This Is In Praise Of All The ‘Outliers’

Flickr / hans van den berg
Flickr / hans van den berg

Growing up, I never fit into any particular group. In elementary school, I colored with the “cool kids”—at this time, being a cool kid meant your parents bought you a ton of key chains to clip onto your backpack—but when they had sleepovers or trips to Plaster FunTime, I wasn’t invited. Eventually, I missed so many trips to paint a plate or a piggy bank, that I stopped coloring at their table. They had also started wearing skinny jeans, jeans that squeezed tight to every contour of your thighs. With the introduction of these new pants, every girl in my grade stopped jumping off the swings at recess. I continued to see how hard I could pump my legs to make the swing fly back and forth and then, at the pivotal moment, jump off, brushing the wood chips off of my Land’s End Adjustable Waist Blue Jeans behind.

I was sitting at a table with girls who got straight A’s, played soccer on the travel team, and went to CCD[1]. So everyone must’ve thought that I got straight A’s, played soccer on the travel team, and went to CCD. I became obsessed with finding a new table as quickly as possible, but each time I tried a different table, I realized I didn’t fit in immediately and so did everyone else who had accepted the fact that I was a smart, sporty, good-girl.

Eventually, I went to the only table I had not tried out. I didn’t really understand what the girls at the table were like. There was one sporty girl, but she was talking to a nerd! There was a girl drawing something on her cheeseburger wrapper while the two girls next to her complained about their classes. I sat down, unnoticed. Suddenly the girl across from me laughed so loud at something the girl next to her had said that she spit-taked her chocolate milk onto my new sweater from the Gap.

“Omigosh! Omigosh! I’m so sorry!” she said laughing as more of the sepia-toned liquid dribbled down her chin.

“It’s okay. I’ve got a change of clothes in my gym locker anyway, so I can change into that.”

“I’m Lily,” the girl said, “This is Alexa,” she nudged the girl who had caused the mess, “and that girl, doing her homework,” she grinned at the smart-looking girl, “is Shannon. Oh! You’re the new girl in our gym class! After that first day, the four of us were inseparable. Shannon took the bus home, but Lily, Alexa, and I walked. We giggled and gossiped and complained like I had so longed to do. Eventually, Lily and I hung out more and more at her apartment. We watched Spaghetti Westerns while eating Wonder Bread, which we used as clay to make little people. She raided her mom’s bookshelf finding the Kama Sutra, which we read with one eye shut, sometimes laughing till our sides split and we could no longer breathe and, other times, very seriously. (Studiously, you might say? Neither of us had boyfriends, but we dreamed.) One day we sat on her living room couch, trying to escape the heat by drinking lemonades and setting up her portable fan in front of our faces. Our thighs stuck to the pleather and made an awful sucking noise when we moved. Bessie, Lily’s old, deaf, and therefore, rather complacent beagle sat on our feet panting.

One of us had the good idea to make Bessie the subject of our latest art project,

“It’ll be like those ladies who dye their toy poodles like pink and stuff!” Lily exclaimed, peeling her thighs off of the wet couch and opening her mom’s desk draw.

She found a bright blue sharpie, and we spent the rest of the afternoon sipping our lemonades and coloring all of Bessie’s white bits blue till she looked as if she had gotten some strange disease after visiting the tropics. Her mom came home that day to find the three of us lying on the floor in utter exhaustion, reduced to pools of sweat, and unabashedly content. Well, I can’t speak for the dog.

Now I’m going to college. I’ve often been accused of being old-fashioned, but when the social media craze infected the world’s high schools, I caved in and created a Facebook account. At one of the schools I was considering, the freshman class page was filled with requests for roommates. Posts like this:

Hey guys! I’m SOOO excited to meet you all in the fall!!!! J I know we are all gonna kick some major a**!! So, here is some stuff about me. I’m looking for a roommate so message me if you’re interested! I LOVE all types of music, especially electronic and rap. I’m looking to live on the East Quad (Shout out to all my East Quad buddies!!) and want a roommate who is comfortable with smoking/drinking. Other than that, I play basketball and hope to play on the team next year. I WORSHIP Beyonce!! BOW DOWN to Queen BEY!!!! <3 I’m pretty messy and I study with my music blasting. Ummmm….what else….I’m not really sure what I’m gonna major in yet, but maybe something like Neuroscience of Psych? I don’t know. Anyway, you guys rock and I can’t wait to meet you all in the fall!!

Others took on a different timbre:

Hey there! I can’t wait to meet everyone! I’m writing this because I’m looking for a roommate. I want to live on Green St. I’d like a roommate who can be my best friend and someone I can always count on in times of need. Here’s what you need to know about me. I guess I’m pretty shy and quiet, but I can be crazy when I’m in the mood…or don’t have enough sleep…hahaha AP Chem….!) I’m substance free and I’d like a roommate who is also sub-free. This was my first choice!! I got in ED . I want to major in Chemistry and minor in SWAG[2] so this is pretty much the perfect school for me. I cannot wait to be surrounded by strong ladies. (no more privileged cis-gender males! J) I cannot wait to explore downtown. I’ve just started rock-climbing, and I want to find climbing buddies! I LOVE LOVE LOVE bubble tea. I also really like anime and K-Pop, and I’m really interested in Korean and Japanese cultures. I’m a total Whovian!! xD I’m passionate about social justice issues such as LGBT rights and Environmental Justice. Ok, I guess I should stop rambling. (A terrible habit of mine…hehe)

I found myself navigating a very different type of lunchroom. Did I fit in with the quiet residents of Green Street or the boisterous crew of the Quad? Each poster seemed to neatly fit into one of these categories. In the first couple of months, I held back and watched as roommates paired up and friendships were forged.

How was I supposed to make friends? Would I be stuck interacting with strict types throughout college? One girl had posted something that perfectly summed up my anxieties:

It seems like everyone is finding their roommates through the group? I’ve also noticed that many of you are now Facebook friends. Am I horribly behind? Does everyone pick roommates before college? Did you guys all know each other before?

I messaged this girl and we let out all the shared anxieties the very public formation of friend groups on the page had caused us. We began to talk about movies and realized we both had a love of Al Pacino (especially his earlier films) and movies from the 1970s. In its own quiet way, our friendship was born. Yes, FOMO exists, but if you focus on what you like and stay true to yourself, it will go away. ‘Cuz who knows you better than yourself? Nobody. TC mark

[1] Cofraternity of Christian Doctrine
[2] Study of Women and Gender

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