Floating in a Sea of Marginality
Post One in the writing experiment “Bored With My Bad Self.” Please click here to start the essay with its prelude.
Have you ever wandered into a group event, picked up a glass and a snack, and scanned the room for someone to talk to? Someone who gets you, who will be The Conversational Holy Grail? If you’re like me, you usually move from group to group to group and never feel like you really fit anywhere, especially if it’s a Secret Society of People Who Have Something in Common.
Take my marriage to MTM, the Architect Who Also Used to Be in Academia. Part of being a Card-Carrying Academic is giving lectures, watching lectures, and discussing the intricate possible meanings of those lectures. For HOURS and HOURS and HOURS and HOURS and HOURS. This can leave the non-architect in a bewildered stupor, grappling for anything worthy to contribute to the conversation over the course of an evening.
Especially when everyone knows you are Not One of Them as soon as you open your timid trap.
In the early days of my relationship with MTM, I tried to fit. Granted, I had no design training. I didn’t know the difference between Frank Gehry and Frank Lloyd Wright. In college, I did not stay awake for three or four consecutive years in Studio, fueling my frenzy of creativity with caffeine and Radiohead. I could not fathom their Experience, why it made them talk for hours about the Feeling of the Perfect Chair Against their Buttocks, the Extra Line That Doesn’t Need to Be There…That One…..Right There, the Assaultive and Possibly Brain-Damaging Qualities of Floral Print, and Worship at the Altar of Design Within Reach.
About the only thing that gave me any comfort at these interminable outings was the knowledge that every single one of these people would always have a pen. They might not let me touch it, or they might let me use it and hover in my personal space to make sure my ‘borrowing’ didn’t turn into ‘kidnapping their precious baby.’ Still, I knew I could take notes about the myriad incomprehensible words and phrases with the hopes of looking a few of them up when no one was around to see how much I didn’t know.
Yes, eventually I got over being intimidated by people I’ve grown to love. That fact doesn’t make me fit any better within these Secret Handshake Clubs.
Sometimes, the best way to communicate how we feel is by making the other person experience it first-hand. The tables were turned on my Architect Friend Alice several years ago. She accompanied me to a continuing education conference for Pencil-Headed Certified Public Accountants. We decided to take a wine tour of the Willamette Valley with the conference group. Alice averted her eyes as we loaded ourselves into the purple van decorated with garish painted grapes and settled in for the hour-long ride.
It was a raucous bunch. These people regaled us with stories of Shredding Parties, Little-Known Facts About the IRS, the Merit of Internal Revenue Code Section 4,325,698,235 (Z)(2,456,111)(aa)(450 to the 25th power), and Their Favorite Audits of All Time. Alice looked at me about ten minutes into the (even to me) insufferable trek. Shell-shocked horror etching her lovely, glasses-clad visage, she whispered, “Is THIS what you feel like in a room full of architects??????”
It’s also how I feel in every conceivable convening of The Secret Society of the Uterus….