on the fringe of the larger group(s) of Mamas that run around these parts. And when I say “fringe”, I don’t mean in a I-dress-sexier-than-other-Mamas-and-that-makes-me-so-different smug/(secretly insecure) inner monologue or any other kind of positive and/or self-enacted policy – I mean in a misunderstood, often unwelcome, and “it’s everyone who doesn’t like me” way. In these incidents I watched these women come into a social situation and basically crawl into a corner with their respective children rather than boisterously (or even openly) saying “Hi!” to any women already at the gathering.
Although I have no particular grudge against either of these women (I have been annoyed by each of them precisely once and twice, respectively; I have discarded my annoyance[s] as petty and have not treated these ladies poorly since, if ever at all), they both did not approach or make eye contact with me in any way. Because, you know, apparently I, Kelly Hogaboom, am part of the larger “group” of we’re-too-good-for-you bitches at the gathering. For about ten minutes I wrangled my child and shot a friendly eye toward one woman; finally, I approached her and made conversation. Easy as pie. For me, anyway.
Going further along the path of projection and interpretation (and firmly miring me in the series of “That wasn’t me you were talking about, was it?” emails and behind-my-back speculations this blog often earns me) I have to wonder what kind of person would rather feel shunned than know she has the right to gather where the rest of the group does; what kind of person would operate under the firm delusion that she has more social wounds than the rest of us (unless I’m missing some horrible conspiracy aimed at these women and occurring unnoticed right under my nose); what kind of person is so sure that the bad feelings they retain couldn’t possibly harbor any room for simple, if microscopically tragic, misunderstanding[s].
I can’t remember the last time I indulged myself in feeling left out. Now, I could wait a few minutes for some humiliating incident to flood my memory banks, but instead I’ll just continue to write on the point I’m all fired up about. When it comes down to it, I think it’s a choice to give in to the role of pariah. Sure, we all feel like the stand-out at times – the “sole single mother in the group”, the “only woman not invited to So-and-So’s party”, the one with “the unfortunate case of ass-herpes everyone knows about”, etc. I have often been the youngest; sometimes I find myself the most foul-mouthed or the most opinionated (honestly, though, those are hardly traits that sum me up; I can also be quite genteel and even tuck my boobs into my clothing when social decorum requires it) and yes, there have been parties I wasn’t invited to (the whole facade of being afraid to mention a party, in case someone in the group wasn’t invited, is a bunch of self-fulfilling Queen Bee hurt feelings setup bullshit that I’ll have to rant about some other time). But honestly, when it comes down to it? I’m an outcast if either A. “the group” commits some horrid, consistent, Carrie-like cruelty toward me, or B. I decide to feel like I am.
And as bitchy and weird as this little town can get, I haven’t seen anyone suffer any prom victimization ala bucket o’ pig blood. At least, not any time recently.
As for me? I’m going to march right up to you and say “Hi”. If I don’t, it’s because my kids are giving me hell or some other unrelated issue. Not because I hate you. Just so you know. And count on me to directly confront you if anything changes.