I spent the weekend at a dance camp for my young daughter. She was in classes most of the day, so I spent my time with many, many of the moms. I only know very few of them, so I was already in a situation that would cause my social anxiety to flair up. (I don’t like large groups, especially of people I don’t know. It’s very overwhelming to me. I don’t do well in large groups.)
As I sat with these moms, waiting for our daughters and the occasional son to finish their classes, we would talk. And once again, I felt so awkward and weird. I didn’t know the right questions to ask, I said the wrong things, and by the end of the weekend, most of the moms barely even looked my way.
I was way out of my element. I don’t know anything about this dance world. Most of the moms were talking about future goals for their daughters—how old they should be when they hit different levels; are they doing solos, small group numbers and why; club gossip. All their daughters had perfect hair with beautiful hairbows or accessories—my daughter won’t wear anything in her hair and by the end of the day her ponytail had moved to the left, so she looked like she was straight out the eighties. She won’t wear a bow. She is so tiny that none of the leotards or shorts or tops fit her properly, so she is all pinned up with safety pins. Hot mess if you ever saw one.
I felt so uncomfortable. I tried to be social; asking a few moms what they were doing for dinner or later, to which they would reply with the noncommittal “I’m not sure yet!” and then I would see them later with other friends, obviously (at least to me), having made plans earlier and didn’t want to invite me but also didn’t want to hurt my feelings. I wish they knew how much courage it took me to even ask them about their plans. How terrified I was of being turned down. And how hurt I felt when I was.
These women are so tiny, beautifully dressed and perfectly poised. I have nice things, but I feel like they never look as good on me as they do others. I felt like these women were talking about me behind my back: Who is this weird lady? Why does she say such odd things? (Even though I’m positive I was not the main topic of their conversation.) I’m not a good conversationalist. I don’t draw people to me with my wit and charm. I’m nerdy and weird.
Here’s the thing. I was bullied in school from about first grade until twelfth grade. The degrees of bullying varied from year to year, but it left me very apprehensive and unsure in situations like this weekend. I feel like others are setting me up or laughing at me behind my back. The level of emotional abuse that occurs with bullying is staggering. I am going to do a post that goes into a little more depth with this, and especially my situation, as I know I was a perfect bullying target. I don’t like bullies. I don’t like what they do to people. The effects last for years and years. I graduated from high school 25 years ago. 25. And I am still experiencing the effects of that.