I am a misfit. I do not fit into any particular group, nor do I even try anymore. I have never been a “click” person, preferring to be a loner, unless someone wants to engage me on a one-on-one basis. I really don’t like people all that much, although there are exceptions.
Growing up in Manhattan, I went to Stuyvesant Day Camp, out in Staten Island. Each day I would leave my house, stand on the corner of 14th Street and Avenue A with my canteen and lunch and wait for the bus to pick me up. Since all the counselors were liberal hippy types we’d sing Negro Spirituals all the way there.
I was always the person who somehow attracted the outcast, or oddball (you know that person that everyone basically rolls their eyes at, or ridicules behind their back). Although I was never the object of derision, the groups I was associated with engaged in it. All through my life, starting in day camp, I was somehow a person who the misfits looked to. I never understood why and whenever the poor person who was bullied by the popular kids, befriended me, I wanted to say to them, “Why me? Please leave me alone.” I believe that, although I didn’t speak up, I never took part in the actual bullying and what they saw was a person who was different from the others in the group—someone with a certain amount of, not only compassion but empathy. I believe I didn’t just feel sorry for them, I identified with them because I also felt like an outcast. I truly understood their plight, not because I was the nerd, but I was an outcast masquerading as “normal.” I just wanted to fit in. As children, any kid who is not white bread, any kid who is different, is in for a heartbreaking childhood.
When I was about 11 and in day camp, there was a girl named Lorelei who was the object of cruel jokes, mostly because she was different—a very free spirit—and did not wear undies. That was noted when we changed into our clothes after swimming and she was relentlessly teased by the other girls. Sadly one of the mothers even wrote a song about her that became a chant every day. Since I did not sing the song nor did I take part in the jokes, she gravitated to me. One day she asked me over to her house for a sleepover, which was mortifying to me. I didn’t want anyone to know lest I become the object of the popular girls’ wrath. I put her off for as long as I could and asked my mom who said, “Just go over there. It will be nice.” I was hoping she would tell me not to go, but she didn’t so I bit the bullet and said I would go. She was SO happy that she had a “friend” but I wanted to keep it a secret. The day came for my sleepover and I reluctantly went over with my mom. I discovered that Lorelei was very wealthy and lived in a gorgeous townhome in Manhattan. Her dad, an older gentleman with gray hair, was a widow so she had no mother to pattern her behavior after. He also walked with leg braces and was very debilitated, but very nice. I think he was over the moon that his daughter actually had a friend over for a sleepover. I was determined not to have a good time and kept wanting to call my mom to pick me up, but I figured I’d stick it out. But something interesting happened that evening—I began to actually enjoy myself. Lorelei was actually a fun person and I have a good memory of playing with her parakeet, putting him under the cover and watching him burrow himself out. In spite of myself, and against all odds, I gave in and laughed and enjoyed the night. I remember thinking, “Ok, I’ll go over and get it over with. Then I will make an excuse and never come back.” So, although I had a good time, I still figured this was a one-time thing. Then, the inevitable question was asked, “Can you come over again next week?” I wanted to say NO, but I just couldn’t hurt her feelings so I agreed. Again, the next time I went over, I had a fun time. But, somehow the popular girls got wind of my fraternizing with the enemy and their rebuke was swift. My friend Denise said, “You know if you continue to be friends with her, you will not have any more friends.” At that point I decided not to listen to her and basically ignored her warning. I don’t know what would’ve happened in the future, but I never had to make that decision. The problem was solved because one day Lorelei stopped coming to the day camp, and I literally never knew what became of her. But that taught me a lesson that you shouldn’t be so quick to try to fit in. As the years have gone by, and as I have gotten older, I don’t care anymore about fitting in or being popular. I am who I am, and I am not a social butterfly—I often have to force myself to be in groups and interact. Do I care?—sometimes I do, but mostly I don’t.