Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Not the Cool Kid

I'll state upfront that this post may sound a little like a pity party. I don't mean it that way. I'm not wallowing, just trying to make sense of something that has bothered me for many years.

I've never been the cool kid. When I was younger I figured it was because I didn't go to the same school as everyone else, or because I was a bit of a geek, but even in adulthood it seems I lack some prerequisite coolness gene or something. I do have close friends, but they are few and scattered across the continent. I have many local associates, but when the chips are down, very few of them seem to stand up as true friends.
Is this because I've moved so far from where I grew up? I don't think so. I had a few friends in my youth, but haven't remained that close to any of them in adulthood. I'm sure part of that is a lack of effort on my part...but I've never felt much reciprocal effort either. I suppose that after so many years of perceived rejection I've developed a habit of not trying very hard.

This fall it came to a head again when we held our annual pie night, and had very low attendance. Some of this was due to a little invitation fiasco (not as many people got invited as I'd intended), but our guests were still a small fraction of even what I'd expected. I could say it's just their loss (we had some good pies!) but this seems to be the story of my life--I plan special events, and then nobody comes.
My wedding reception? A quarter of what we'd expected (there was SO much leftover cake). It could be blamed on being 6 days before Christmas, but a friend of mine got married a week later (2 days after Christmas) and I hear her reception was very well attended.
When I was 9, my mom and I planned a really spectacular medieval-themed birthday party, and nobody came. Nobody. I remember that we'd been nervous that people might not understand the themed invitations, so we wrote that "the celebration of Lady Jenni's birthday" would begin at "ten bells (10am)" to make sure it was clear. (I remember telling her that I thought "ten bells" was pretty obvious, and that adding the "10am" bit was overkill.) On the appointed morning, 10am came and went, and nobody showed up. So my mom started calling people. I think she was able to round up two people to come and play games and share cake, but they didn't bring presents, because they hadn't known it was my party. (I suppose maybe I was too big a geek with the themed invitations...but is it really so hard to call and ask if you're confused? Our family always did themed parties!)
How about when I was 16. I was too old for parent-subsidized parties, but I spent hours making a cake and used my meager income to purchase other goodies for a sleepover. Several girls came, but none of them could spend the night. When my sister had her 16th birthday slumber party? She had a dozen girls. It's not just that my family was uncool; it was me.
Last summer solstice we planned a bonfire on the beach and invited many friends. One couple came. Just one. I've thrown tupperware parties and pampered chef parties, and always the attendance is so low that I end up making hefty purchases myself so that I can reach the minimum party sales amount to get any free stuff. Even adulthood hasn't made me cool.

I always appreciate those who do come, but I always wonder why it is that there are always so few. I invite lots of people. I try to schedule at convenient times. I give plenty of notice.
I can only conclude that the deciding factor is ME.

I've always walked to my own beat, and I'm ok with that. But sometimes I do get really lonely out here. And on those occasions when I try to reach out--to host celebrations--I wish that more people would come celebrate with me, even if I'm too weird for them the rest of the time. Come for the food if nothing else, I do have a reputation for doing that well!


PaTcHwOrK jEnN said...

I am glad I am not the only one who feels like the uncool kid. For what it is worth I would gladly come to pie night if I was closer. ;)

And remember we are a peculiar people some of use more so than others. I know I am strange and I am okay with that. Really I am normal and it is everybody else who is strange. ;)

Gillian said...

I totally get it. I've had the low/no turnout thing many times. We need to live closer so we can go to each other's parties.

Carrie said...

I can empathize with how you feel. I felt that way often when I was younger and even up into my early twenties. I can't give you any sage advice but really time is the only answer. As for parties I had to learn to judge my audience better since there were always thing competing for peoples attention. Even a TV show in bad weather makes a more inviting draw to stay home rather than go out to a super awesome party. That is just me though. Don't stop trying! I think you are cool ;)

Becky N. said...

I feel your pain! I know it would hurt me if I was in that same situation. And I'm not saying I'm cool... I just never put myself out there and try to be a host for stuff. I have no idea if I would get any turn out or not, because I'm too withheld to try. At least you're taking initiative!

If it helps, I would totally come to your parties. Medieval is so much cooler than generic princess. And pie night? Holy cow, count me in! Quick, someone invent a teleporter so all her scattered friends can attend her parties!!!

Mallory said...

I second the "invent a teleporter" comment! I would absolutely come to your parties! I've been thinking lately about a couple of people (that I thought were my friends) who told my brother-in-law (who works for them) that my husband and I are weird. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it felt mean, the way my BIL told me about it. It's been bumming me out. Oh well....I guess that's what I get for being a non-conformist!

Laura said...

So I'm not the only one! I always feel like people don't care about the stuff I plan.

I'd come to your parties, if that's any consolation.

Janeen said...

Oh do I hear you on this one! Only to add to the pain, my family doesn't even seem to like me very much. :-( I take after my dad a bit and he was the proverbial outcast. He was actually BOOED at his own graduation. My mom dated him just because it would be unexpected (she was more the social butterfly). My younger sister takes after her and has all the friends (though, to be honest, I constantly question the QUALITY of her friends) and even some of MY friends find her "more fun" than they do me.

And getting married, if anything, has made it worse. My husband is even more of a wall flower than I am and tends to wall to hole up than go out and meet people. He's also very strict in his religious beliefs and I think that turns people off too (especially my family). Living in Korea was SO HARD because I was constantly lonely. There was hardly anyone to talk to, especially parents. I couldn't even get the birth team I needed there which made it necessary for me to leave husband and daughter to return here for the birth and thankfully, my one friend has helped me greatly.

Wedding reception? My younger sister had to leave early due to contractions and when she left, everyone left and left before things even really got started. When I was pregnant with my older daughter, my husband and someone from his church set up a baby shower. Two people stopped by but had to leave. Now granted, it was kind of last minute but my sister who lived a block away and was home didn't even bother to show.

Birthdays when I was younger though, at least those got good attendance. But then, the two big ones I had included horses. One was an actual horse riding party and everyone I invited came. But when I was in elementary school, I was actually hated by many of the kids and still don't really understand why though I'm sure a good part of it is due to my hearing loss and resulting speech impediment. That, along with being overweight now probably doesn't help bring the friends running. It sucks, especially this time of year since we don't celebrate Christmas. The church we've gone to in the past, hardly anyone has even made any kind of attempt to reach us even though they know we're back in the US. One I even called a few times but haven't heard from her in response. Not sure what I did there. So even on that end, I've struck out. So, I totally feel for you!

Chandelle said...

I can't necessarily relate to this, but I have been the instigator -- friends thinking I didn't like them very much because I usually say no when they ask me out or because I don't go to their parties (or worse, say I will and then not show up).

I'll tell you what I've told them: it's not about you. Especially when you have little ones, it can be really difficult to get out. Add in some basic social anxiety, or a partner who is a total wallflower, or troublesome children, or an earnest desire to sleep whenever possible, or chronic illness, and it can be even harder.

Sometimes I'll say I'm going to be somewhere and then when the time comes, I'm just too exhausted or anxious or circumstances aren't good (sick kid, tired partner, low on gas), and rather than risk hurting someone's feelings, I just don't say anything and hope they don't notice I'm not there.

I think you can safely assume that, in most cases, it's not because someone doesn't like you -- it's just that something else came up or it just wasn't a good time, and they didn't want to draw attention to their absence, so they didn't explain themselves.

And specific to Tupperware parties and the like, some people will simply never attend a party where they're expected to buy something. I am just such a person and I know plenty of people who feel the same. I get invited to sex toy parties or Pampered Chef parties or bath product parties with some regularity and I don't even bother pretending I might show up. A cookie exchange or book club, though, I'll be there for sure. :)

Elizabeth said...

This does bring back memories because not all of my parties were well attended either...although the two friends who came to my 17th birthday party are the two who are still my best friends so that doesn't really bother me anymore. I get invited to a lot of candle or pampered chef parties and I rarely go to those- I don't have the money (or the room!) for things like that. It's not the hostess.

I remember having fun at your house for YW- I remember watching Newsies and having fun in the "mother in law" place you have in back. There were a good amount of girls who went to that. I remember with both you and Kyra- there was no reason to favor her over you.

I tire of the wedding receptions where you know that they invited everyone in the free world so that they can have a lot of presents...I'd rather have parties/events where I actually know and like those that come! Bigger isn't always better.

I get frusterated these days because I try and get people to come to YSA activities and some are well attended and others aren't- but I figure we'll have fun either way. We've had testimony meeting where there were only 4 YSA and a few leaders and it was a really nice one.

I try not to base my level of happiness on what others do or don't do for me- instead of worrying about why people don't come, just enjoy the ones that do. I also try very hard not to compare myself to others, which can be a big challenge.

If life were a numbers game, then I'd lose- I don't have many friends out here in PA and the ones I do have leave me for out West. What matters is the quality of friendships.

Katrina said...

That would be tough, Jenni. You might try things on a smaller scale and see what you think: We prefer smaller, more intimate groups where we actually have the opportunity to get to know people well. So we choose one family/couple at a time to invite for dinner (or something similar) at our home. Our guests are always gracious and seem to feel flattered that we would ask (just) them over. It has been a great way to better meet people from church or our neighborhood and strengthens relationships.

chibbylick said...

In this, I think we may be twins :)

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