Being the New Kid is Getting Old

I can’t believe I did this, but after making 2 giant lasagnas and slicing 2 giant watermelons for a potluck for my high school daughter’s Quebec Exchange program and all the participants’ families, I dropped off the food and hightailed it home.  I was fully prepared to be brave and sit with my daughter and her “twin” from Quebec, and maybe meet some of the other parents; maybe make a friend.  But when I got there, I got a big slap in the face.  Teens can be cruel, and adults who don’t know any better, can cluster together to shut out the new girl.  

I pulled into the parking lot, to a chorus of mocking teen boys calling out, “SUE’s here!  Everyone watch out! OOO, It’s SUE!”  My daughter had already warned me that it was her class joke that I take away my daughter’s phone when she is disrespectful or her grades drop – they call each other “Sue” as an insult, or if someone is not being nice, they say, “watch out, or Sue will take away your phone.”  Ha. Ha. I’m fine with the idea of all of them doing this, since I am quite convinced that I am making good parenting choices and the phone is a good tool in disciplining my daughter.  But when surrounded in real time, by a big group of teens that are whispering and laughing, while looking at you sideways?  That’s a whole different story.  I’m glad I never taught in high school, and I feel great compassion for any teacher who is the butt of these kids’ jokes.  

So you’d think my daughter would be happy to see me and make me feel better.  Nope.  She runs up to me and demands, “I hope you brought me a change of clothes!”  When I said, “no, but I brought a lot of food – will you please help me unload the car?”  she became upset and flounced away.  

I asked one of the parents where I should enter the building to bring in the food for the potluck, and she answered, “THROUGH THE DOOR.”  Seriously.  So I hefted the huge lasagna into the front door, found the entree table myself, and went back out to the car for 2 more trips of food.  This entire time, there are dozens of people milling about, hugging, chatting, taking their places at the many long tables set up for the dinner.  

When I tried to think about sitting down with total strangers who didn’t even make eye contact with me or smile, my heart just jumped up into my throat.  I went up to my daughter and whispered in her ear, “is it okay if I sit with you at dinner tonight? I feel a little nervous.”  And she said, “Mommmmm, I want to sit with my friends, and they will all just make fun of you and that would mess up the dinner. Maybe you can just go home and bring me some clothes?  You don’t have to stay for the dinner, but you can bring me the clothes when you come back to pick up the dishes.”  

That did it.  Flashback to 1st grade in Monterey, 2nd grade in Moscow, 4th grade in Kuala Lumpur, 6th grade in Reston, 7th grade in Shanghai, 9th grade in Kent, 10th grade in Bloomington, 10th grade in Taipei, Freshman year in university, 1st year in England, 1st year in Texas, 1st year in Carmel, 1st year in Pacific Grove, 1st year in Hawaii, 1st year in Banff… Maybe I have a lot of practice being the new girl, but tonight I felt knocked down and stepped on.  Tonight I felt so lonely that my throat hurt, even with 50 people clustered around me.  I can only plaster the smile on my face for so long before my cheeks start to hurt and I just want to run away. So I put my head down, got into my car, and headed for home.  

I wish someone could wave a magic wand and a door would open to this town.  Well, I say that, but I guess my real wish is that I didn’t have to have any interaction with any more people in this town.  

You don’t believe me.  If you just met me, you don’t believe me.  I’m smiley, I ask questions, I make conversation; of course I must be outgoing and personable, right?  But if you really know me, you know that inside I squirm at the idea of getting thrown in among strangers.  When I was little, being the new kid was always fortified by the strength of my sisters.  Every 2 years we moved to a new place because of my father’s job. But my sisters and I could be the new kids together.  Now, I usually have my own kids, or my husband.  My husband, especially, is very sensitive to my stranger panic, and he will hold my hand and introduce me, then whisk me home at the earliest opportunity.  The kids have lately complained that I am “anti-social” so I have been making great efforts.  But this town is shut tight like a clam.  They don’t really want help in the schools, which is the best way to get my foot into the door and meet other parents.  How many times can I knock before my knuckles start to hurt?  And after a year and a half, is it okay if I just give up and retreat to my books and my family?

I know I am being completely unreasonable, and my friends would tell me, “Don’t be silly – they are all your future friends just waiting to meet you.”  And that is very good advice.  It’s just that tonight I didn’t quite believe myself when I tried to whisper that out loud while driving home, face frozen in a tearful grimace.  I know I need to wipe these stupid childish tears and check my makeup and find a decent shirt for my daughter, and get back into my car to return to the potluck.  I just need a few more minutes to breathe and dig really really deep to find a shred of courage to grasp.  Just a few more minutes.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Catherinette
    May 20, 2013 @ 19:13:09

    You know what? Sometimes those new friends aren’t worth having. Perhaps the reason you haven’t made nice new friends is because the town is full of biddies. And you, my dear, are far too cool for that kind of shit.

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  2. barbara
    May 20, 2013 @ 20:29:27

    oh sue…that is soo awful…and you are such a sweet person. hang in there. teenagers are mean. we know that. don’t let it get to you too much. but i’m amazed how unfriendly the parents of those teenagers were. they don’t deserve you. you don’t deserve that treatment and i know you…and hopefully those people will know how real and sweet you are before its too late and you get to leave that town to move to better horizons!

    go home and get hug from your furry man. he’s the best. and that’s all that really matters. those people are not important in your life in the long run. ok?

    hugs from me..barbara

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  3. Connie :)
    May 20, 2013 @ 22:00:37

    Okay Sue… You just point me in their direction and I will tell them that it is their loss and my gain because I hate sharing you anyway!

    You don’t know how mad it makes me to see how upset they make you. I so wsh I could be there with you. Keep your head up… I love ya!

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  4. Davida
    May 21, 2013 @ 10:01:37

    Sue, you are beautiful and cheerful and friendly and smart! You are not anti-social. After all, you saw me walking my dog one day (10 yrs ago?) and we became friends, and remain friends despite our current, hopefully temporary, geographical distance. I love how honest and courageous you are, and I aspire to be more like you. Big hugs to you from California, Sue. And those Jasper jackasses are missing out by not falling over themselves to get to know you.

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