I’m not a social person by nature. For the most part, I hide away from the world. I’m not sure why I am this way, but I have been for as long as I can remember. I remember on the first day of school, I hid inside of the plastic playhouse that was set up in the middle of the classroom. The teacher seemed enormous to me, and she towered over the playhouse as she told me to come out and have a seat. I was terrified, not only of her but of being there, with the other kids. I wanted to be home, where I could run around the yard barefoot, trying to catch the random, stray puppies and cats that were always being dropped off by people, who for some reason must have believed that our house needed more animals. I belonged outside, with my tangled hair and dirty bare feet, not in a cold classroom with an ogre-ish teacher barking at me in a husky voice to have a seat at a desk with the other kids.
“If you don’t come out and say ‘Hello’ to everyone, no one will ever like you, and you will be alone. You will never have friends as long as you hide”. I assume this was meant to coax me, to instill some kind of fear in me, so that I would do as I was told. But fear tactics have never worked on me-just ask my mother and ex step-father. I didn’t care about having friends. I had a younger brother that was more of an annoyance than anything (he was nearly 5 years younger than me, so of course he wasn’t actually a friend). I had 6 male cousins, nearly my age, that I sometimes spent the weekend with. They were tough, but I was just as tough, at least most of the time, until snakes and worms were tossed at me. Even then, as I have mentioned in a previous post or two, I still held my own because I was a dead aim with big rocks, so for every worm or snake that was tossed at me, my feral cousins were pelted with rocks and usually cried like babies because of my lethal stone-throwing. So, the idea of friendship was foreign and absolutely of no importance to me.
But, as soon as Ms. Ogre walked back to her desk and grabbed a giant wooden paddle from her drawer, I decided to save us both a lot of time and tears by coming out of the house and finding a seat. I tried to ignore the dozens of eyes staring at me, as I twirled my messy hair around my finger and stared at the tacky blue carpet.
Decades later, I still remember her words and the vile way she spat them at me, with some vengeful satisfaction, as if maybe she longed for friends but didn’t have any. She was a rotten teacher, not at all a child-friendly adult, and now that I think of it, perhaps I should seek her out on Facebook (if she’s even still alive, that is), and say something like “Who’s got friends now, you big, ugly, bitter cow?”
Of course, that would be stretching the truth just a bit…not about the name-calling, but about the friends. Truth is, I have a handful of people that I speak to on a regular basis. But there are many people that I speak to often, just not regularly. At last count, I have 540 people on my friend’s list on facebook now. I’ve engaged in conversation with many, many of them. Mostly about music, but sometimes about other things too. (I nearly began to type a list of those topics, but it doesn’t seem fair to them to do so.) And I enjoy those conversations, though at the moment there are around 60 messages that I haven’t read from the past month. I’m social in small bursts…replies take me a lot of time. Then again, I’ve been told more times than I can count that ‘there’s real time, and then there’s Luci’s idea of time’. I couldn’t possibly deny the truth of that statement, but I think it has always served me well in many, many ways. Once, I heard Prince say that he abandoned the concept of time, including his birthday…I don’t go that far, but I feel I have a pretty good relationship with ‘time abandonment’. It definitely makes me a happy person when people tell me that I don’t look old enough to have a son that is as old as he is, (I give 100% of the credit to time abandonment…and perhaps a little to retinol ). But of course, my insecurity kicks in as it always does when anyone compliments me about anything, and I tell myself that they are playing the ‘opposite’ game: saying the exact opposite of what they really mean. I do that a lot…OK, most of the time when someone says anything kind to me.
I have a difficult time looking anyone in the eye too. It’s not that I’m hiding anything…well, I’m always hiding something or other, but not from most people, so it has nothing to do with a guilty conscience. It’s not out of insecurity either. I dislike looking people in the eye because I usually can see their story (or stories), and I feel bad for them. Every time it happens, every time I accidentally look someone in the eye or feel compelled out of respect to look them in the eye, their stories come rushing out at me, sometimes strong enough to knock the spiritual wind out of me. At times, when I look people in the eye, I see what surely must be the look many people must give right before they die: some helpless, scared, lonely, questioning look. You probably think I’m over-exaggerating, but I’m not. I hate it-the sad, scared look I see so often. I’m not sure if that’s where my effort to avoid eye contact originated…I can’t remember when it started. Maybe I have always been this way. Anyway, I have sometimes said that “If I deliberately look you in the eye, it’s because I either really, really Love you, or I really, really dislike you.” But of course, there are those eye-contact accidents, like on Wednesday night, when I was making my way down an aisle in the shabby little grocery store up the street.
There’s a lady that works there-actually a few ladies that work there, that are friendly, and often initiate conversations whenever we are there. One even remembers the kind of cookies and chocolate bars I like. That’s nice, but also a bit…invasive(?) But still, for the most part, it’s nice. One of the women was in the aisle straightening cans as I walked by. She turned, just as I walked by and said “Hi”. Around people I don’t know, I’m quite…I mean, my voice is sometimes little more than a whisper, which really bugs me, because it makes me feel like a little kid, hiding behind my mother’s chair at my step-father’s relatives’ houses when I was 5. I definitely don’t want my voice to come out as a whisper-ever. I’m basically known in several circles for being vocal, so it makes me angry that my voice disappears at times. Maybe I’m trying to compensate for the very loud people that live in my apartment complex: Every single person yells when they speak. The armchair psychoanalyst side of me says this is because they are so desperate to be heard by someone, due to their sad, little lives. That last part isn’t a judgment, its fact. They are miserable people; you could ask any of them how they were doing and they would say just as much, I’m sure. That’s dead-end small town life for you. Their highlights are smack and meth they manage to score from selling hot items, or if they’re really lucky, scoring some pennies from the rip-off check-cashing places that pepper this place. Perhaps my whisper is to distinguish myself from the yelling despots. (Great band name, I think: The Yelling Despots™)
Excuse my rambling. Back to the accidental eye-contact from a few days ago. After my “Hi” came out as a whisper, and I began to walk away, she stopped me with a “Hey, where have you been? I was thinking about you a few days ago!” And there it was…I had to turn and meet her in the middle of the aisle to participate in some kind of social interaction thing. And I accidentally looked her in the eye, and it was sad. Really, really sad. Like an animal in the headlights kind of scared-sad. It happened again a few minutes later at the check-out. I accidentally looked her in the eye. She’s a kind person, she even offered us a Christmas tree (actually after Christmas, she said she would have given us one-even though we have a stupid tree, but I didn’t feel like decorating last year…I’m not a traditional gal at all), but I can tell she’s had a tough time throughout her life. That makes me sad, mainly because I can’t fix it for her. If I could, I would fix all of the sad, scared eyes telling those sad, scared stories in the world, so if by chance, I did want to look someone in the eye, I would see nothing but happy stories and blue sky-smiles.
So, even though it isn’t my nature to be social, I have been trying, and pretty much succeeding lately, (except for the past week, when I basically went off the grid). But I’m back and I’ve already accepted three new friend requests today. And with each of the nearly 540 “Hello” messages I’ve received, I’ve replied with “Hi, Nice to Meet You” and I mean it every single time I say it. 540 interesting people from all over the world, living 540 very different lives. Even a terribly shy introvert like me can appreciate such beautiful thought.
540…Take that, Ms. First-Grade Ogre Teacher!
Hugs from my plastic playhouse,
P.S. I have a pretty interesting mix on my ark of friends, so of you want, send me a friend request. I promise I won’t bite…but there’s also a good chance it will take me *ages* to reply to any messages I owe you 🙂
*Blame it On Luci-Time*