The invitations come in all formsâ€¦emails, word of mouth, lovely cards, and photo â€œsave the date!â€ magnets that wonâ€™t stick to a stainless steel refrigerator.Â Ah yes, this is the season of graduations, weddings, and reunionsâ€”family, and â€œclass of.â€
Recently I attended a celebration where I really didnâ€™t know many people.Â Truth be told, the honored person was interested in my husband attending because that is where the relationship mattered.Â Inviting me was more of an obligational, polite, afterthought.Â The invitation should have read to â€œDr. Gates and that woman who shows up with you,â€ instead of being addressed to the both of us.
I encouraged my husband to go without me and to have a good time.Â He would have none of it, and insisted I accompany him as the team we are.Â Yea.
Have you ever watched a movie of teenage angst where the new kidâ€”letâ€™s say she is a freshman newly relocated from a hayseed and denim-is-as-formal-as-it-gets country school, and is now nervously attending a snooty upscale school but doesnâ€™t know a soul?Â Yeah. THAT movie. Thereâ€™s been a million different variations on the theme.Â But the plot keeps working because weâ€™ve all been touched in some way or other by not fitting in.
Inevitably, in the movie, the poor country mouse tries to make friends but quickly gets put in her place.Â It doesnâ€™t matter how big her smile is, how willing she is to listen and blend in, or how determined she is to make the best of her new circumstances.Â Nope.Â She gets shunned because she had the nerve to think she was as good as the others at the lunch table.
I think you know where Iâ€™m going with this.Â Here I am, a mature woman with much happiness in my life.Â We are at this celebration and my introverted nature is holding on and biding time.Â My husband is glad-handing one and all, and people light up when they see him.
We stride towards a table populated by people he knows, and he points me to an empty chair.Â I put on a smile and sit quietly as he runs off to get a bottle of water.Â No one looks at me after he leaves.Â I attempt to make eye contact, but nope, nobody is willing to take on the wife of the popular guy.
When my husband returns he immediately engages in conversation and tells highly entertaining stories.Â The group laughs and shares with him.Â I mention some aspect of my husbandâ€™s volunteerism pertinent to the ongoing conversation and the table goes quiet.Â Crickets chirp for a few moments.Â Then, with obvious intention, the table takes the conversation in another direction.
Wordlessly I was told I wasnâ€™t invited to share my thoughts.Â I could show up because of my husband, but I was not part of their group.
Later, as my husband and I walked to our car, he said, â€œThat wasnâ€™t too painful was it?â€Â I sighed.Â â€œNot painful at all as long as I understood I was tolerated and not welcome.â€Â He cleared his throat, and said, â€œIâ€™m sorry.Â You didnâ€™t deserve that.â€
What irritated me most was the fact they got to me.Â Normally strangers acting hoity-toity rolls right off of me.Â But this time, at this celebration, I was there for my husband.Â I tried to authentically sparkle, but failed. Â I felt like I let him down by being perceived as â€œless than.â€
For the rest of the evening the cloud of doubt hovered over my head.Â My husband gently reminded me that we can never control the behavior of others.Â Yeah, yeah, it sounds pretty until it socks you in the gut.
Iâ€™m fine now.Â In fact, I have had reason to be in the company of some of those same people again, and their coldness never came close to snuffing this little light of mine.