Saturday, September 22, 2012


When I was 4 years old, and in preschool, my parents were called in to talk with my teacher around graduation time. I was going to be 5 that August, and so, logically, would be beginning kindergarten. The teacher, God bless her, put it somewhat delicately to my parents that while I was quite smart, and there were no concerns about me academically, I was...well...socially backwards. While other kids loved playing with each other and participating in all of the hands-on activities, I would cower in the corner, and often even cry at the idea of interacting with others. I actually remember crying about not wanting to finger paint, or maybe, wanting to, but being afraid and nervous to do something that involved interacting with others. I was shy to the point of craziness, and, though I would meet the September 1st cut off by three weeks, the teacher advised my parents to hold me back a year and repeat Pre-K. I was too young to be embarrassed about it, but I'm a little embarrassed now, to admit that my parents now have two videos of me graduating Pre-K. Though I absolutely refused to get up and go get my diploma...both years...I guess they felt it was important that I still participate in the ceremony.

I grew out of that. Basketball helped me to come out of my shell, ever so slowly, and by high school I was participating in skits and plays and making a fool of myself in front of the whole school just for fun. I excelled both athletically and academically thanks to (I believe) that extra year, and I'm really grateful for that decision my parents made all those years ago. Now, in an age when everything has a diagnosis, I'm very glad that they didn't have me tested for being such an oddly, abnormal child.

Now, about 25 years later, I realize that in the past 5 or 6 years, I have slowly reverted back to that awkward little girl, who would cry at the thought of playing with people she didn't know. Becoming a mother has enriched my life in more ways than I can even count, but in one small way, it has hindered my growth as a productive person of society. My priorities have rightly shifted. Spending time with my kids and my husband, and getting sleep, have become the most important aspects of my worldly life. At one point, while living in North Carlina, I could sometimes go weeks without any stimulating adult conversation. I had Jelani who was exhausted after work in the evenings, and one friend whose little girl I watched. Sometimes she'd stay and visit when picking up her daughter, but often she had to get right home (and who could blame her), to eat and get her daughter ready for bed to do it all over again the next day. I slowly reverted back to that shy and awkward little girl. And let me tell you, social awkwardness is not nearly as endearing in a grown woman.

In college, given one night, I could have a new best friend. We'd bond over fashion, sports, or sometimes even just the same interests in men (boys). Instant friends. I have some great memories with people I have never seen again since. Now I laugh as I realize that it just took me 3 years to become friends with a handful of women from our church who I now, occasionally hang out with outside of church! THREE YEARS! Part of that is just being busy, and not having as much free time to just get together last minute. Things like that need to be planned weeks in advance now, around children, husbands, jobs, and family commitments. Maybe it's a good thing it has taken this long to get to know these ladies, because they've had less time to observe my serious awkwardness.

See, last summer, Jelani finally made plans to get together with an old college friend of his and his wife. They hadn't seen each other since our wedding in 2006, and I had never hung out with them at all. We were having a great time with them. They had a daughter about Elijah's age, and the kids were having fun as well. At one point Jelani stayed at the table chatting with his old college friend, and I went out to the swing set with his friend's wife and the kids. We got into a conversation about birthday cake because her daughter's birthday was coming up and she was getting her cake from Wegman's. I'm not sure if I just didn't know how to contribute to the conversation, or if my brain just took a major break on me, but I mentioned how I make and decorate the kids' birthday cakes every year, and I wouldn't feel right buying a cake now because of the standard I had set for myself. I didn't say that exactly, but that's probably as bad as it sounded. What a pretentious cake snob I must have seemed to her! She gave me a strange look. I instantly knew that what I had said sounded so much worse than what I had meant, but, not really knowing how to fix it, I changed the subject. We haven't heard from them since, and I don't know if that's just because life is busy, or because I'm a moron.

Wegman's cakes are awesome!! She's a working mom! I don't judge that at all. I set that standard for myself because that's just what I do. I'm home, I have the time, plus I love to bake. But I'm absolutely positive that what I said, in that moment, sounded like, "You suck as a mom because you don't make homemade cakes for your child's birthdays." Open mouth. Insert foot.

Similarly, while telling a story to some church friends about when Elijah was a baby in North Carolina, I made a comment about how where we were living at the time was the Mexican capital of North Carolina....??? I know, right? I merely meant that Concord, NC has a very high population of Mexicans. I did not mean it negatively in any way, but for a brief moment (though I may have imagined it) there was an awkward pause and at least one subtle gasp. I continued with my story and chose to ignore it. I later e-mailed the ladies involved in the dialogue, who all laughed at me and understood. Pheww.

I also, may have recounted a story from high school about how a deer used me and my dad's van to commit suicide three days before hunting season....get a funeral of a friend who had, in fact, committed suicide. I had told that story multiple times before, but at that moment, it was wildly inappropriate. We went from laughing and reminiscing about that accident years ago, to an awkward silence in which I felt like a total, insensitive, jerk face. Again, I moved on, choosing to ignore it. At that point, I'm pretty sure I would have made things worse by apologizing and drawing more attention to it, but who knows.

This is why I have a soft spot for politicians who are constantly teased for sticking their foots in their mouths in one way or another. They very well may not have meant what you thought they meant, and, speaking from experience, taken out of context, just about anything can sound pretentious, insensitive, or discriminatory.

There are others I refuse to open to public scrutiny, and others still, I am sure, that I don't even remember. If you are someone who has been negatively affected by my social awkwardness, I sincerely apologize. And for the friends I still have, regardless of this disease, I am grateful. Perhaps when my kids grow up and leave home, I will relearn the skill of interacting with others, but for now, I will talk to you from behind my computer (sometimes still awkward) and cry about wanting to hang out with you, but being terrified to do so, at the same time.


  1. oh that deer. one of the scariest moments of my life and one of the times i feel most blessed for that NONE Of us were hurt!

    1. No kidding!! That could have been so much worse than it was!

  2. I suffer from the same syndrome. Patrick has no problem pointing out that sometimes the things I say come out wrong. :-) We all have those moments. I usually say them out of anger and then they come across even more judgmental. Our neighbors had friends over one night, and one of their friends (a father of an 11-yr old boy) was playing catch with his son. Every time the boy missed or didn't throw well the father said "come on Sally!" and "you can do better than that Sally." It made me so angry that I said "you know what you're teaching your son, right???" and he asked "no, what?" I explained rather hastily that every time he called his boy Sally he was teaching him that it was wrong or inferior to be a girl. Fortunately he said "yeah, I guess I didn't see it that way" and I was off the hook. Phew!!!

    1. I don't know. It seems like you said something that needed to be said! I say things without prompting most of the time. haha Plus, pretty sure I would have been a lot less PC about that situation. It would have gone more like, "You know what you're teaching your son, right?" "No, what?" "You're teaching him that he's a girl."