Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Socially Unacceptable

Today I'm fulfilling the promise I made last Saturday to post the next section of one of the chapters of my new book that I introduced HERE This chapter is titled "Socially Unacceptable" and first deals with the fun of social groups in high school. Here is the next section....

People may grow up, but they don’t really grow up, and it seems we are destined to play these silly little social games until the day we die. The way we play them just becomes more subtle and harder to figure out.

I realized that one day when my oldest daughter was lamenting the fact that her best friend had suddenly qualified for the Popular group, while she was still relegated to something closer to Outcast. Overnight it had become socially unacceptable for said friend to associate with Anjanette. I was in the middle of my Mommy Speech 112, telling her to buck up, that this, too, shall pass, when I realized it wouldn’t.

It certainly hadn’t for me. And I think my brother-in-law summed it up aptly one day when we were looking at homes in a “tony” part of town. I mentioned one that I particularly liked and he said, “You can’t buy this house. You wouldn’t fit in.”

I looked at the woman jogging past in her designer track suit – she wasn’t even breaking a sweat in the 90 plus temperatures – and realized he was right. My blue jean cut offs and penchant for doing my own yard work would not make it in this neighborhood.

I amended my talk to Anjanette that day and told her that nothing was going to change. “So you can either learn to thumb your nose at them or figure out how to operate within the system.”

Later, I would tell a variation of that sermon to each of our kids, and it is interesting to see how they have chosen to respond. Some of them followed in my footsteps and opted out of the social games, while playing just enough to be successful in their careers.

Luckily, they figured out the subtle nuances of social interaction quicker than I did.

Nuance number one: People don’t always mean what they say.

Gosh. I always thought they did. I do, so I figured everyone else did, too, as evidenced by the time I dropped in at my neighbor’s for coffee. This was when I first moved to Texas and I had just met this neighbor. As I left after our first meeting she said, “Y’all come back, now, ya hear.”

So I did. A week later I was lonely for friends in Michigan, so I decided to visit my new friend down the street. I rang her doorbell and when she answered her expression clearly indicated that she did not expect “drop by” company. To her credit, she was gracious and invited me in, but the chill could have cooled a small stadium.

Nuance number two: People can smile and treat you like a dear friend while secretly wishing you would drop off the edge of the earth.

I won’t even go into how I learned that fact. Suffice it to say, I did. But I haven’t learned how to do it myself and I’m sure there are times it would come in handy. Like the time I tried to work on a PTA fundraiser with the woman who had reported David to the principal for pushing her Timmy into the mud and ruining his Izod shirt. Of course, she didn’t report that darling Timmy punched David in the nose first.

I could have happily gone the rest of my life without having to see that woman again after our shouting match in the principal’s office, but, no, she had to volunteer to man the cake-walk booth with me.

Nuance number three: Despite the old adage of not judging a book by its cover, people judge you by how you look all the time.

Oh, they won’t come right out and say, “Where on earth did you get those jeans and that shirt.” Or, “Would you like the name of my hairdresser.”

Okay, some women might. But most will simply smile politely when you try to join their group at a party and tighten up the ranks. It’s a very similar to what happens with nuance number two, and some people must practice for years to perfect the smile and the slight.

4 comments:

Katie Hines said...

I've found that post school social interactions are better than those awful high school days. Of course, I'm a lot older now, and don't make as many social mistakes I made when younger. Still, I sometimes wish I were more socially outgoing, when I really have to make myself be more outgoing. Ah, well. Life is good, and I have some great friends.

Maryann Miller said...

I'm with you, Katie, normally a bit of an introvert. In some ways it is easier to be an extrovert on the Internet, although we have to be careful about staying within some boundaries. :-)

Helen Ginger said...

I've learned to find the people who are ones who would be true friends and stick with them. The older I get the more true friends I seem to have. That may be one of the few benefits to getting older.

Helen
Straight From Hel

Maryann Miller said...

You're right, Helen. Those silly social things pale as we age. Thank goodness.