Odd Woman Out
One would think that after twenty years, I'd be used to this feeling. I am, and I'm not. I am, because every day, in a multitude of ways, the fact that I don't belong here is made painfully clear.
I'm not, because it never becomes easy to be the one on the outside looking in. It's a perspective with which I am familiar, but not entirely comfortable.
I tried, when my children were small, to fit into the myriad groups that women join to stave off the isolation and monotony of caring for a home and small children. It was fun, at first. I didn't care what was being talked about, as long as someone was talking.
But of course, chit chat grows stale fairly quickly, and it's only natural that topics become more substantial as people get to know one another.
And that's when the trouble usually begins.
Time after time, in group after group, the cycle would repeat itself. I wore a groove in my tongue from the constant pressure of my teeth firmly clamped down upon it.
I am an agnostic, with strong anti-theist tendencies. If I wanted to talk about religion, I would join a bible study. But here in the South, it seems that any social gathering is an acceptable platform for prosyletizing. It simply doesn't occur to people that there might be godless heathens in their midst. It just does not compute.
And I can't tell you how many times I've felt that sick, sinking feeling in my stomach as the topic turned from diaper rash to religion. And of course, those deeply committed to their faith often have drastically different idealogy that those espoused by a heretic such as myself. And those idealogies are bandied about freely, without regard to the sensibilities of any others present who might not hold the same views.
I've been forced to listen to intolerance and ignorance spew from the mouths of women I liked, admired and respected; agog and abashed, paralyzed with indignation and indecision.
So I stopped going. I stopped putting myself out there, even in situations that seemed perfectly innocuous, and satisfyingly secular.
I'll admit, I've been lonely.
For a while, my sister was my sanity. But she moved back home with her family, and I lost my best friend; my doppleganger. She and I are very much alike. We've always gotten along great, but that's not to say we haven't had our difference. But when she's pissed, she tells me. She doesn't play games. She doesn't get all passive agressive. She's honest and forthright. She says what she means and she means what she says.
That is astonishingly rare here, and I can't tell you how much I miss her.
Recently, I've begun making an effort once again. Because I realized I was becoming a recluse and a bit of a misanthrope. I've joined this and that, and I've been having a pretty good time. I've been making an effort to embrace the good and ignore the bad. And for the most part, that's working pretty well.
But yesterday...oh boy. Yesterday undermined all the progress I've made in my quest to be more social and to accept the way things are.
I went to a PTSA meeting. I know, it's so cliche. But I have to do something to occupy my mind, and since I am chairing the Arts In Education Committee, It makes me feel like I'm doing something worthwhile.
Honestly I've been enjoying it. This isn't your Mama's PTSA. It's serious business and as such, the women are smart, savvy, and dynamice. I like them.
Everyone brings food, and after the meeting we socialize and munch. Usually, the discussion is fun and lighthearted, but this time, the talk turned much more serious. I don't even remember how it happened. But suddenly, everyone in the room was up in arms about the fact that religion can't be taught in public schools.
WITHOUT EXCEPTION, the women in the rooom agreed that it was a shame teachers weren't allowed to share their religious beliefs and provide religious instruction and guidance to their students.
I take that back. There was an exception. ME. I sat there, stupefied, as usual. Mute with my surprise, that wasn't really surprise, but more like disappointment tempered with sadness.
I kept my mouth shut. I always do.
Shortly after that, the volunteer liaison, who is also a kingergarten teacher, began talking about the new grading system being used at the elementary level. Instead of being strictly percentage based on the conventional grading scale, each student will also be individually evaluated according to a set of standard criteria.
I thought it sounded wonderful. There are so many children who are very, very bright, but don't fit the pre-determined molds that public school insists on squeezing them into. For unconventional learners, such as my Diminutive One, who are fantastically bright, it would mean that their potential is realized and perhaps for the first time, tapped into, nurtured, and valued.
And even "average" kids fall through the cracks. There are issues that go undiscovered and cause them to lag behind. There are small matters that can make a big difference in how a child performs in the classroom. This, I thought, would help identify them.
But I was in the minority, again. I sat and listened to them all complain about how this would pave the way for kids who have no business at the top of the grading curve, make it more difficult to cull the truly deserving from the herd and give them the opportunities they deserve, and impede them by forcing them to adapt to another, dimmer child's pace in the classroom.
The teacher's main concern was how time consuming all of this was going to be.
It was insulting and infuriating and I was, once again, shocked.
I said something this time. Politely, diplomatically, and, I thought, somewhat articulately.
Twelve pairs of eyes regarded me with wide eyed disbelief. Twenty-four hands shuffled papers in front of them. One voice adroitly changed the subject.
Shortly after that I excused myself.
I'm sad about what happened. Because my opinion of them changed, as I'm sure, did theirs of me. Henceforth, my function on the PTSA will be merely an obligation to fulfill. Not a joy. Not a pleasure. Just a chore.
Well, it was good while it lasted.