Monday, July 12, 2010

A loaded question...

When I was in kindergarten, I was terribly shy. I never spoke in class to anyone- and I desperately wanted to have a friend and yet, I had no idea how to make one. So, I did the thing that shy kids do, the thing that would ultimately make me a writer. I observed- a lot. It's still been my best tool. I watched the other kids talk to one another, interact with one another and I watched to see who was nice and who was mean. I stood on the edges of the groups and examined social interaction. I wanted so much to participate. My heart pounded so eagerly, it was all I could hear in my ears. My palms sweated and my nerves choked my words.
I stayed in my shell for a few weeks, watching and waiting. One little girl was so sweet and friendly, I determined to try to make friends with her. I stood in line behind her every day when we queued up to go to the bathroom. Normally, she would be chatting happily with the person in front of her. I determined that I would have to find something to say. I thought about it very deeply- what would I talk with her about?
Well, if I was going to make a friend, first I had to know whether or not she liked me. One day, I finally gathered up the courage to ask her a question.
I took a deep breath and tapped her on the shoulder with a sweaty fingertip.
"Do you like me?" I asked.
She turned around with a beaming smile and looked at me with such sweetness and genuine interest.
"Yes, of course I like you!" she said.
It was wonderful to have such validation and hope! I was floating with possibility. Then, she turned around and resumed her conversation with the girl in front of her.
When I went home that night, I was elated, She liked me, she really liked me. I would talk with her tomorrow! I would say something, I would tell her about my cat. No, I would let her choose what to talk about and I would listen and respond.
The next day, I eagerly awaited the bathroom lineup, so I would have to opportunity to talk with her. I watched her play with her friends and sit in a circle next to the girl she giggled with and finally it was time to get in line. I stood behind her, ready to say something, and the line kept advancing and my courage kept retreating. Finally, I reached out and tapped her on the shoulder.
"Do you like me?" I said, nervously.
"Yes, I like you!" she said, turning around quickly and flashing me a brief smile and then, my throat closed up. I couldn't say anything else. I beamed. Oh, good, she still liked me. I shut my mouth for the rest of the day. I had things bursting inside of me, dying to come out but now I was afraid if I spoke, it might ruin this perfect like. It was enough if she liked me. I retreated to my corner of the room where none of the kids played and pretended that someone was friends with me and wanted to play with me. Maybe someone would come over and talk with me, eventually and would see that I was nice and kind and fun to play with.
I waited and no one came. I blushed deeply red when anyone came too near me but no one spoke to me except to say 'excuse me' or to push me out of the way to get to the stack of blocks I was standing near.
I remember the teacher being very pretty and having a lovely smile but she managed all the kids in a circle and I never remember her saying anything to me directly. At story time, I would spend time daydreaming of adventures and friends and wonder why the brother and sister always got along in the book when my brothers were such jerks.
In my mind, a sister would have been perfect- a girl to play with- one that understood me- a sister to share clothes and toys with. My mother laughed heartily when I brought this up.
The third day I stood behind the little girl in line, I was confident about that day's interaction. I stood up a little taller and was braver than the other two days and when we first lined up, I reached out quickly with a smile and tapped her on the shoulder,
"Do you like me?" I asked, waiting eagerly to hear the confidence boosting yes.
She turned around and eyed me with some weariness now, considering my question more seriously and pausing to take me in.
"Yes..." she said and I began to beam. "But if you ask me one more time, I won't like you any more."
My face fell completely, I was devastated. What on earth was I to do now? I took a deep breath and determined to never speak to her again. I could not risk her UN-liking me. Better to live with the suspended like than to ever risk losing it completely. I did not make a single friend that year even though they all came to my birthday party. Most unusual that people showed up that had no idea who I was- even the boys were there.
You will be relieved to know that eventually someone walked up and decided to speak with me. It took a couple years but eventually I made a friend.

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