Saturday, October 13, 2012

Lunch at the Writers' Table


You were becoming weird even before you were aware of what weirdness was.  Same thing as saying you were beginning to inspect and inhabit your inner youness, all the while accustoming yourself to interactions with your peers and adults such as teachers and adults who were your parents’ friends, and adult members of your extended family.

For a time, you wanted to be like your peers, aware of ways some of them formed discreet groups, aware as well of particular peers who befriended you and you them.  As such things evolved for you, wanting to be like (and be liked by) others became its own desperate goal for a time, slowly morphing into a laissez faire attitude that by now has considerable influence on how you enter a situation and behave within it.

The history of this weirdness and otherness factor came into focus this morning in the flotsam of your thought process during comments in the Saturday Writing Group you host at the Café Luna in Summerland.  The conversation sent you reeling back to one of the more unpleasant times in your life, which you referred to even then as Stalag 17, the gulag, and JBenwald, all from the youthful harshness of being an inmate in junior high school.  The notion was made even more vivid by the reflections of one of the group about her experiences in the junior high school slightly north of you toward Hollywood.

You vividly recalled an awareness of a larger group of students whom you assigned group qualities with no real evidence of their own preferences in the matter.  They all seemed to know one another, which in retrospect informed your vision of their group-ness.

Indeed, at a high school reunion, you learned that two of this junior high “group” had married, and one other from the junior high group, whom you also known in grammar school, reflected that you and she had known one another over a major span of your separate lives.  “If we’d known how to be friends then,” she reflected, “we’d be able to say we were lifelong friends.  As it is, we’ve still known one another most of our life.”

Yet another, whom you’d desperately wished to be in a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship with, but had no ability—even minus ability—to engage a functional conversation with, confessed the same thing about you, leading to the greater honesty of you confessing you were too busy being weird and her confession of her being too busy being popular.

The thrust of your memory this morning was the memory of your own eat-lunch-with group, self-acknowledged weird sorts, and a boy who sat nearby but not with the group.  He seemed to identify with your group’s weirdness and yet saw himself as outsider to that.  You remember thinking he should be eating lunch with us.  You remember even talking to him at times, and, alas, you remember the “reason” why he remained an outsider, although you do not remember the source of the judgment.  Stanley—the boy—was good in math.

You were, likely still are, one of the least arithmetic persons you know.  Stanley confounded the “us” by consistent high grades in math tests, a fact that seemed even to irritate Mr. Hunt, the math teacher and by you account one of the most disliked and dreaded teachers.  Stanley was “good in math.”

That was all then, a time during which you indulged certain fantasies, initiated your own rituals, formed a protective Teflon ® about your feelings as you began in one way or another setting them down on the page.

Now, you, in effect, sit at the table with the writers, your demographic enormous in terms of age, gender, race and background.  There are, to be sure, those with whom you have friendships that transcend class, background, age, and race, others who cannot abide you nor you them.  Yet there is the at times grudging awareness that the common bond is the weirdness, the differing line that brought us to the table.

As you breakfasted this morning, someone came to the table with a book by an author for whom you have no regard as a writer, but whose appearance and spoken condolence at the memorial to your late wife moved you.  You should really read this book, the reader of it advised you.  And your response, a brisk nod, a nod with an adverb, perhaps, he nodded wisely or he nodded knowingly.  It was by no means, he nodded dismissively or he nodded curtly.

Writers are a segment of and rendition of a larger humanity, as large and petty at the same time as you are large and petty, as argumentative, insightful, notional, and quirky as you.  It does not matter if you are good at math, so long as you get your pages done.


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