“Poor Me” … that was the headband that Sr. Barbara, the Third Grade teacher at my small Catholic school, would make one of 25 or so kids in my class wear for an entire day at any given moment. It was “awarded” to any classmate whose behavior she deemed appalling.
Lucky for me, I only found myself wearing that headband maybe once or twice during that year. Okay … maybe three times. There was that incident where Sr. Barbara caught me jump-roping outside during recess without my school uniform on. Relax Mom … I had shorts on underneath that lovely plaid jumper, so I wasn’t completely running around in my day-of-the-week underwear. The correct day-of-the-week underwear, may I add. (At least I think so …)
Punishment like that would never fly in today’s classrooms. It’s (rightly) deemed too humiliating to present to a young child at such an impressionable age.* But that doesn’t stop other children from humiliating a fellow classmate. For instance, Nancy who got “caught” by others digging for gold might suddenly be called “Nose-picker Nancy.” Which, I suppose would be better than being called “Paste-eater Peter.” (I was unfortunately given the nickname “Dummily”)**
Other school-ground embarrassment can also include the feeling of being isolated or singled-out. Perhaps it’s something as silly as refusing to play with a certain individual during lunchtime recess because he/she ate tuna sandwiches for lunch every day. Or it could be as typical as choosing a particular person last in gym class for your team just because he/she wasn’t athletic/graceful enough.
Whatever humiliation is endured at that time, it’s cruel that — even as adults — we still act in such a manner. At times, playing the “Isolation Game” is blatantly obvious: A co-worker may avoid another co-worker for some incredibly vague reason or another. Or a fellow peer may request to be taken off certain projects just so that their name isn’t associated with another employee. Personally, I think it’s sad and childish that certain adults still feel they have to act out in this manner. ***
Then there are those instances where inadvertent humiliation takes place. These are the moments in which one person unintentionally says something that results in the embarrassment of another person. These, if the offender actually realizes that he/she said something off-color … well, these would be known as the “Open Mouth, Insert Foot” moments.
Allow me to use the example in which a skinny friend goes out to meet with her weight-conscious, always-on-a-diet friend for dinner. Skinny Gal orders the largest and fattest piece of red meat out there, while Diet Gal sticks to her plain salad with dressing on the side. And after finishing the meal and despite knowing how self-conscious her friend is about her looks, Skinny Gal states, “G*d, I feel like a cow!”
And then there’s this scenario. It involves either a well-meaning family member or an “infrequently seen” friend. This person proceeds to make the mistake of reach out for the belly. That action is closely followed by the statement, “Wow. You’ve gained weight! Are you pregnant?”
Yeah, that one’s definitely not my favorite.
I’ve had many of those “thought you were pregnant” moments over the past 13 years of marriage. It doesn’t help that I definitely gained a bit of weight since being married. Nor does it help that I had taken all those meds during those active baby-making “science project” years. And my latest excuse is that I’ve been totally stress-eating since my latest work issues began in June.
But my weight issues aren’t the basis of this latest rambling. Nor is it about feeling humiliated, whether intentional or not. Rather this post is about feeling once again, as if I’ve been left behind.
You see, today I read one of my HS friend’s FB statuses, indicating that her 9-yr old daughter would be going away to overnight camp for the first time this week. And I thought about the strange combination of pride and sadness she probably felt letting her “baby bird” fly away from the nest for a bit; even if it was for no more than two days. And this is probably what started the chain of events and line of thinking leading up to this post.
While I love FB, there are some days where I just want to bury my head in the sand and forget that such an addicting social-networking site ever existed. It has been a wonderful tool for me to catch up with those friends from my “school days.” It has done wonders with keeping in touch with Dr. Bro and Dr. SIL as well as any of my cousins who keep a FB accounts.
Then there are those aspects of FB that make it appear as if I’ve literally been left behind. And today is definitely one of those days. Especially when it comes to seeing friends post pictures or videos of their children. It makes me want to post pictures as well; ones of my “supposed” children. And it makes me want to update my status (via Twitter, of course) with witty statements about what my imaginary kids are up to. It’s moments like that where I feel like I’ve been a “total slacker” in my life. Where I’m just not at the same point in life that my other friends are. That I’m kinda just “stuck” in the marriage phase of my life.
Oh yes, I know realistically that what I’m feeling is pure crap. And I know that despite the fact that I don’t have children of my own, I’ve been pretty successful in my life in other ways.
Yet, there’s this small nagging voice inside my head. It’s the voice that remarkably sounds like a hybrid of my parents and a third-grade version of myself. It’s the one that tells me that I can’t just be average; that I must strive to be the best in everything I do. That I should be a step (or a phase, in this case) ahead of where I’m currently at. That I should always be the one at the top of the class; ahead of all my classmates in everything I do.
And that nagging is swiftly followed by the voice of that little red devil on my left shoulder; the one that says, “Face it, Em. You’re so far behind in what you’ve planned for yourself in life. You might as well give it up.” And it’s the same devil voice that tells me that, even if I do have kids now (whether it be my biological child or adopted child), I’d never be able to “catch up” to the rest of those parental peers in my age-group.
It’s, quite frankly, the same voice that tells me I’m a failure for not even being able to pass a pregnancy test. (No multiple choice; just True or False … )
It’s at those moments where we feel like I’ve been instructed to put on a “Poor Me” headband and head to the back of the class. Because, given my conscience lately, Sr. Barbara would have told me to.
* No wonder I have self-esteem issues to this day.
** No thanks in part to my brother, The Dork.
*** But when there are reality TV shows out there that foster such behavior, it’s amazing that the whole world isn’t all about the backstabbing and talking-behind-the-back