Outcast lunch table

Going from elementary school to junior high, I only had a handful of friends and none of them had the same lunch period as I did. I remember timidly walking into the cafeteria looking for a place to sit and eat the lunch I’d brought from home. I saw familiar faces, but no one I knew well enough to eat lunch with, so I sat at an empty table near the middle of the cafeteria and took out my sandwich and began to eat.

Before too long other people came to my table and it quickly filled up. At first I was flattered. These were popular kids. And some of them were boys. However, no one talked to me. I tried to become as small as possible and concentrate on eating my sandwich. A friend of the group at the table stopped by and wanted to sit with them so they forcefully evicted me — literally pushing me out of my chair so their friend could sit in it.

I grabbed my lunch and looked for another table, trying hard not to cry. I found a table with two girls I remembered from elementary school who were a year ahead of me.  They also were girls that other kids considered beneath them. One was a mannish-looking girl who was the daughter of friends of my parents. Another was a girl who, in elementary school, often came to school dirty and smelly.  I hesitated asking if I could sit at this table, knowing that associating with these girls would secure my fate as an outcast; but I needed a place to sit so I asked if I could sit with them. They welcomed me warmly. As the lunch period went on, more girls joined us — each of them quirky in her own way.

I sat with these girls for the rest of the time I was in junior high; and one of the girls that joined  us that first day became my best friend for the next several years. I’m ashamed of my initial reaction to the girls at that table. In hindsight I know that one was going through an inner struggle, trying to figure out her sexual identity and the other was the child of alcoholic parents. I, who’d just been physically pushed out of a chair, had no business judging the worthiness of anyone else.

I like to think that I, and all the girls that sat at the outcast table, became the interesting adults while the kids that pushed me away from their table grew up to be boring.

10 thoughts on “Outcast lunch table

  1. I think about this topic a lot and I think there is probably quite a bit of truth in what you say but I also think the answer is complicated. I was definitely *not* popular as an adolescent but I don’t remember anyone being overtly mean to me — although, alas, I can remember *being* mean to other kids that might have been a bit below *me* in the pecking order. When I first dragged myself onto facebook, I very tentatively friended someone from childhood (friend in grade school, too popular for me later on). Next thing I knew, I was at a mini-reunion with a bunch of those popular folk where I was totally accepted and we had a great time! I might have called some of those people mean when I was an awkward teenager who didn’t know how to fit in. And I am very regretful that I ever teased anyone even less fortunate than I was.

    Not sure any of that made any sense. Kudos to you for being so brave when you were young. I’m not sure I would have sat at the “outcast” table.

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    1. I’ve not even tried to friend anyone I considered popular in high school on Facebook. First, they’d probably not have any idea who I am, and second, I don’t have any interest in being their Facebook friend. At the one reunion I attended (my 10th), I felt as awkward as I did in middle and high school.

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    1. You know, IB, I still hate any situation where I need to look for a place to sit and eat in a crowded room. That’s why I like to avoid food courts. Standing in a room full of strangers, holding a lunch tray is not my idea of fun, even when I’m with other people.

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  2. I’ve been at both tables, although never at such an exclusive spot that people were pushed out. I moved several times and always started at the bottom of the ladder and worked my way up. Only one time did I leave kids behind (instead of bridging several groups). I still regret it.

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  3. Yowch! Geez, that was a horrible time of life, but I feel OK now. I think marrying the right man helped.
    Just got home from Seattle last night, recovered today, and will begin moving the young’uns back to school tomorrow. When does Claire go back?
    I have been collecting wood for my fire pit and bought another bag of marshmellows today. When the weather is right, I will host another roast. I wonder when the next full moon is?
    Hope you’re well. See you Monday or so?

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