I can feel it in my bones. I'm gonna spend my whole life alone. It's fuck and run. -Liz Phair, from her classic Fuck and Run.
We all seek some sense of belonging. No man is an island or so they say. But that doesn't mean we all do feel a part of things. Increasingly more and more folks feel alienated by or even estranged from the human race. I fall into this misanthropic category.
In the Fall of '73 I was a freshman in high school. They had a pep rally to fire up the student body about an upcoming football game against our crosstown rivals. Students flocked to the gymnasium. Cheerleaders and athletes exhorted everyone to come out and support the team. There was much hooping and hollering. We ducked out the back to loll around the parking lot, smoking. Roger said, "I guess this means we're the outcasts."
I joined no clubs. I participated in zero activities. Because I was a star soccer player the football coach offered me a tryout to be the placekicker. Despite the opportunity to bag cheerleader babes, I declined. One of my biggest regrets was blowing off the prom. You only get one chance to do that.
Always we felt like it was us, the outsiders, against them. We were hungry dogs peering through a frosty ski lodge window at them, warmed by the fire and their own conviviality. For me this disconnected feeling continued through college and well into adult life.
For six years of college I pretty much kept to myself. When I would go to parties I felt invisible yet unwelcome nonetheless---like a fart. I joined no frats, attended no games. Everyone else seemed to be having the time of their lives, oblivious to those of who most decidedly were not.
I used to have a photo that summed it up. About ten drunks all have their arms around one anothers' necks, holding up drinks and joints to the camera with huge grins plastered across their faces. Off to the side is Roger and I, grimacing, hands in out pockets.
My wife and I were active in Cub Scouts. We were Den Leaders. There was a shortage of volunteers so we kind of got enlisted as a condition of our kid being in the troop. All the while it was the same cliquey thing. We were never really part of the group, which only made us compete all the more firecely in the inter-Den competitions. More often than not we'd win.
To this day I feel this way, particularly at work. There are those who are connected and thus going places and those who aren't. I guess every job has those workers who organize employee clubs and arrange morale-boosting events that boost no one's morale. These are people who claim to love their jobs. They don't mind endlessly tedious meetings, viewing them as a chance to network and further their careers. Same goes for so-called "team-building exercises." They use terms like "QA" or "FYI" or yes, "network" as verbs. They make those " air quotation marks" with their fingers. They socialize with one another after work. They actually believe corporate "mission statements." In many cases they wrote them.
These are the folks who think it is important enough to hold class reunions that they will take time from their busy lives to actually organize them.
I don't know why but I've always resented these perky, organized people. They are gregarious. They keep in touch with old friends and send boastful Christmas cards. They lead clean lives. They balance their checkbooks. They have retirement and college funds. They are blind to the vague nuances and seeming ambiguity that plagues the rest of us. They are up on things. They are mainstream. They are of this world. They are popular pep rally people. And I hate them all.
I suppose that is as good a way as any to divide the human race: those in the rollicking gymnasium and those misanthropes hanging out in the parking lot at age 14. And thus shall it remain regardless of what lofty professional, academic or even societal level one might attain. Might as well get used to that fact early on.
You are who you are.
It's unfortunate that my school was small enough that it was almost impossible to make it to the parking lot without being noticed. In a way, it lodged me into that space between the two groups you describe. A limbo where you don't fit with any group. Is it hard for you to be productive while hating most the world? Apathy is a lot like atrophy — the longer you have it, the longer it takes to get over it. I'm glad you found a relationship that isn't ruined by your division of the human race. It always seems to take its tole on mine.
As for the prom: I went to mine, twice. It wasn't really worth it either time. I wish I had all the $$$ I spent on it back.
by MrBlank at September 21, 2004 1:51 PM
Yeah but you've got those memories instead of a void.
As for the two groups, you must understand that "being cool" was very important then. Things like pep rallies and clubs weren't considered "cool." So lots of us shunned those things and I think we're the worse for it. But lots of people continued to do traditional stuff like that. It's the same way the Sixties are now romanticized like everyone was dropping acid, balling each other and going to protests. Actually most people weren't. They were mortified and scared bu all of that.
And no my blind hatred actually makes me more competitive and thus productive. It's like a chip on your shoulder.
by anna at September 21, 2004 5:53 PM
For what it's worth, today I encountered another one of those irritating things these people do at work: Say, "The [insert name of company bigwig they don't know personally + an s] of this world will tell you that..." God I hate that. Are there other particularly grating catch phrases out there?
by anna at September 22, 2004 6:38 PM
I had a male co-worker, who was eventually a good friend of mine, who couldn't stop using the phrase "bang it out." Every time a project or task needed to get done, he'd say, "Let's just bang it out real quick," "We can bang it out," or "I'll go ahead and bang it out." Funny thing was, the more we all (except for him) noticed it, the more annoyed us. Now we laugh about it, of course.
by jean at September 23, 2004 8:25 PM
To me that sounds vaguely dirty. The guy is lucky they didn't counsel him about Potentially Offensive Language.
by anna at September 24, 2004 7:44 AM
Oh totally. After a while you'd start getting a mental image of him "banging it out" with someone every time he said "bang it out," and it was all wrong.
by jean at September 25, 2004 3:43 AM