Go To The Back of the Class

“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.

Imagine a headband like this, sans feathers, that had "Poor Me" written across it ...
Imagine a headband like this, sans feathers, that had "Poor Me" written across it ...

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!”

Heh. An ancient depiction of "Open Mouth, Insert Foot"
Heh. An ancient depiction of "Open Mouth, Insert Foot"

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.

Good thing my devil voice doesn't sound like Homer
Good thing my devil voice doesn't sound like Homer

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

8 Replies to “Go To The Back of the Class”

  1. I’m here to say it’s okay to feel this way—especially given our history. I’m sure you realize that part of the guilt in having these feelings comes from what is socially acceptable, religiously valid, and culturally convenient.

    Socially acceptable: We should be happy for the good fortune of others.

    Religiously valid: God has a plan.

    Culturally convenient: Filipino culture (thought probably applicable to many other cultures as well) says: Put on a happy face. Don’t embarrass us or make us feel uncomfortable speaking about how much you’re hurting because we wouldn’t know how to deal with that emotion.

    All of this leads to internalizing a pain that needs to be released. And I know you know that I feel it too. So I’m glad you have a blog to help externalize the pain. And though, I’m a brooding type know that I feel these things just as poignantly and sometimes I just want to scream out to the world for taking life for granted…

    ‘Living in Oblivion’ by Anything Box

    You can’t hide the pain,
    I can see it scrawled on your empty face.
    And I feel the hurt,
    It’s in the words you say, they make me want to…
    Scream out to the world,
    For taking life for granted and I know.
    You are by my side when
    I turn to hear you cry,
    I am so afraid of living in oblivion
    I am so afraid of living in oblivion
    Am I so blind?
    With my eyes turned to a different time or hour.
    At the end of the day,
    When we both run down and our hopes are heavy…
    Tell me what you will,
    ‘Cause I’ve got to know the truth inside of you.
    Can you hear what I say,
    When I hold you and you scorn the day?
    I am so afraid of living in oblivion
    I am so afraid of living in oblivion
    Living in oblivion
    Living in oblivion
    So I ask again,
    Am I so alone and full of pride?
    To never speak out…
    This is my world, this is my world
    Don’t tell me now,
    I won’t feel those words, I won’t feel the lies they tell
    Can you hear my scream?
    It’s for everyone, for everyone…
    I am so afraid of living in oblivion
    I am so afraid of living in oblivion
    Living in oblivion
    Living in oblivion
    La, la, la, la, la, la, in oblivion….

  2. ooohh.. My stepmother went on and on about me being pg b/c “I either looked fat or pg” when I gained weight on my clomid and other treatment cycles. And she KNEW our issues. Sooooooooo not fun.

  3. I never went to parochial school, but this rang true for me too. A few of my high school friends already have kids in college. I’m just waiting for the first grandchild announcement (we’ve already had one of those recently from dh’s cousin, who is two years YOUNGER than me….!!).

  4. “You’ve gained weight! Are you pregnant?”
    ACK! Even on their own those statements are unacceptable! I’d flip if somebody said those words to me and probably punch them while shrieking “I’m infertile and I sorrow snack that’s why I’m so FAAAAAT!” I’m not mentally very stable and the idea of wearing a headband that says “poor me” on it is actually somewhat appealing.
    I too have the facebook hate moments. Lots of them.

  5. What an awful and horrible thing to do to a child. I’m so sorry that that happened to you.
    IF does make you feel like a failure. It did me-but it’s not like it’s your fault. Maybe when you think such an ABSURD thought-remind yourself–“That you deserve a healthy and happy baby.” Because ya’ do. (I don’t think that merely thinking that will mkae it come true–but it replaces a horrible mistruth with the truth. And keeps you from having unfair and negative thoughts.


  6. the worst part? I realized that while I was writing on FB on a pic-comment thread. I know what you are referring to, I think. And if I felt bad before, I really feel like a jerk now. If I’m wrong, I still feel guilty. (12 yrs catholic school here!)
    I’m sorry for being insensitive-sounding…I don’t know what else to say.

  7. Not sure how I missed your post. it never occurred to me that the Catholic Guilt syndrome combined with IF might have made all this even harder. I go through fits and starts with FB. I find myself hiding those who are currently pregnant and constantly posting the state of the pregnancy. I cringe when a classmate from high school or college connects and sometimes have to stop myself from looking.

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