When I was 11 I went to a sleepover for the softball team I was playing on that summer. Most of the other girls on the team were friends and had known each other for years. I was a bit of an outsider having joined the team later and because I didn’t go to the same school as all of them.
The sleepover was for a teammate’s birthday, and she invited some of her other friends besides the team. There was about 20 of us in all. Since 20 11-year-old girls is a lot to deal with for one house, the parents of the birthday girl had pre-planned lots of activities for us, one of which was a talent show/dance contest. We all paired up, picked a song, and performed it in front of the others.
All the other girls picked popular songs that they choreographed popular dance moves to – I remember a very neatly and nicely-done rendition of “Stacey’s Mom” by Fountains of Wayne.
Since I was an outsider already, it would have been prudent of me to pick one of these popular songs and make a killer dance routine just like everyone else. That is, of course, not what I did. My partner was the only girl on the team who actually bothered to talk to me and get to know me, and who was one of the nicest, kindhearted souls I’ve encountered in my young life. I convinced her it would be hilarious if we just started break-dancing to Christmas songs.
I was a very serious child. I was socially inward most of the time, easily frightened of most things – especially interacting with my peers. I also had a precociously dry sense of humor, with just a dash of goofiness and absurdity. I talked very little. What little time I spent talking I spent even less joking. And the times that I was joking, most people couldn’t tell. I thought really odd, nonsensical things were funny, but you couldn’t tell if I thought something was funny because I expressed little to no emotion in front of others.
Break-dancing to Christmas songs is really weird. It makes no sense, and most people do not think it’s funny. It is actually pretty unfunny, but I was only 11 and that was the best I could come up with so cut me some slack. Needless to say, none of the other girls enjoyed our routine, and my partner and I did not advance to the next round (this was a really well-planned sleepover).
At the time I was a little bit embarrassed, having realized my joke wasn’t as funny as I thought it would be. But I also didn’t care too much, because it was really fun. My partner and I laughed our asses off coming up with the routine, and we had a great time performing it.
This was one of those moments that I realized I would probably never be very popular. It should’ve been evident to me already, considering how scared I was of talking to other people. But this situation sort of cemented it. I watched all the other girls do their routines and chatter away with each other at the sleepover and realized I would probably never be like them. Not only was I shy, but I was shy and sort of weird. As I got older I learned how to socialize better, so now I characterize myself as “nervous” instead of “frightened” in new social situations. I also learned how to conceal my weirdo sense of humor and appear more “normal” to people until they get to know me. I can fit in better now, like a chameleon. But that is all I can do – fit in. Popularity, on the other hand, is not something I’ve ever mastered nor will I ever.