Sunday, December 19, 2004

Heather Revisited

(continued from last post)

Note: The Global Relationship Center of Connecticut will be hosting another Understanding Yourself and Others class in January. Obviously I highly recommend it. You can contact Bruce Price, the owner of the Connecticut Center, here. Tell him Sarah from Israel sent you. To find other Centers around the USA, click here.)

All the women in the course – the female students and course assistants – arranged the chairs into rows, just as if they were sitting in a 5th grade classroom. I was instructed to choose the woman who, to me, could stand in for Heather. I chose a woman in her early twenties who is blond and pretty and seems sure of herself – just like Heather did. (This woman, by the way, chuckled and said “if you only knew how uncool I was in school . . . . “)

I grabbed a notebook to stand in for my sticker collection, and class began. “Heather” came in and introduced herself as the new girl, oozing with self-confidence, and the other women started saying “Heather, come sit with me!” and “Heather, let’s play during recess!” and “Heather, do you want to come to my house after school?”

Feeling almost as shy as I did in fifth grade, I approached the gaggle of women-girls, with Heather now in the middle of it, and quietly said “Heather, do you want to trade stickers during recess?”

“Heather” rolled her eyes and said “Oh, come on, that’s for babies. I haven’t traded stickers since third grade. Really!” and turned away to the other women, who continued chatting and fawning over her.

The female instructor, Eve, asked “Is that how it happened?”

Feeling absolutely miserable – just like I did when I was ten-- I said “pretty much, yeah.”

Then, from behind me, the male instructor, Bruce, said “Sarah, look at this dry-erase board. I’ve got some sentences here for you to finish, based on how you are feeling right now.”

Bruce: Life is . . .
Sarah: Sucky.
Bruce: Women are . . .
Sarah: Mean.
Bruce: Men are . . .
Sarah: Incomprehensible
Bruce: I am . . .
Sarah: Small.
Bruce: Therefore I must . . .
Sarah: Retreat.

Believe it or not, that’s how a lot of my life has been. Oh, not all of it, of course, or I never would have had the chutzpah to, say, start a blog. In particular things got a lot better when Heather left after 8th grade, and I joined NCSY where my presence and leadership skills were appreciated. I got onto Regional Board and edited the school yearbook, and in college I led clubs and did OK, popularity-wise. And I certainly have lots of girlfriends, and don’t always think men are incomprehensible. What else would women talk about if we didn’t think men were absolutely predictable? (Just kidding. Mostly). But . . . . well . . . Heather taught me well, and in some part of my mind I’ve been carrying around this idea that everyone else has a secret that I don’t know . . . . And if the comments to the last post are an indication, I’m not alone in this . . .

Eve had the other women do the scene a second time. Again, the other “girls” sat at their “desks.” Again, “Heather” entered and introduced herself, to cheers of “sit with me!” and “come to my house!” Again, I slowly approached Heather and invited her to trade stickers.

But this time, the other “girls” surprised me. One of them said “Oh my God! Sarah has the best sticker collection of anyone in the class!” [And it’s true, I really did, actually.]

“Yeah,” said another woman, “Trading stickers with her is so much fun!”

“Sarah’s so cool!” “And, she’s really smart!” “Can I see your stickers now?” “Here, come sit with me, Sarah!”

“Hey, Sarah, um, can I trade stickers with you too?”

By that last, I was beaming. I could hardly believe it. And I said “Sure! How about we ALL bring our sticker collections tomorrow and we’ll ALL trade TOGETHER?”

“Wow! That’s a great idea!” “That sounds so fun!” “Hey! Let’s have a sticker party!”

And I was just about to say “A party? How about a slumber party? At my house! I’ll ask my mom!” when Bruce said . . .

Bruce: Sarah, again. Life is . . .
Sarah: Fun!
Bruce: Women are . . .
Sarah: Fun!
Bruce: Men are . . .
Sarah (looking around at everyone in the room): Irrelevant!
Bruce: I am . . .
Sarah: Fun!
Bruce: Therefore I must . . .
Sarah: Throw a slumber party!!!! Woohoo!!!!

And, lest you think that the “UYO Glow” goes away completely, I still have that “Let’s have a sticker party!” feeling (of course, this wasn’t the only exercise they did with me – I was up there for a few hours). Not every second of every day, but a lot of the time. I still feel more like I’m fun, that whatever secrets there might be, I know just as much as anyone else.

Before I post what I learned from this little experiential lesson, I’d like to know what you think about it. Imagine yourself in that moment when you first thought you weren’t cool. Put yourself back in the moment. And imagine how your life would have been different if the other kids had reacted differently, if they had reacted with warm enthusiasm to your hobbies, your clothes, everything about you.

What does that tell you? (I’ll let you know what it tells me in the next post)

By the way, after this program I went back to Manhattan. Before the weekend, I’d been petrified of bumping into He Who Must Not Be Named. But after this, you know what? I realized, if I bump into him, I’ll be cool. It won’t matter. I’ll just smile and say hi and ask how he’s doing, and probably be more poised than he is, because he doesn’t have any secrets about being cool that I don’t know. And if I don’t bump into him, that’s OK too. Our meeting or not meeting has no power over me anymore. You know why? Because it’s irrelevant.


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