January 3, 2013

A story

The story began this way:

Sometimes, when I was in high school, the lunchroom was too much for me.

I told the story over burritos tonight. I had made the beans in the morning, had grated the cheese after getting my sons from school, and had rolled the tortillas while my younger two children rearranged the furniture in my daughter’s room. When we sat down to eat, I noticed Lilah and Benjamin were still dressed as a butterfly and a ninja, respectively, and sent them off to change before they could get food all over the dressup clothes. I was too brusque in my command, and Lilah had started crying, not because her feelings were really hurt but because she’s experimenting with crying as a mode of communication.

Now we were all back at the table, and I told my story.

There were just so many people all around, and there was so much going on.

Zach ran from the table: “Wait till I get back from the bathroom.” I waited.

Sometimes, I just couldn’t take all the people.

“Our lunchroom is pretty small, so there’s not a lot going on.”

And I couldn’t stand not knowing where to sit, who to sit with, or if anyone wanted me to sit next to them. I’m guessing more people would have been OK with me sitting there than I thought, but sometimes it was so stressful facing all the pressure of the lunchroom and wondering if I’d have to sit alone. So, I’d take my lunch – I wasn’t supposed to do this, but things are a little different in high school – and I’d go eat alone in the auditorium so I didn’t have to face the lunchroom.

I didn’t tell them that the auditorium was dark and I’d leave the lights off to avoid drawing attention to myself. That I sat alone in the dark and silence for the entire lunch period to avoid the social scene in the cafeteria and then slid out when lunch was over to rejoin the crowd coming up from the stairwell. That I can still see the seldom-used, narrow corridor leading to the side door of the auditorium. They didn’t need those details.

I never wanted my kids to know I was a loser in junior high and high school. I prefer to be the paragon of coolness I only get to be until they reach 11 years old. Yet, we know when the time has come that we must give our children a story from our past to provide them comfort in their own lives. Let’s face it: I was a loser. I did sit out a camp dance, pretending to be thinking of characters for a story I was writing so that I didn’t have to try to maneuver a social situation in which I felt unwelcome. I did talk too much and too loudly to drown out the incontrovertible fact that people didn’t really want to hear what I had to say. I was always just 8 or 9 degrees off from fitting in, and I knew it.

The story begins with a teenager hiding in a darkened auditorium because on this particular Tuesday, she couldn’t face the lunchroom.

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6 Comments

  • Reply Melanie January 3, 2013 at 1:16 am

    I hated the lunchroom too, I had a handful of friends, but one semester in particular I remember that nearly no one I knew had my (one of 4) lunch period. That semester sucked. I certainly was never cool, or in the “it” crowd, but I like to think it shaped my character for the better. When I allowed myself to get down about it, my Mom reminded me that high school indeed sucks, and those few who escape unscathed will likely be shocked later in life, when popularity means very little.

  • Reply Caroline January 3, 2013 at 1:47 am

    Just the other day, on our 15 hour car ride from North Texas to Colorado, I was entertaining the boys with a few of my own stories from junior high school. The one that the 11 year old asked me to repeat on the 15 hour ride home was the following….In eighth grade, when some of my friends were starting to have boy/girl parties, I would get so nervous prior to the party that I would end up with extreme intestinal distress. My parents told me each and every time not to worry, but rather just to blame it all on them. So, growing up, my parents had the reputation among my friends as the strictest parents in all of central PA!

    • Reply emily January 3, 2013 at 1:50 am

      That’s good parenting.

  • Reply Coco Rogers January 3, 2013 at 2:02 am

    Not that this is the point of the story, but I wish we’d gone to school together.

  • Reply Suebob January 6, 2013 at 4:27 am

    For me, it was the bathrooms. We had a huge campus and only 7 minutes between classes, so they were always crowded and dark, with girls smoking and spraying hairspray (it’s a wonder no one ever exploded). So for all of junior high, I never ever went to the regular bathrooms once. Seriously. I went during gym and I cleverly arranged to be a library aide, so I could go in the staff bathroom in the library during my shift. Three years. Never once used the bathroom.

  • Reply henspunkin January 7, 2013 at 4:04 am

    I used to do that too, Emily. I think there are more of us out there than we all perhaps realize.

    I had really good parents. They too let me blame them and pretend they were stricter than they were when I was afraid to go to a party.

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