The white flag goes up…

November 12, 2009

in therapy in session

Remember the tagline of my blog? These posts are supposed to be my therapy sessions. Ranting about the demise of Thanksgiving and gloating about making shotgun Christmas ornament is not very healing. The following is one of my therapy sessions. I am getting on the coach now. You have been forewarned…

I am not quite sure about the whole Twitter and the blogging thing any more. First I have the follower counts to obsess about. Then I agonize over how few of the @’s I have been getting. Now there are the LISTS that scream “Popularity Contest” more than ever. The same with this blogging thing. I installed the WordPress Blog Stats plug-in. Now I get to watch the pot boil.

Don’t worry. I am not going to whine. Honest. Cross my heart and hope to die. There is actually a funny story I want to share with you. I want to explain why I am scared to death of popularity contest. Literally. Anxiety attack type of reactions. Chest closing down on me. Disorientation. Hard to breath kind of thing.

As soon as I sense that something is in essence a popularity contest, I never bother trying. I just give up. I am scared to death of popularity contest. I am also scared to death when I have friends. When people take a liking to me.

In short, I am afraid to disappoint.

I am not a shrink, but my guess is that you would be scared of popularity contest if you went through fourth grade through sixth grade with NOBODY in your class speaking to you. The entire three years… Silence. As if you were not even there.

No violin in the background. I will save you the drama and just list the facts:

  1. I was one of the popular kids in my class from first grade to third grade. I remember that because I remember being one of the first ones to be chosen whenever a game demanded such cruel device of pitching innocent children against each other.
  2. One day, out of the blue, during fourth grade, I noticed that nobody in my class would talk to me. They willfully ignored me. I was suddenly invisible to them.
  3. Since all the kids stayed in the same class throughout the remaining grades, this silent treatment lasted till I graduated from grade school.
  4. I thought about running away from home because my mother would not believe me. I was unable to convince my parents to transfer me to a different class or school.
  5. I started thinking about suicide early on because I had no idea how to end THAT. Please don’t be alarmed: When you believe in reincarnation, the thoughts of suicide do not carry the heavy concept of sin and ending.
  6. This childhood experience affects what I do, think, say from that point on.
  7. I still have nightmares about THAT.

This is actually a funny story. Well, what happened AFTER the grade school is. As the years went by, I would see some of my tormentors classmates in the senior high school we went to. Apparently there was going to be a class reunion the year we entered college.  “You are like the ugly duckling turning into a swan now.” Code for: you cleaned up good. Mind you: we all went to same-sex senior high schools so the person that said this to me was female. Would you like to go?

Of course, as needing therapy as I am, I went. I was curious. I wanted answers. I of course also wanted to show that I turned out ok. Despite everything. Somehow I also managed to charm.

On the long bus ride home, the man-child sitting next to me was very obviously smitten. I have been wondering for six years why they all treated me like shit, actually, worse than that, like NOTHING, back then, but I was also lucid enough to have guessed that probably nobody else remembered THAT but me. I took my one chance and gingerly brought THAT up.

“Do you remember when in grade school, none of you talked to me for three years?”

“Huh. Oh. Yeah. You still remember THAT?”

I proceeded to describe in simple terms how it felt to be me in those years. I was looking out the window when I spoke. The last thing I wanted to see was the expression that proved my suspicion that none of my sufferings were real to anybody else, that I might as well have imagined them. Soon I heard sobbing. I turned and saw tears streaming down his cheeks. Then came the Confession of the Century that I was not expecting:

“It was ME!”


“It was me that told everybody to stop talking to you.”

Then I remembered that we were best buddies in the third grade. I recalled watching him hogging the Pacman machine until the store owner came out to give him his coin back. I even recalled going to his house and playing with him and his younger brother, and his mother saying, “Come back again soon!”

“… why?”

“Hmm. I guess because I liked you.” More sobbing. “I am so sorry. I didn’t know it was so difficult for you.”

“There. There. It’s ok. I am ok now.” I ended up having to console him.

The truth of course was: I was not ok.

Later, through college years, he wrote me several love letters. I did open them but could never bring myself to read them.

Hi. My name is L. I am forty years old and I still have nightmares about my friends not talking to me. In my nightmares we are all still 10 years old.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Absence Alternatives November 15, 2009 at 7:06 am

@ Jane
Thanks for listening in. At first I was worried I might be sharing too much. Than from the few comments I got here, I realized that what I considered to be an “extraordinary” childhood may be “normal” after all. Growing up is tough. Sometimes I try to remind myself that when the kids are struggling themselves.


Jane November 14, 2009 at 7:12 pm

I like listening in on your therapy sessions. They make me feel normal. I, too, was an ugly duckling. Even my mother, while looking at some pictures of me taken in middle school said, “I’d forgotten how homely you were!” My own mother!
.-= Jane´s last blog…An Artist I’m Not – But He Is =-.


Absence Alternatives November 14, 2009 at 7:21 am

@ Stacey
Hi there! *blushing* what you said about my tweets… Many thanks. Thank you for stopping by. I hope this reply finds its way back to you. Yes, it is a constant battle and reminder. I also believe such experiences make us more attuned to the feelings of the others, and sometimes I wonder whether there is something good out of this for me: it did shape me into the person I am today. Thank YOU for sharing your story.


Absence Alternatives November 14, 2009 at 7:07 am

@ Robin
Dear Robin, I am sorry that you went through similar childhood experiences. I am conflicted in that I am a trusting person by nature yet on some days I will be this ultra cynical person. I am like Two Face in Batman. You know what? I DO worry about my kids’ social life I believe more than what normal dictates. I don’t want them to have to go through what I went through, I also don’t want them to grow up and become mean people. I try to teach them to not to succumb to peer pressures. But you can guess how easy that’s going to be…


Stacey November 13, 2009 at 10:20 am

I have enjoyed your tweets for a long time but this is the first time I have seen your blog. And somehow I landed upon this particular posting.

I can totally relate. I had a similar experience in school (5th grade thru high school). I too can feel it’s still there in the back somewhere. I don’t want it to be but it is. Somehow it feels I’m still giving them the power even though I’m sure it’s long forgotten by everyone else.

But I also had a turn of events as you did with the boy on the bus. Except mine came in the form of a Facebook friend request 25 years later. Stunned (and ignored) the FB request did little to heal.

Thanks for sharing your story.


Robin November 13, 2009 at 9:58 am

That is quite a story! Wow! I was treated in a similar way all throughout school, different schools and different people.It still does bother me, I’ve moved on but it’s still in there, deep down inside. I have trouble trusting friends because of it and always will. Because of all that it’s one of the reasons I will most likely never have children.
.-= Robin´s last blog…Seriously =-.


Absence Alternatives November 13, 2009 at 1:17 am

@ Falling
It was/is complicated, conflicted, contradictory and very confusing. Not a cop out, but truly, all of the above. Plus one: I was also disgusted with myself – why did I let “small things” like that bother me for so long? And also, later, why did I not slap him silly to get even? After so many years, I no longer feel anger. I just really really want to be truly OK. I want to be “free to be you and me”, I want to not worry about what other people think of me. I want to not feel the pull/push to run away whenever I am on the verge of making good friends. Does this make any sense at all?


Falling November 13, 2009 at 12:44 am

Wow. What a crazy story.

I’m curious, as one ugly ducking to another: how did you feel after the reunion? A sense of triumph? Or disgust with your former classmates? Or still terrified?
.-= Falling´s last blog…Giving the People (or, um Person) What They Want =-.


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