I met a wonderful woman at a networking event last night. During dinner, my colleague requested that she adjust her seating arrangements to make conversation easier.
This prompted me to share a childhood story. It explained an adult habit of mine regarding social interaction. She in turn shared her story.
Kids are mean, even in Texas.
One day, in kindergarten, I was sitting alone at recess crying. Ms. Cook came to me and asked why was crying. After explaining that I had no one to play with, she took me by the hand and led me to a group of popular kids. She instructed them to play with me.
As she walked away, the leader said, “I don’t care what she said, we’re not playing with you. Now go away.”
So I took up my former position and turned back on the faucet.
Ms. Cook observed this and came back to me. After I explained what happened, she took me again to the group with firmer instructions.
Again, I was rejected.
I went and hid from Ms. Cook to cry. Even at five years old I was trainable.
My nature is to refuse invitations.
I’ve seen adults simulate Ms. Cook in their daily activities. My best friend will invite people to lunch just because they don’t already have a lunch partner.
This translates to very strange behavior for me as an adult. Occasionally I’m invited to an event by people I don’t know well. I will quickly analyze the possibility that their conscience (Ms. Cook) is instructing them to play with the lonely kid. If I feel that is the case, I will politely decline the invitation.
Kids are mean, also in Alabama.
My new friend, an intelligent black woman, told a story from her childhood in Alabama.
Segregation was no longer legal, but still practiced in the hearts and minds of many. She was the only black child in the advanced classes. The other children tended to only talk to her when they were alone. So whenever she was in a group, she sat slightly apart.
Her nature is to self-segregate.
Her experience influences her interaction in groups as an adult. If she ends up being outside of a conversation, she will not intentionally interject herself.
Last night this manifested itself in a physical manner, as she actually was sitting with one chair between us. She moved when specifically invited by another person at the table.
We both learned something meaningful last night. I self-segregate so the popular kids don’t have to play with me. She self-segregates so other kids won’t feel uncomfortable talking to her amongst their peers.
We were kids, and that’s what kids do. We are grown-ups now.
Also, we aren’t alone anymore. We haven’t been for a very long time. But those feelings are still a part of who we are.
Should we get over it? Perhaps. Or maybe we should just understand it.
Did you have something happen in your childhood that affects your adult life? Share it with us in the comments.