At the time, my diary entries often featured this mopey, pathetic scene: me, sitting or lying in my dark bedroom and listening to the laughter of my classmates, hanging out at someone's house just down the road. If I was sitting, I could actually see the house and maybe guess whose shadow was breaking the light that came through the bushes and the windows. I'd be wishing I was there and knowing I wouldn't have any fun if I was.
I couldn't help rehashing my bitter memories of high school after seeing two movies about unpopular people last week, "You Again" and "The Social Network." The comedy had nerdy Marni, who still held resentment for her old tormentor nearly ten years on. The drama had self-absorbed Zuckerberg, whose cockiness barely masked his insecurity. Somehow, I could relate to both these characters. Afterward, it was as though I was back in DPS, cross-legged in my checkered uniform, spacing out on a concrete bench, and getting interrupted by Mr. P.
How would I answer that question today?
A. "When I was ten years old and a new kid, I was either picked on or excluded or both. The people who did this were, unfortunately, the same people I would see nearly every day for the next six or seven years, all the way to our high school graduation. While they may have forgotten along the way, I never did. I didn't want to have anything to do with them, which meant staying away from pretty much all social stuff."
B. "English was my first language. Sure, I went to school with these kids for a while, but then my family went to the States. When we came back, I was picked on for my accent and my cluelessness, so I holed up in the library. That place was filled with great books, but these were mostly American, so I'd say that my comforts only helped to further distance me from my classmates. The things I liked, the way I thought--no one else seemed interested."
C. "People did ask me to come to parties. But whenever I went, I usually ended up sitting to one side and watching everyone have a conversation I couldn't understand, not for lack of language but for lack of relatability. Sure, I wanted to be at these parties. I wanted to have a good time with people my age. But I couldn't find any talking points, so I figured, why bother?"
D. "I was often told--once by one of my actual bullies--'They pick on you because they're jealous; you're so smart.' I think I latched on to that. Somewhere along the way, I must have decided that as long as I proved myself better than my peers, I could reassure myself that their friendship and their interests just weren't worth my time.* Naturally, this made me kind of a snob. I didn't like popular things or the popular people. By way of association--it was a really small school, okay?--even the perfectly decent, average and likeable people got my indifference."
E. "I didn't know how to be friendly. Being an outsider--more often voluntarily, as the years passed--showed me how superficial some friendships could be. On some level, I came to equate friendliness with superficiality. I didn't want to be friendly if it meant being fake."
Unfortunately, I didn't think of any of those answers until now, so all I did that afternoon was shrug, go home, write some more in my diary, and cry.
I don't know whether I've just explained or merely excused my dismal high school years, my thick introversion, and my lack of social skills today. Ever since I was ten, I've wanted to know why myself. Why are you like this, Kat? Why don't you have many friends? Why do you turn cold to the few you have?
Today, I'll say that it comes down to wanting to be liked, wanting to be liked by the right people, and not knowing who or where the right people are. Could they have been right in front of me back then? Maybe. Is there no such thing as the right people, just people? Probably. Was there something I could have done better? Why bother asking? Does all this mean I can't get over high school? Who knows?
(Who knows is probably the right person for me to be friends with.)
*I did have one close friend in my class, someone whom I still respect and admire, initially because she was nice to me, smart, and read thicker books than I; now just because she is a good person. Somehow she managed to excel in school without alienating people, and to this day my batch often looks to her to help plan get-togethers and stuff like that. I wish it had occured to me to maybe try and follow her example. Oh, well.