Thursday, June 21, 2007

It's all in how you draw the window

I was popular in high school but I didn't know it. A few years after I had graduated, I ran into one of my former classmates. I knew the girl well enough to remember her name and say hi, but not well enough to consider her a friend. We chatted politely for a few minutes about weather and recent events. Then she shocked the shoes right off me. "You know," she said, "I used to be so jealous of you. You were always so popular." I blinked at her for a long minute. Popular? Did she say popular? Wait a minute here, she said I was popular? I, the outsider who never really felt accepted in that small town, was popular? I could not process the idea at the time. I just blinked at the poor girl, barely managing to stammer out a semblance of a goodbye.

I did have friends - good friends who saw me through some rough times. But we were all Army brats and all transplants into that small Missouri town. Our core group of 4 or 5 friends was tight but we all felt like outsiders. We banded together because we were aliens, not because we had any real affinity for one another. To think that anyone viewed us as the social center was a novel idea, if not downright laughable.

More recently, I have been reading along and participating in a discussion regarding cliques in online communities. These communities can be large and people often form small groups. Sometimes, members feel left out. These alienated members accuse the others of cliquishness. Sometimes that seems to be true. Other times, it seems to be solely the perception of the alienated member. (S)He doesn't fully participate and is upset when (s)he's not fully included.

The same thing is happening among the school mothers that I know. I see some women naturally gravitate toward one another. Perhaps they were friends before school started or perhaps their sons are friends with one another. Maybe they just plain like each other. But over the course of this first year, we seem to have organized ourselves into several fluid groups. As baseball season grinds to an end (and by the end, it is a grind), I've noticed that one woman seems frustrated by her perceived lack of inclusion in any of the circles.

I have just about decided that it's all in how you draw the window. Go grab your copy of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Go on! I'll wait for you. Doo de doo de doo. OK, got the book? Look near the end when Harold starts drawing windows. He's looking for home, right? He knows that home has a window, so he starts drawing windows and peeking inside of them. He draws a whole city of windows and is dismayed when he realized that none of them are his window. After a little more wandering, he draws another window. This time, he draws the window the right way. He's on the inside, looking at the moon through the window. And finally, he's found his way back into his bedroom.

Now, I know that people can be catty and mean and exclusive. Some people are that way all of the time. Most of us are that way some of the time. But I also am beginning to understand that much of inclusion really is dependent upon perception. It's all in how you draw the window.


Laura said...

You are wise, Christy-san. :) Seriously though - a lot of perceived exclusion is simply that - perceived. Unfortunately women as a whole are a sensitive bunch, so when we group up, that sensitivity is multiplied by a lot and you get hurt feelings, usually caused by a misunderstanding. I'm going to get my purple crayon and get drawing. :)

ella6599 said...

Very, insightful Christy. It's always easier though when we're watching other people draw their windows, isn't it? Definitly food for thought :)

Katie Alender said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Katie Alender said...

(this is the same as the comment I deleted, with a very important word added in -- LOL)

I had an experience at work a month or two ago where my friends and I were ordering lunch together. Later I overheard two other women talking about how "exclusive" we were for not asking them to join our lunch order. It basically infuriated me -- that they would sit and overhear and stew but not stand up and ask to jump in on the order. It just seemed like martyrish, self-pitying behavior.

People who are open and friendly are rarely spurned when they make the first move. But standing off to the side and waiting to be noticed and scooped up is just silly.

Sorry, this is a hot-button issue for me. :-)

Heatherly said...

LOL, Katie - it's a hot-button because you're popular. ;)

Chances are, everybody's a "cool kid" to somebody. That's been my experience, anyway.